The delicious national cuisine is one of the best parts of any holiday to Malaysia. Dishes often share similarities with Thai and Indonesian food, as well as influences from Europe, China and India; but Malaysian cooking has its own style, packed with lemongrass, chilli, ginger, lime leaves, peanuts, and coconut milk. The Indian and Chinese communities have their own culinary traditions too, like mamak cuisine, imported by Tamil Muslims.
Penang Assam Laksa
This spicy-sour fish noodle broth will have your nose running, but in a good way. Flavoured with flaky mackerel, chilli, lemongrass, ginger, tamarind, mint, onion, and pineapple; this aromatic laksa is a favourite in Penang, as its name suggests.
You will find, and smell, the mouth-wateringly fragrant national dish everywhere you go in Malaysia. Rice is steamed with coconut milk and aromatic pandan leaves, then served with dried anchovies, sambal (a spicy sauce), peanuts, sliced cucumber, and boiled egg on the side, traditionally on a banana leaf.
Deeply infused with coconut and lemongrass, this slow-cooked, tender beef dish is well worth the wait. Also flavoured with galangal, onion, garlic, ginger, chilli paste, tamarind, and coconut sugar, it is often served at festivals with lemang; sticky rice, and coconut milk grilled in bamboo.
Some of Malaysia’s best eats can be found right at the roadside; the mouth-watering result of this country’s multi-ethnic culture. Street food hotspots include Pasar Malam market and Jonkers Street in Malacca, George Town in Penang, Gaya Street and the central market in Kota Kinabalu, and Chinatown and Little India in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s foodie mecca. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
A real favourite at street stalls and night markets, this dish is made with pre-cooked rice and ingredients like shrimp, crab, beef, vegetables, or scrambled egg. It is stir-fried in a wok and seasoned with flavours like cumin, curry powder, chilli paste, soy or oyster sauce.
Tasty and cheap, you will find this Indian-influenced flatbread everywhere you go, usually served with a spicy curry sauce. As with so many things that taste good, the dough is usually made with ghee. Cooked in a flat pan, the perfect roti canai is fluffy on the inside, and crispy and flaky on the outside.
Char Kway Teow
This fried noodle dish has a bit of a reputation for its high fat content, which is probably why it tastes so good. Traditionally served up to energy-burning labourers, it contains flat rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce, chilli, prawns, cockles, bean sprouts and Chinese chives, with added calories from pork fat and lard croutons.