5 Famous Malaysian Dishes You Need To Try

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One of the many things that I loved about Malaysia was its food.

By: Emily Andrews 

Due to the prevalence of Islam and Hinduism, beef and especially pork are uncommon in much of Malaysian food. Instead, chicken, fish, and vegetables prop up the majority of meals.

Affordable and varied street food is also commonplace, and of a high standard.

But it is Malaysia’s multiculturalism that makes its food so special. In Kuala Lumpur, traditional Pad Thai is served up alongside a chicken burger stand and a cart proffering Chinese Dim Sum. There’s a wealth of diverse food to try in Malaysia, but I’ve broken it down to just five:

These 5 Famous Malaysian Dishes You Must Try

1: Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak is a delicious array of textures and taste sensations. It has some of the hot and sour flavors popular in much of southeast Asian cooking and combines chewy, salty dried fish with crunchy peanuts, soft coconut rice, a hot sambal sauce, and mild egg and cucumber. Mix it up to suit your taste and order it with chicken if you’re hungry.

Nasi Lemak - Famous Malaysian Dishes
Nasi Lemak

2: Satay

It’s a dish that’s popular worldwide, but Malays do it best. The chicken skewers are usually served with a chunky peanut sauce that has just a little kick, as well as cucumber pieces and raw onion. You can order as many or as few as you want – the main meal-serving may include sticky rice – and enjoy them straight off the grill. The meat is typically tender and chock-full of flavor.

malaysian chicken satay
Malaysian Satay

3: Roti Canai

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Eaten as a snack or with a meal, Roti Canai is even more delicious than it looks. Stretchy and doughy inside with a flaky, toasted outer layer, the Roti Canai is an Indian-influenced dish traditionally served with dahl.

Roti Canai
Roti Canai

Roti Canai can also be served sweet. I have tried it with banana and chocolate and filled with cooked apple. It was incredible in both instances.

Making Roti Canai is a difficult skill that takes practice. The women who serve it stretch the dough out thin and use a deft hand movement to layer it up before frying, which gives it that flaky texture.

4: Popiah

Popiah (Spring Rolls)

These are similar to summer rolls but, instead of rice paper, the crunchy, shredded vegetables and filling are rolled up in a thin crepe, which is then sliced into bite-sized portions. These healthy morsels are delicious served with a sweet chili dip.

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5: Teh Beng

Famous Malaysian Dishes
Beach-side with a Teh Beng

Ice tea, shakes, and juices are all a great way to cool down in the shade. Teh Beng is a favorite with the locals; ice tea with evaporated milk. Ice tea without milk will be sweetened to varying degrees, but bear in mind, Malaysians tend to lean on the sweeter side! Affordable, fresh juice is also available everywhere; try watermelon, mango or pineapple – or whatever is in season. 

These are just a few of the culinary delights I enjoyed in Malaysia. Let me know more famous Malaysian dishes in the comments section. 

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