Food & Drink

6 dishes to try in Malaysia

Reading time: 2 minutes

Whether it’s in the bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur, the sandy beaches of Penang or the lush rainforests and mountains of Borneo – you’ll never be short of great food in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s multicultural background is proudly displayed in the cuisine as there is an abundance of Malay and Nonya, Chinese and Indian food available, so there’s always something interesting to excite your tastebuds.

As with most countries, food is an important part of Malaysian daily life. Aside from common dishes like nasi lemak and char kwey teow, these are some other dishes that are popular with visitors and locals alike.

1. Roti canai (pronounced ro-tee chen-eye) is a simple and common breakfast dish consisting of handmade soft and flaky flatbread that is torn and dipped in to the accompanying dhal or curry.

Photo credit Getty/Darwin Fan

2. Popiah (pronounced pop-yah) is a handy snack to grab when you don’t have time to sit down for a meal. The fresh spring rolls are filled with red bean paste, turnip cooked with sugar, bean curd, shredded lettuce, finely grated carrot and cucumber, bean sprouts, cooked egg and chilli paste wrapped up in a soft, thin crepe. The translucent pohpiah skin is made with rice flour or wheat flour and water, combined to create a sticky dough that is expertly slapped onto a hotplate, leaving an ultra thin layer of crepe that is cooked very quickly.

Photo credit Getty/Ramlan Jalil / EyeEm

3. Laksa is a hot and spicy noodle soup made with coconut milk or sour tamarind (assam) and contains chilli, vegetables, rice noodles and green vegetables. I’m not sure how the locals manage eating these hot, filling bowls in the Malaysian humidity but they are certainly worth trying.

4. Steamboat is the best kind of interactive and a lot of fun. A large pot of water with your choice of stock sits atop a mini gas stove at the table and you cook the meal at your leisure. Fresh ingredients (including lots of greens) are provided and you add them to the boiling pot to cook in batches. It’s fast food at it’s finest as each batch cooks in minutes. This type of dish is great for a group as everyone can have a turn at cooking and serving.

5. Kaya toast is a sweet snack, mostly enjoyed at breakfast. Lashings of kaya (a sweet coconut jam made with coconut milk, sugar and eggs) and butter are served on soft, thick white toast. This is commonly served with coffee or tea.

Photo credit Getty/Khaichuin Sim

6. Ice cendol (pronounced chen-doll) is a bowl of shaved ice topped with coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, sweet corn kernels, red beans and jelly noodles. It’s the perfect treat to enjoy in the Malaysian heat. The ice melts quickly so you need to be fast!


So make sure you pack you’re appetite when visiting Malaysia, you’re going to need it!


Tara Mathews is a writer, friend of animals, and lover of food. Tara is a freelance writer and editor of vegeTARAian – a Sydney food and travel blog dedicated to sharing the adventures of veg-loving life

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