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Malaysian food: 20 Delectable Foods You Must Include in Your Culinary Adventure

If there is one thing that all Malaysians have in common, it is a passion for the Malaysian food of their country. In general, people of Malaysia are enthusiastic about food, regardless of ethnicity, language, or religious affiliation.

West Malaysia, located in the geographic centre of Southeast Asia, has a long history of being an essential player in the maritime spice trade. At one time, merchants from southern Arabia, China, and India brought their items to the famous port of Malacca to exchange them for valuable commodities such as clove, nutmeg, and pepper for Malaysian food.

The Malays that are peninsular Malaysia, the Chinese (most of whom came from the eastern coastal regions of Guangdong and Fujian), and the Indians in Malaysia all have distinct culinary traditions, typically reflected in Malaysian food today. These traditions were brought to Malaysia by the three main ethnic groups in the country: the Chinese, the Indians, and the Malays (who mainly migrated from Tamil Nadu).

In this area, fusion cooking has become the norm. However, because Malaysian food takes influence from such a wide variety of sources, the definition of “local” and Malaysian food in the nation is sometimes the subject of heated controversy (even before the advent of social media).

The tom yam serves as an excellent contrast. It is common knowledge that this soup in Malaysian food, which is hot and sour, was first prepared in Thailand, despite being popular in Malaysia. However, a significant number of the other meals on this list are also well-liked local cuisine specialities in the neighbouring countries of Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei.

The first thing you need to realize about individuals from Malaysia is that they have a deep connection to the food they consume. This is something that you need to take into consideration while interacting with Malaysians. Because of the large number of different ethnic groups who have made Malaysia their home throughout its history, the cuisine of Malaysia draws inspiration from an extensive range of different culinary traditions.

Consequently, a list of Malaysian food that one needs to try will almost probably be distinctive in contrast to other lists of this kind. There are quite a few parallels that can be seen between this and New York. A few dishes may not have been invented in Malaysia, but the country has given them such a prominent status there that they are now considered local specialities.

Flavors of the Peninsula

1. Nasi Lemak (coconut milk rice)

Malaysian food
Image by Ann San from Pixabay/ copyright 2016

Nasi lemak is served next and is considered Malaysia’s version of the national dish (nasi lemak is the Malay word for rice). Even though nasi lemak seems simple, a significant amount of effort was required to put each component together in nasi lemak.

Nasi lemak is of the utmost importance that the rice is prepared with extreme care, using coconut milk cream (Santan) and pandan leaves. In Malaysia, nasi lemak and fried anchovies are referred to as Ikan Bilis. They are often served with boiled eggs, shrimp paste, cucumber slices, soy sauce, and sambal chilli sauce (a spicy chilli-based paste) can be added to nasi lemak.

2. Roti Canai

Malaysian food
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Roti canai is a delectable bread supper that originates in southern India, which is also its current home. The very best roti canai is cooked with ghee and rice flour, and roti canai has a crust that is crisp and flaky on the outside, while the inside of roti canai is buttery soft and velvety smooth.

Roti canai is served with dhal or curry in most eateries (and sometimes with sugar). Alterations may be made in several different ways to the roti canai recipe. For example, you may get roti canai unstuffed (called roti kosong), or you can get it stuffed with various additional ingredients, such as egg, bean sprouts, fried chicken, onions, mushrooms, cheese, or even banana slices.

3. Kaya Toast (Toast with Coconut milk Jam)

Malaysian food
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It is a common misconception that the “development” of kaya toast, which is now a popular breakfast option in Malaysian food, can be traced back to the Hainanese chefs. They were hired as colonial-era British servants in Malaysia and Singapore. These Hainanese chefs were responsible for preparing food for British colonists.

Two pieces of white pan-fried bread stuffed are toasted until they become crisp on the exterior but remain soft on the inside, and then they are served with kaya, which is a spread that is silky and thick coconut milk which will be creamy, lime juice, five spice powder, as well as butter. The toasting process creates a toasted crust on the bread’s exterior but keeps the bread’s interior soft.

In many instances, coffee or tea is served with it, and the meal is topped off with two eggs poached in butter and seasoned with a blend of spicy red chilli sauce, white pepper and black soy sauce. Coffee or tea is often offered alongside it. It is possible to have the toast either in conjunction with the runny eggs or on its own without the eggs.

4. Hainanese chicken rice

Malaysian food
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It is believed that Chinese people who emigrated from the province of Hainan on the island of Hainan were the ones who first created this dish, which has since established itself as a culinary cornerstone in Malaysia and Singapore.

They altered the recipe for the Wenchang chicken to use the ingredients that were easily accessible in the area, which resulted in the development of a well-known and treasured icon of the region.

The essential components of the meal known as Hainanese chicken rice are chicken that has been poached and glutinous rice flour that has been seasoned in various ways. It is often served with pieces of cucumber and chilli sauce at most establishments.

5. Nasi Goreng Kampung (traditional Malay fried rice)

Malaysian food
by jovannig/ Unlimphotos

A dinner consisting of fried rice or glutinous rice flour is typical in various cultural contexts. It may be cooked in various fashions, such as those found in China, Thailand, Korea, and Burma, to name just a few of the countries where these techniques are popular.

For example, the meal referred to when using the word “nasi goreng kampung” is a traditional one consumed in Malaysia and Indonesia. On the other hand, the term “kampung” comes from the Malay word for “village.”

Most of the time is used in the cooking process by creating the chilli paste. After that, all left to do is sauté some shallots, garlic, Belacan (shrimp paste), and fried anchovies with the rice. And that’s it!

6. Char Kway Teow (stir-fried flat rice noodles)

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The traditional method of cooking this well-known dish from China involves stir-frying the ingredients in lard from a pig; however, there are also halal preparations of this dish that diners who follow the Muslim faith may enjoy.

The components, which include rice spicy noodle soup, soy sauce, chilli, boiled eggs, Belacan, prawns, cockles, chilli sauce, dark soy sauce, glutinous rice flour, flat rice noodles also can be used, and bean sprouts, are stir-fried in a wok at very high heat. This demands a considerable degree of talent, despite the dish’s appearance of being simple to prepare.

Since street sellers in Penang most popularly supply the meal, the vast majority of Malaysians who prepare it at home do not try to recreate the food’s characteristic charred aroma since it is so well-known in that city.

7. Maggi Mee Goreng Mamak (stir-fried instant noodles)

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The famous Maggi brand of instant noodles was the impetus for the creation of this cuisine, which is essentially fried instant noodles (mee is the Malay word for noodles). It is a “guilty pleasure” that many people like, and you may make it with whatever brand of instant noodles you choose.

The instant noodle flavour is added to the boiling noodles when they are being stir-fried in a wok with vegetables, eggs, soy sauce, chilli sauce, cucumber slices, sweet dark soy sauce, spring onions, spicy sauce, herbs and spices, coconut cream, roasted peanuts, red beans and sweet soy sauce and other seasonings.

The egg noodles have previously been cooked. You could add some flavour to it by using meat, fish, or even tofu if you wanted to.

8. Banana leaf rice

Malaysian food
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The name of this dish, banana leaf rice, suggests that it is served to the patron on a large banana leaf, and this is the case.

The essential components of banana leaf South Indian cuisine include rice, a wide range of other dishes, pickles, soy sauce, rice noodles, fried chicken, dark soy sauce, shrimp paste, chicken curry, boiled eggs, yellow noodles, fish sauce, hard-boiled egg, tamarind juice, peanut sauce, light soy sauce, coconut milk, bean sprouts, sweet corn, banana fritters, flat rice noodles, blue rice steamed, grilled fish, fish curry, dried shrimp, pork lard, glutinous rice, fried egg, chilli paste, rasam (a sour, spicy soup), several various curries, thick dark soy sauce, and papadam (crispy fried crackers).

Because it does not need the eating of meat, it is very well-liked among vegetarians.

9. Laksa with Curry

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Curry laksa may be prepared in various ways as a street food popular in Malaysia and known as Malaysian food (also known as curry mee). Although the kind of noodles that are used in the dish may vary (it can be made with yellow noodles, rice vermicelli, fried egg, chicken curry, boiled eggs, fried carrot cake, or thick white laksa noodles), the meal is often prepared by slowly boiling the noodles in a curry soup that has coconut milk as its primary ingredient.

It is traditionally eaten with an egg that has been hard-boiled and served with beef rendang, herbs and spices, grilled fish, glutinous rice cooked, egg noodles, sago flour, roasted peanuts, pork ribs, Hokkien mee, red beans, rice flour, blue rice, bean sprouts, deep-fried tofu, and a dollop of sambal that is offered on the side.

10. Assam Laksa

Malaysian food
by tehcheesiong/ Unlimphotos

Tamarind, a component of Malaysian food known as Assam laksa, is responsible for imparting the dish’s characteristic sour and acidic flavour, which stimulates the taste receptors. This dish, which is a speciality of Penang, is accompanied by a broth that is created by simmering mackerel bones for a long amount of time in a mixture of crushed spices and herbs.

Following that, it is served with thick rice noodles, spicy sauce, fish that has been shredded, and vegetables that have been chopped into strips (cucumber, onion, and lettuce).

11. Pan Mee (Hakka Flat Noodles)

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Pan mee is a famous Malaysian food that may be eaten dry (stir-fried) or in soup, depending on the individual’s desire to heighten taste sensibilities.

The dish is prepared using flat noodles with rice vermicelli, peanut sauce, dried shrimp, lime juice, pork ribs, red beans, Hokkien mee, minced meat, deep-fried noodles, fried tofu, fried egg, fried chicken, rice noodles, bean sprouts, There are several variations, but one of the most frequent ones are called Chilli Pan Mee. There are also a lot of other variations.

Noodles, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, poached eggs, minced pork, rice noodles, coconut milk with banana fritters, and fried anchovies are standard components of this cuisine.

It is a hearty meal that does not try to be pompous and is grounded in reality (or chicken). The fiery chilli paste, beef rendang, is served on the side so that each client may season their food to their liking (and spice tolerance).

12. Yong Tau Foo (Stuffed Bean Curd)

Malaysian food
by tehcheesiong/ Unlimphotos

As with pan mee, Yong Tau Foo (fried tofu) is a Hakka dish that may be prepared in either a dry form (accompanied by two dipping sauces) or in a form including a broth-based preparation. The pièce de résistance of the dish is a kind of tofu filled with either ground beef or fish paste on its own (surimi).

Tofu is often served with fish balls and slices of different vegetables (including bitter melon, okra, minced meat, deep-fried chicken, eggplant, and chilli, amongst others), in addition to the meat or fish paste filling that is typically found inside of it.

After being fried or boiled, the stuffed objects may either be consumed on their own as a standalone Malaysian food, or they can be served as a side dish with a serving of rice or noodles.

13. Murtabak

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This pancake is famous in Southeast Asia street food and as well as in the Arabian Peninsula. It is stuffed with a large amount of filling. It is often served with several different fillings. It has a long history of association with eating establishments that specialize in Indian and Muslim food.

It is simply bread cooked in a skillet and loaded with substantial amounts of minced meat (often chicken, beef, or mutton), palm sugar syrup, condensed milk, beaten eggs, scallions, and chives. It is often offered on the side with dipping sauces like curry, dhal, and sambal at most eateries.

14. Beef Rendang (Slow-Cooked Beef)

Malaysian food
by steheap/ Unlimphotos

The traditional and fantastic street food as a Malaysian food and dish known as rendang, which is prepared using beef, originated in the Minangkabau region of West Sumatra. This region is also the namesake of the dish. It is usually prepared in advance of critical ceremonial occasions, such as a wedding feast or Hari Raya celebration (Eid al-Fitr).

Large amounts of meat, most often beef, are braised for an extended time in coconut milk with various spices (deep fried ginger, fried tofu, turmeric leaves, a little bit of palm sugar, chilli, galangal, coconut milk, lemongrass, etc.). Once the liquid has been absorbed, the meat is ready to be ingested once it has become tender, incredibly flavorful, and has gained the desired consistency.

15. Satay

Malaysian food,
Image by Huahom from Pixabay/ copyright 2018

It is believed that Java was where satay was first prepared, and its preparation is conceptually similar to that of kebabs and yakitori. After being threaded onto skewers, a wide variety of meat (often chicken, coconut milk, mutton, and beef) is chopped or diced, seasoned with various spices, and then expertly cooked over a fire consisting of wood or charcoal.

After they have done grilling, the skewers are served with lontong, a kind of rice cake that has been compressed, pieces of cucumber and onion, as well as a special dipping sauce prepared with peanuts.

16. Otak-Otak (Grilled Fish Cake)

Malaysian food
by antonihalim/ unlimphotos

To make this well-liked and delectable street food, fish cakes are wrapped in either a coconut leaf or a banana leaf, coconut milk, and then grilled until they reach the desired level of doneness.

The fish cake takes on a characteristic rusty orange colour as a result of the chile, turmeric, and lemongrass that are used in the preparation of the seasoning for the fish cake.

17. Roti Jala (Net Crepes)

Malaysian food
by tehcheesiong/ Unlimphotos

The word roti jala, which refers to the string-like appearance of the bread, comes from the Malay phrase roti jala, which translates to “net bread.” This delectable and well-known treat is made from wheat flour, coconut milk, eggs, milk, and turmeric, the four primary components (which gives it its bright yellow colour).

Rolling the dough is done after the batter has been poured correctly to get the desired effect of intricate lacework. It is often served with a chicken curry sauce at most eateries.

18. Pisang Goreng (Banana Fritters)

Malaysian food
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Bananas that have reached their peak maturity are peeled before being dipped in a batter that contains rice flour, corn starch, baking powder, sugar, and salt. The bananas are then fried in oil until they achieve the required crispiness. It needs to have a golden tint, and the surface ought to have a texture similar to that of a cracker, while the inside ought to be sugary and juicy.

19. Apam Balik (Turnover Pancake)

Malaysian food
by szefei/ Unlimphotos

The Fujian province in China is the origin of this sweet pancake, Malaysian food which is now widely consumed as street food due to its enormous appeal. First, put the flour, eggs, sugar, baking soda, water, and coconut milk into a mixing bowl.

Then, combine all of the ingredients to produce the batter. Before it is folded, peanuts and sugar are spread evenly throughout it in line with the tradition, and then it is folded (either once or twice). Chocolate, cheese, and creamy sweet corn are three more delectable choices popular among consumers.

20. Keropok Lekor (Fried Fish Sausage)

Malaysian food
by tehcheesiong/ Unlimphotos

This traditional dish hails from the Malaysian state of Terengganu as a Malaysian food, which is also the name of the state in which Malaysia is located. In most cases, mackerel or wolf herring is substituted for the herring while preparing this meal, including coconut milk.

After the fish has been pounded into a paste and salted, the mixture is finally brought together with sago flour and water. The dough that is formed is moulded into a cylinder-like shape, then fried, then allowed to cool, and finally, diagonal slices are cut from the dough that has been made. After that, the slices go into a deep fryer, fried in hot oil.


Whoever has an appetite and is even a bit open to trying new things will discover that Malaysia has a lot to offer, regardless of whether they are looking for originality, hybridity, or traditional authenticity in their food.

The island state of Penang, the city of Kuala Lumpur, the city of Malacca, which is historically significant, and the city of Ipoh, which is renowned for its laid-back attitude, are all popular locations for local foodies.

Ipoh is recognized for its reputation for having a laid-back culture. On the other hand, if you visit other cities and towns in the nation, you will have the opportunity to get acquainted with some different regional delicacies.

It is challenging to recreate Malaysian food outside of the country because it relies on many time-consuming and labour-intensive cooking techniques and requires a diverse array of regional ingredients. On the other hand, although having a flavour that will make your mouth swim, Malaysian food is not hard to get and is not too costly.

In addition, the items on this list are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg; there is a great deal more for your taste buds to savour in addition to what is featured.

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


  • Harpreet Kaur

    Harpreet Kaur is a creative and professional writer. His domain ranges from marketing content to educational and heath content. Among such, he also have a great mastery in writing travel related contents. Want to explore Canada? Then reading his articles will best suit you!

  1. I definitely would love to try some Malaysian dishes. Due to influence of indian and Chinese culture in Malaysia, there food is also have some similarities. Like in South of india coconut and coconut milk is used in cooking, Malaysian food is also coconut based. Your article have given a wide perspective of Malaysian cuisines.

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