Skip to main content

What To Eat In Malaysia - You Must Try These

I tutor students in the English Language and English Literature at A Levels. I also help students with their college applications.


Nasi Lemak

If you asked any Malaysian what his/her favourite food is, the chances are he/she will say, nasi lemak. Nasi lemak is to Malaysia what sushi is to Japan. This dish is traditionally a Malay dish although in a multiracial country like Malaysia there are a few variations of this local favourite.

The words nasi and lemak are derived from the Malay Language. Nasi means rice while lemak means cream. Hence, nasi lemak is a dish that has rice cooked in coconut cream or coconut milk. When cooking the rice with the coconut milk, pandan leaves (see pic. below) are tied into a knot and added to the pot. The pandan leaves gives a wonderful fragrance to the rice and makes it so appetizing.

Traditionally, nasi lemak is eaten a little sambal, fried anchovies, slices of cucumber, peanuts and a full boiled egg. All of these are placed on a small piece of banana leaf and folded into a little packet and sold in the local eateries. Usually, nasi lemak is eaten for breakfast but nowadays; it is available at all times of the day. If fact today, the humble nasi lemak is served on a plate with an accompaniment of fried chicken, fish and vegetables like the kangkong (water convolvulus).

The sambal is actually made by cooking a paste of chili made from dried chilies, garlic and onions over low heat. Salt, a little sugar and tamarind juice is added to this to give it that wonderful taste. I love to add some fresh prawns into mine while cooking to make it taste even better.

Nasi lemak is available in most food courts and Malay restaurants. In most hotels, it is usually served at the buffet breakfast and is also found on the menu for lunch and dinner.


Pandan leaves or pandanus (screwpine)

The leaves of this plant is often used as a flavouring in Malaysian cooking. When added to rice or local cakes while cooking, it gives a wonderful fragrance to the dishes. Sometimes, food is wrapped in this leaf and cooked to give it that added fragrance and taste.The juice from the leaves have also been used to giv a green colouring to many local cakes.

Tasty: Wrapped In A Leaf Or Served On A Plate


Roti Canai

Roti Canai is yet another Malaysian Favourite that every tourist must try. Roti Canai is an Indian influenced flaky flatbread. The word roti is from the Malay Language meaning bread. As for the word canai there are one or two theories as to its origin. In the Malay Language, canai means to knead the dough and many think that this is where the word originated from while others, feel that the word canai is from the word Chennai a town in south India where many migrant workers to Malaysia came from.

Wherever the origin of the word, roti canai is a local favorite that is eaten by many for breakfast. It is eaten with either chicken curry, fish curry or dhal. It is usually made to order and served hot from the griddle. Locals use the fingers of their right to break pieces of the roti canai and dip it into the gravy before popping it into their mouths. Of course, the tourists may use forks and spoons but there is nothing comparable to eating like the locals to truly enjoy this hearty dish.

Most Malaysian don’t make roti canai at home simply because or the skill required in the process of making this dish.. The art of making roti canai includes twirling the dough until it becomes very thin and folding and refolding this dough to get the flaky goodness. Watching the process of how roti canai is made is fascinating. The bread is than put onto a hot griddle and cooked quickly to perfection and served.

The Perfect Breakfast



Satay is a dish of skewered meat, grilled over an open charcoal fire. This dish is famous throughout South East Asia and is said to have originated from Indonesia. Malaysia and Thailand to have their own versions of satay with each claiming to have the tastier dish.

In Malaysia the meat that is usually used for satay is chicken and beef. The meat is cut into bite sizes pieces and marinated in a mixture of spices. This meat is then skewered on to bamboo sticks and grilled until is golden brown.

Scroll to Continue

Satay is served with a special peanut dipping sauce, slices of cucumber, onions and cubes of rice cakes. The sweetness of the meat combined with the peanut sauce makes satay a favorite with Malaysians. The dish is a favorite with children and adults. It also goes well with beers and is often served in parties.

Satay is yet another Malaysian dish that is made to order and best eaten hot. In food courts, the orders have to be given to the satay vendor by indicating the number of skewers you would like and the dish will be brought to your table. Usually a skewer of satay costs about 0.70 sen to RM1. (1USD is about RM3.3) Although at the high-end restaurants it can cost so much more.


Chicken Rice

Chicken Rice or better known, as the Hainanese Chicken Rice is a dish of Chinese origin. It is said to have been brought to Malaysia by the Hainanese migrant workers when they came to Malaysia during the colonial era.

At first glance, the dish looks like a plate of rice served with some steamed chicken but the dish is more complicate than that. The beauty of the dish is two fold. First there is the chicken and second, the rice.

The chicken is prepared in a complex method of dipping the chicken in a special stock and cooking it until is done just right. Timing is crucial to ensure the chicken is cooked to perfection. The chicken meat is slices and served with a flavorful black soy sauce.

The rice is cooked in a special chicken stock with lots of ginger added to it. When done the rice is slightly oily and very fragrant. This rice is served with the chicken, cucumber slices and a hot sauce made of pounded chili and garlic.

Chicken rice is available in many shops in Malaysia. Most food courts and coffee shops have it on their menu and you are required to give your orders and the food will be plated immediately. If you happen to visit Malacca, do try the chicken rice there. Here, the rice is served in the form of little golf balls and taste really good. It is a novelty worthy of a photo shoot!

For those of you who do not like your chicken white, most restaurants do have an alternative roasted version of the chicken. You must indicate which one you would prefer when you order. In Malaysia, you must go up to the chicken rice stall and state or point to your preferences.

Fruit Rojak With Crushed Peanuts



Rojak means a mix of many different things. It is an apt term to describe Malaysia where the people are of different ethnic groups live together in harmony. Each group contributes a special something and when mixed together creates a culture that is so unique, so wonderful and so truly Malaysian.

Rojak the dish is quite similar. There are two varieties of the rojak. The fruit rojak and the Indian rojak.

The fruit rojak is a combination of various fruits and vegetable cut into bite size pieces and mixed together in a sweet dark sauce and sprinkled with roasted crushed peanuts. The fruit and vegetables that are usually used are cucumbers, pineapples, mangoes, turnips and semi ripe papayas. Sometimes crunchy fried flour flitters and bean sprouts are also added. If you do not like eating a particular fruit, you can tell the vendor to omit the fruit when make your plate and he will happily oblige. As with most street food in Malaysia, rojak is made fresh to order.

The Indian rojak is also known as Pasembur. It is different from the fruit rojak as it contains dough flitters, crab flitters, prawn flitters, bean curd cubes, a hard-boiled egg and shredded cucumber. All this is combined with a thick sweet and spicy peanut sauce. If required you could add some cuttlefish to your order. Compared to the fruit rojak, the Pasembur is a heavier dish and can be eaten as a meal.

Indian Rojak / Pesembur


Your Favourite Malaysian Food

For Cooking Back Home

All too often visitors to Malaysia are so taken in by our cuisine that they return home and try to reproduce similar dishes. If you are one such person, it will be a good idea to check out the recipes first and determine if all the ingredients are available back home. A journey to Malaysia is also a journey to shop and for the discerning cook this is the time to stock up on hard to obtain local ingredients!


Ohla on February 16, 2015:

Any good suggestions for a Vegetarian person would be helpful for me as I see there is meat used in Malay cuisine a lot. Could I survive as a vegetarian in KL?

thefedorows from the Midwest on May 06, 2014:

Welcome to Hubpages! I must be honest and say that most of this food does not look appealing to me, but you did a fantastic job on this hub!! I wanted to compliment you on a hub well-done! Your pictures complemented your text beautifully and I like how you explained the history of each of the food names as well. Informative! Voted up and useful.

Related Articles