8 Must-Try Malaysian Food

Malaysia is home to fabulous street eats and equally tasty restaurants. With various influences from Malay and Chinese traditions, spicy Indian and Nonya dishes, Malaysia offers much to savour in all of its 13 different states and many more cities. The culinary scene is bustling with choices, fueled by this diversity of the country’s multicultural heritage. Here, we share with you the local favorites from three popular foodie stops in the region – Malacca, Penang and Ipoh Perak.

Ayam Buah Keluak

Nonya Cuisine is also a must try in Malacca, where you can find mouthwatering food combining Chinese ingredients with Malay herbs and spices. The Malaccan version of Nonya Cuisine favor the use of coconut milk, and is therefore richer in taste. Ayam Buah Keluak is a popular Nonya dish, which is chicken stewed with black nuts. Don’t be put off by the murky, ink-like gravy! The sauce is rich and creamy, and mixes very well with the kepayang nuts and chicken meat.

Photo credit - Pinoy Food

Photo credit - Pinoy Food

Ikan Bakar

The aromatic grilled fish dish is another must-try – ikan bakar (literally, burnt fish in malay). The fish is marinated in a myriad of spices, then wrapped in banana leaf and grilled over charcoal fire. In Malacca, head towards Perkampungan Ikan Bakar Terapung, 11 km off Malacca Town, where you can get freshly barbequed fish along with a good selecion of seafood such as cockles, squids and oysters grilled on the spot.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Nasi Kandar

Nasi Kandar is a popular northern Malaysia dish that originated from the state of Penang, so its small wonder you’ll find so many stalls around the state offering this dish. This Malaysian staple comprises simply of plain or flavored rice accompanied by side dishes such as fried chicken, curried spleen, cubed beef, fish roe, fried prawns or fried squid.
A mixture of curry sauces is then poured on top, imparting
a diverse taste to the rice. Other than in Penang, Nasi Kandar is also a popular dish in Ipoh, Malacca and more.

Photo credit - EightySixx

Photo credit - EightySixx

Penang Char Kway Teow

Another popular dish is char kway teow, flat rice noodles fried with beansprouts, prawns, cockles, chives and eggs in a rich dark sauce. The Penang version of this popular South East Asian dish (you can also find local versions in Indonesia and Singapore), is smooth and smokey, with additional light and dark soy sauces, extra spices and the use of broader width variety of flat rice noodles.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Penang Laksa

No visit to Penang is complete without a bowl of its namesake laksa. The Penang laksa is a rice noodles dish served in a thick and tasty spicy broth, spiked with flaked mackerels and a generous serving of vegetables. In Penang, head towards Lorong Selamat, off Macalister Road to try out this renowned dish – there are two versions, the sour type, and the lemak type (with the addition of coconut milk).

Photo credit - Chee Hong

Photo credit - Chee Hong

Chicken Rice

One of the most popular dish in Ipoh is the humble chicken rice. In Ipoh, the chicken is poached Hainanese style, served with beansprouts and pork meatball soup. The famed Lou Wong Restaurant is a popular place specializing in chicken rice. Their chicken is perfectly done, cooked just enough to retain a juicy smoothness that is often absent from overcooked chicken. They come mixed with beansprouts and drizzled with a tasty combination of sesame oil and soy sauce mix.

Photo credit - Charles Haynes

Photo credit - Charles Haynes

Ipoh Hor Fun

When in Ipoh, be sure to try out their famed Ipoh Hor Fun. There are two variations of the dish itself. The soupy version comes served with a clear chicken and prawn browth, topped with shredded chicken meat and spring onions. The other version is a fried version, boldly flavored and enhanced with a splash of dark gravy.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Nasi Lemak

Perhaps the most popular and ubiquitous staple of Malaysian cuisine is nasi lemak, a simple dish comprising of rice cooked with coconut milk, ikan bilis (fried anchovies), roasted peanuts, some vegetables and a generous portion of a tasty sambal chilli. This is a popular dish that can be found all over Southeast Asia, each with their own local influences in the dish.

Photo credit - emrank

Photo credit - emrank

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About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. A graphic and web designer in its previous incarnation, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now, he’s settled down for the time being and focusing his efforts as the editor of an Asia travel zine, Unearthing Asia.


10 Comments on "8 Must-Try Malaysian Food"

  1. jessiev on Thu, 11th Mar 2010 3:39 pm 

    hoo boy – this made me HUNGRY!! great photos and descriptions. thanks!

  2. Migration Mark on Thu, 18th Mar 2010 8:53 am 

    I still have dreams about eating massive portions of nasi kandar with my hands and just going crazy. I think Malaysian food is some of the best in the world. Great pics and descriptions!

  3. Mary Chavacano on Tue, 23rd Mar 2010 9:18 am 

    I must agree with this choice of Malaysian foods. I travel to Malaysia often on work from my native Philippines, and it’s the mind-boggling variety of clean, affordable cuisine in all Malaysia that makes my work trip like a holiday. While I’m a proud Filipina, I must say Malaysia’s local food diversity beats us flat.

  4. deden on Thu, 20th May 2010 3:08 pm 

    you can find the same food like above Indonesia. I think… 😛

  5. Lilian on Tue, 29th Jun 2010 9:28 am 

    Ipoh’s food is really good. Penang too…

  6. diane on Tue, 21st Sep 2010 11:44 am 

    ummh.i like it too…

  7. Chrissie on Fri, 24th Sep 2010 2:38 pm 

    Nice, in Kuching, we have Bee J you tiao which is a must try too…Check this out http://beejyoutiao.blogspot.com/

  8. way on Fri, 5th Nov 2010 3:15 am 

    No Bah Kut Teh?

  9. Kerala Tour Packages on Mon, 19th Sep 2011 8:12 am 

    Thanks for the mouthwatering pictures and description of each. The Penang Char Kway Teow seems interesting… want to try :)

  10. Singapore food addict on Thu, 6th Oct 2011 9:53 pm 

    Ahhh du….pictures and describtions are making me home sick.
    Any recipes, to help me with my withdrawals? Please.Real recipes please not play play ones. Kam sia uncle,aunty.

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