Malaysian cuisine may not be the best known of Southeast Asia’s fares, but it’s definitely one of the most interesting. Influenced by food from all over the continent, Malaysian cuisine is spicy and full of fragrant seasonings like cumin, lemongrass and star anise. Read on to learn more about this colourful and flavoursome food.
Malaysian daily meals
These days, thanks to Malaysia’s increasingly culturally diverse landscape, daily meals vary from family to family. Traditionally, however, there are many staple dishes that Malaysians eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Morning meals are usually hearty, with top picks including the ubiquitous nasi lemak and other rice-based dishes like congee. Unlike in many cuisines, lunch and dinner aren’t served in courses in Malaysia. Everything is brought to the table as it’s cooked and diners take a small portion of each dish to enjoy with their rice, a practice called nasi campur (“mixed rice”).
Fun fact: a blend of cultures
When ordering from Malaysian restaurants, you’ll usually notice a wide range of different dishes to choose from, each using a specific set of flavours and seasonings. That’s because Malaysian food is traditionally a blend of three different cuisines: Malay, Indian, and Chinese. That’s because the country’s population is also broadly divided into these ethnic groups. Malaysian-Indian food tends to be light and spicy, Malaysian-Chinese is milder, and pure Malay dishes are aromatic and heavy on meat and seafood.
What’s popular in Malaysian cuisine?
Rice is one of Malaysia’s biggest staples, though many popular meals are noodle-based. Chilli peppers, shrimp paste, coconut and soy sauce also feature heavily. Here are a few of the country’s most popular dishes:
- Nasi Lemak: Often referred to as Malaysia’s national dish, this aromatic dish is made of rice steamed with pandan leaves and coconut milk. It’s usually served with a variety of sides.
- Roti Canai: These roti flatbreads are served with lentil, mutton and chicken curries.
- Laksa: This rice noodle dish features a rich broth made from either spicy coconut milk or sour tamarind. Each bowl has a variety of toppings that vary from region to region.
- Chendul: Similar to Filipino halo halo, this icy dessert is made from a combination of rice noodles, coconut milk and red beans.
Lesser-known but delicious
While Malaysia’s most popular foods are delicious, you shouldn’t miss out on some of the lesser-known treasures too:
- Mee Kolo: Also known as Kolo Mee, this dish is made from boiled egg noodles with a generous helping of lard and fish sauce. It’s all topped off with crushed garlic and shallots and roasted pork.
- Lemang: Chefs hollow a bamboo stick and line it with banana leaves, then cook glutinous rice with coconut milk inside to make this dish.
- Roti Jala: Unlike roti canai, this flatbread has a lattice pattern that almost resembles lace.
- Nasi Kerabu: The main thing that stands out about this dish is the blue-coloured rice. This is paired with fish or chicken and salad.
Our recommendations on Malaysian restaurants
Can’t wait to get your hands-and mouth-on the delectable dishes we’ve been talking about? Enjoy them in the comfort of your own home with a foodpanda delivery. Malaysia Peddler Sidewalk is great for curry laksa, served in a thick gravy with plenty of seafood, tofu and beansprouts. Another great place to eat is Tung’s Kolo Mee, which serves a tasty signature mee kolo dish. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with classic nasi lemak at Nasi Lemak Ayam Taliwang.