Malaysia, one of the highlights of Southeast Asia, is a country nestled in between Thailand and Singapore on the Malay Peninsula. It is known for the bustling markets of its capital Kuala Lumpur, its beautiful beaches and historic towns such as Georgetown in the north.
The population of Malaysia is made up of different ethnicities including Malay, Indian and Chinese. Malaysian cuisine is certainly a reflection of the country’s diversity, with thousands of unique delicacies to try.
Most Popular Malaysian Dishes
Malaysian cuisine is not only influenced by its diverse population but also the countries that occupied it, such as the Portuguese, British and Dutch. There are also many dishes that are eponymous with Southeast Asian cuisine as dishes from throughout Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore gained popularity with the Malaysian population.
Staples of Malaysian dishes include rice, noodles, breads, meat and fish. Seafood is incredibly popular in Malaysia, being a country with an abundant coastline. A diverse range of homegrown vegetables are used in cooking, including beansprouts, bok choy, cabbage, sweet potatoes and many more. These ingredients are very common in almost all Malaysian dishes.
So without further ado, here are the most popular dishes of Malaysia along with links to our favorite recipes for you to try yourself.
Roti canai is a version of Indian-influenced flatbread that is renowned in Southeast Asian countries, especially Malaysia. It is a traditional food in India and was brought to Malaysia by Tamil Muslim immigrants who have long since settled in the country.
Roti canai is often enjoyed with dal gravy, curry and sauteed sambal depending on individual tastes and can be easily found in roti canai eateries throughout the country.
Nasi lemak is a Malay rice dish made using coconut milk, ginger, red onion and pandan leaves.
Nasi lemak tastes even more delicious when served with sauteed sambal, fried peanuts, anchovies and fried eggs. Some also like to add side dishes to nasi lemak such as shrimp sambal, meat rendang and squid sambal.
Rojak is a salad dish made using sliced fruit and vegetables. It has several popular variations, such as fruit rojak, Penang rojak, Indian rojak and many more.
Fruit rojak is a mixture of mango, pineapple, Sengkang and guava. Rojak buah gravy is a sauce made from soy sauce mixed with belacan, water, sugar and ground peanuts.
Indian rojak, better known as pasembur in Malaysia, is a mixture of boiled potatoes, fried cucur, bean sprouts, Sengkang and boiled eggs.
Asam laksa is noodle dish served with spicy fish gravy. It is common to also add sliced onions, chilies, cucumbers and eggs.
Asam Laksa originates from the descendants of Baba and Nyonya.
Apam Balik is a dish made out of pancake batter for the outer shell, filled with a range of different fillings, including chocolate, strawberries, cheese, peanuts or sweetcorn.
Apam Balik is Malaysia’s official national heritage food as declared by the National Heritage Department of Malaysia.
Satay is a dish consisting of seasoned, skewered and grilled chicken in a spicy peanut sauce. It is often eaten as an appetizer before a main meal or as a simple snack on the go.
The meat is marinated in a range of herbs and spices including lemongrass, garlic, shallots, turmeric, coriander and chilli, before being skewered and grilled.
Banana Leaf Rice
Banana Leaf Rice, also sometimes known as Banana Leaf Platter, is a traditional method of eating multiple dishes at once, served on top of banana leaves.
An Indian-inspired dish, Banana Leaf Rice has a base of white rice, with other ingredients added on top such as sauces, curries, vegetables, grilled chicken and salad.
Kway Teow is a Chinese-imported dish of fried noodles with mussels, shrimp, soy sauce, chili and bean sprouts. It is common to garnish the dish with soft boiled eggs.
Otak-otak, which literally translates as “brains” in Malaysian and Indonesian languages, are fish fillets mixed with spices and chilies, wrapped in coconut leaves and then baked until cooked.
Mee Goreng Mamak
Mee Goreng Mamak is a dish consisting of fried yellow noodles often served with sliced potatoes, tofu, beansprouts, seafoot and choy sum.
Teh Tarik is a hot milk tea beverage prepared using a strong brew of black tea blended with condensed milk. Other ingredients can be added for additional flavor which include cardamom, cloves and ginger.
Although considered to be the national drink of Malaysia, it is also popular in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.
Shrimp Chips (Prawn Crackers)
Shrimp chips are a popular snack or side dish in many Asian countries. They are typically made from a combination of shrimp paste, tapioca starch, and water, which is then shaped into thin, round chips and deep-fried until crispy.
The chips are usually served as a light and crunchy snack or appetizer and can be eaten on their own or with a dipping sauce.
Eaten throughout Southeast Asia, Durian is a prickly tropical fruit known for its pungent odor. However, it is commonly eaten raw as well as used to add flavor to many other dishes, including Malay candy, ice kacang, dodol, lempuk, rose biscuits, ice cream, milkshakes, mooncakes, Yule logs and cappuccino. It is also commonly eaten with rice.
Pisang Goreng are Fried bananas made with eggs and flour, which is commonly eaten as a snack. It is sometimes eaten with cheese or with chocolate.
Kaya Jam Toast with Soft Boiled Egg
Kaya jam toast with a soft boiled egg consists of pieces of toast covered in a coconut jam which is then dipped into a soft boiled egg.
The egg tends to be served in a pot to boil away on the table. After 3 minutes or so the egg is taken out and mixed in a separate bowl ready for dipping. The dish is usually paired with a cup of coffee or tea.
Lad na is a Lao-Chinese noodle dish popular in Malaysia, that is prepared using wide rice noodles. The dish also includes meat (either chicken, beef, pork or tofu) and several vegetables, such as Chinese kailan and straw mushrooms. However, broccoli is often used as a substitute for kailan.
Seasonings such as sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and black pepper are also added to enhance the flavor of the dish.