I perch myself on a brightly-coloured red plastic chair with legs threatening to give way at any moment. Out of the corner of my eye, I see an old lady dishing out food by the second. Before I know it, our order is on our table. I peer over the steaming bowl of laksa I ordered – it is easy to spy translucent noodles playing games with the cloudy coconut curry. As the steam arising from the curry soup mists my face, I close my eyes and inhale the fragrance of exotic spices, asian chillies, and the sea. In that moment, I fall in love with South East Asia all over again.
My love affair with the food of Malaysia goes back a long way. Vid and I first went to Malaysia in 2006. I clearly remember being introduced to a steaming bowl of Laksa at a street-side stall. It cost less than a dollar but the aroma arising from it was priceless. It was love at first sight, or should I say bite? Even writing this article made me crave a good ol’ Malaysian soup – the perfect recipe to brighten a chilly winter morning in London. Of course, I can’t hop over to the take-away around the corner and order that bowl of goodness. So I did the next best thing! I wrote about my favourite Malaysian Food in painstaking detail so you guys could crave it too and share my misery – I’m really philanthropic like that 😉
Without further ado, here are the dishes that you NEED to taste in Malaysia :-
Small pieces of chicken dart towards one another as a boiled egg plays hide and seek with roughly torn green leaves. A coconut curry flavoured with lemon grass, Asian chillies and other exotic herbs, Laksa is the epitome of Malaysian street food.
There are as many variations of the laksa as there are regions in Malaysia but I’m yet to come across one that doesn’t taste amazing.Don’t forget to customise your bowl with noodles, fried tofu, bean sprouts, and seafood, and add a generous helping of sambhal (chilli paste) if you like your food with a bit of zing.
Usually I leave the best for the last but there are times when I have to make an exception, especially when the dish in question is mind-numbingly, brain-freezingly scrumptious.
#2 ICED MILO AKA MILO DINOSAUR
If the name isn’t enough for you to pick it off a long menu of drinks, let me give you another reason. One sip of Milo Dinosaur – iced chocolate milk topped with an EXTREMELY generous helping of Milo powder – is enough to transport you to a time when you were five and carefree days were spent devouring endless glasses of chocolate milk. Calories?? What are those??
#3 TEH TARIK
Warning!! This drink isnt for the faint of heart and is known to induce a sugar coma.
Teh Tarik is how the Malaysians have tea. Creamy milk is boiled with tea and (too much?) sugar till the concoction reaches boiling point. The tea is then poured into large glasses and served hot/iced. The influence of Indian chai (tea with a generous helping of milk) is obvious but the Malaysian version is sweeter and comes in a much larger glass (I’m talking 500 ml!). Are you brave enough to take the plunge?
#4 CHICKEN AND RICE
Chicken and rice is popular all over Malaysia but we love the way it is done in Melaka, a small town close to Kuala Lumpur. Here chicken is served with rice, pressed into ping-pong sized balls, which automatically makes the experience a whole lot more fun (or is it just us? 😉 ). You would be hard-pressed to find chicken served with rice balls in any other part of the country. Most restaurants offer a choice of steamed and grilled chicken – we loved the latter!
#5 CENDOL AND ICE KACHANG
A mountain of finely-shaved ice is covered with pristine coconut milk and slathered with treacly palm sugar. The resultant ‘ice-cream‘ is god-sent on a balmy summer’s day in Malaysia.
But wait – there’s more! The whole mountain of shaved ice rests on a bed of bright green (yes GREEN!) noodles and red kidney beans. How does that sound now? 😉
If the thought of having kidney beans for dessert sends a shiver down your spine, then try the Ice Kachang (shaved ice). Choose from a variety of toppings – flavoured syrups and fresh fruits are most popular. It’s hard to go wrong with this one!
#6 GLORIOUS SEA FOOD
This is a no brainer! If you are fond of sea food, South East Asia is THE place to be. The scent of the sea lingers on sea food, making it that tad bit more special. Choose from garlic crabs, grilled Red Snappers, giant clams, and fish baked with flavourful marinades.
I can’t talk about the food of Malaysia without mentioning Braised Garoupa – one of my favourite dishes ever. My friend Sid introduced me to it (Hey Sid, if you’re reading 🙂 ) and I haven’t looked back ever since. The Garoupa fish lends itself well to Asian spices. A generous sprinkling of finely-chopped spring onions and chillies later, you get art in a bowl. Take a look :-
#7 FRESH FRUITS AND SMOOTHIES
If you, like me, enjoy fruits and fruit-based smoothies, then Malaysia is the place for you. Local markets are laden with colourful fresh fruits, just waiting to be devoured. Passionfruits, mangoes, litchis, mangosteens, and rose apples are some of my favourites.
Then there are the smoothies. It is so easy to begin the day with a delicious smoothie packed with nutrients and vitamins because all cafes and road-side carts offer a variety of options. They cost just $1-2, depending on where you buy them. Mango smoothies are a perfect sweet treat on hot summer days. But my favourite is the dragon fruit and passionfruit smoothie – the bright pink colour of the dragon fruit and the tanginess of the passionfruit lends an intensity to this smoothie that is hard to beat – nomilicious indeed!
#8 ROTI CANAI AND MURTABAK
The roti canai is an Indian-influenced flaky flatbread. The thin layers of the roti – made with flour, generous helpings of fat, and water – literally dissolve in the mouth. Dip it in the accompanying chicken gravy to experience euphoria.
The Murtabak, on the other hand, has Arabic origins. Spicy minced meat is nestled between layers of dough to create a savoury dish that never fails to excite.
Are you drooling yet? Please say yes – it will make me feel a bit better about being a glutton 🙂
If you are in Malaysia, make sure you visit Melaka on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur. It’s amazing!
31 thoughts on “The Best (and cheap!) Food of Malaysia”
Great post Savi. I have been reading a lot about Malaysian food lately and it all sounds delicious. Reading this post has made me super hungry especially for the cendol and iced kachang you mentioned as I am a sweets person.
Join the club – both Vid and I have such a sweet tooth and were drooling at the sight of iced kachang 😉
It got me searching for Malaysian food in Paris.so I can indulge right away for now :).very delicious post guy.
Not sure how authentic that will be 😉 worth a try for sure 🙂
the ice milo makes me want to have it just now and the dragon fruit smoothie too .. anyway , its a great post.. 🙂
Thanks Kushagr 🙂
My my!! I want that Chicken and Rice Balls, dragon fruit smoothies, Iced Milo and Laksa and everything 😀 😀 *drooling* …. Awesome post!
It was very difficult for us not to eat everything on offer everywhere – all dishes look so amazing it’s hard to resist 🙂
Hi Savi, I remember a few years back, coming from food heaving Thailand into Malaysia and being not too impressed with the local cuisine. But admittedly I haven’t tried all the tasty looking dishes you presented here and I will probably have to go back to do Malaysian cuisine proper justice. Thank you for sharing all these great food photos and thank you for having us participate in your misery and craving… 🙂
It does take some time to adjust to Malaysian food. Glad to tempt you to give it another try 🙂
Okay, so this post definitely did its job. I’m ready to hop on a plane to Malaysia for some of this delicious food right now!
Tawny you guys will love the food there. And I can’t wait to see the amazing videos that you two will come back with 🙂
Yummy post. I haven’t tried the Malay cuisine yet. Thanks for the guide
You should definitely give it a go 🙂 It’s unbelievably spicy and tasty !
Look at the bright beautiful colour of the dragon fruit smoothie! I love the way it complements the colours on your bracelets. I’ve been to Malaysian Borneo but not the rest of Malaysia and would love to go back and try some of these street foods!
The street food in Malaysia is to die for. It’s easy on the pockets (not so easy on the stomach ;)) and is by far the tastiest cuisine we have had in the last few years 🙂
Lucky us – we are off to Malaysia in about 10 days! Thanks for all the food tips, we will definitely indulge! Note to myself: bring some loose fitting clothes so 2-3kg extra won’t show too much 😉
Haha Sabine – we envy you ! we’d love to go back to Malaysia just to have that bowl of Laksa, but that won’t be happening anytime soon. We’ll follow your trip and get our vicarious pleasures from your pictures 🙂 Where all are you going to in Malaysia ?
We start off in Kuala Lumpur where we will visit some friends. We then continue to the Cameron Highlands, Ipoh, Georgetown and Pangkor Laut. Ah and then we also make a short trip to the “motherland” (India). We will keep you posted what it is/was like! 🙂 It will be special as this time we travel with my entire family to celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday and our 5th wedding anniversary….. never shy of making an excuse to travel hehe.
That sounds like quite a trip 🙂 I’m sure you guys are going to have a great time. Cameron Highlands are very pretty. A very happy birthday to your mum and cheers to your wedding anniversary 🙂
Let us know how it goes.
What exactly do you mean by the term “sugar coma”? I don’t think I’ve come across that phrase before.
Mouthwateringly good pictures by the way. I’ve only been to Malaysia once so far but remember the food being absolutely fabulous.
Haha ! “Sugar Coma” is just a slang – for the rush that happens after having something sweet that is delicious too 😉 We fell in love with Malaysian food. It’s the best and so cheap too 🙂
With such amazing food on the table who would wanna leave the restaurant!!
Err nobody 😉
Hi im from Malaysia and I found your blog while doing research on Siem Reap ( what to wear to Angkor Wat :P). I will be spending NYE in Siem Reap next week. Thank you for sharing our drools-worthy Malaysia street food.
Glad you liked the article Dee 🙂
Did you enjoy Siem Reap during the New Year period ? 🙂
Great post, i am looking and collecting information about Singapore and Malaysia specially food as i am due to visit these countries in September and your posts are very helping and informative
Thanks alot to share your experiences here
Glad you found it helpful Payal – hope you have a great time in Singapore 🙂
Very Nice post ! I am travelling to singapore, malaysia and genting highlands next week. I would like to know where I could get yummy chocolate packets at reasonable prices..
Duty free shops at the airport are probably the best for this 🙂
Of all the Laksas in Malaysia, Penang Assam Laksa is definitely my favourite – sedap!