reflects the multi-racial aspects of Malaysia
. Various ethnic groups
in Malaysia have their dishes but many dishes in Malaysia are derived from multiple ethnic influences.
tends to be a staple food in Malaysia as for most countries in the region. The rice most commonly eaten in Malaysia is a local variety of rice or fragrant rice from Thailand
, its northern neighbour. Quality Indian basmati
is used in biryani dishes due to its long grained shape, fragrance and delicate flavour. Japanese short grain rice and others are slowly entering the Malaysian diet as Malaysians expand their culinary tastes to new areas.
Noodles are another popular food. Noodles such as "Bi Hoon (米粉), " (rice vermicelli), "Kuay Teow, " (soft fluffy noodles shaped like fettuccine but made of rice and translucent white in colour), "Mee (面), " (yellow noodles), "Mee Suah(面线), " (very fine wheat vermicelli), "Yee Meen (伊面), " (pre-fried noodles), "Tang Hoon (冬粉), " (transparent noodles made from green beans), and others provide a source of carbohydrate besides the ubiquitous serving of rice that accompanies every meal. They can be eaten both with rice or alone. The variety of noodles made from either rice or wheat reflect the heritage of Malaysian Chinese, who are mostly descendants of immigrants from Fujian (Hokkien or Fukien), Guangdong (Canton), Guangxi or Hainan provinces.
Indian style bread such as naan, poori, roti canai, thosai and idli are commonly eaten by most Malaysian as part of breakfast. Western style bread is a relatively new addition to the Malaysian diet, having gained acceptance in the last generation.
is generally available from local farms and is a cheap source of meat. Farms used to be family affairs, with chickens slaughtered fresh on demand at the community wet market
. For a small fee, a vendor would put the dead chicken into a machine where the feathers would be removed. The machine consisted of a large container of hot water, which was agitated to remove feathers. Gutting and cleaning the chicken would be performed at home.
Today, while wet markets still exist, most urban Malaysians purchase frozen poultry raised on huge farms run by corporations.
A special type of chicken recipe in Malaysian cooking is called the "kampung chicken" (literally village chicken). These are free-range chickens allowed to roam instead of being caged. These chickens are generally considered to have higher nutritional value. They have less body fat than their farmed counterparts. Cooking of kampung chicken is usually by way of steaming or preparation in a soup.
Duck and goose also form part of the Malaysian diet.
Satay chicken, grilled chicken with a peanut and coconut milk sauce, is the national dish of Malaysia.
is common in the Malaysian diet though followers of certain religions such as Hinduism
and some forms of Buddhism
forbid the consumption of beef. Beef can be commonly found cooked in curries, stews, roasted, or with noodles. Malays generally eat beef that is halal
is largely consumed by the Chinese community in Malaysia. Malaysian Malays
are by definition Muslim
and therefore do not consume pork since Islam
forbids it. Canned pork can usually be found in the non-halal
sections of local supermarkets
, and fresh pork can be bought in some wet markets and some supermarkets
is also a part of the Malaysian cuisine, but refers to goat meat rather than sheep. The meat is used in dishes such as goat soup, curries, or stews. It is a popular ingredient in Malaysian Indian food.
Many types of seafood are consumed in Malaysia, including shrimp
, and octopus
. Members of all ethnic communities enjoy seafood, which is considered halal
by Malaysian Muslims (and indeed most other Muslims) though some species of crabs are not considered halal as they can live on both land and sea. It is not a staple, or eaten daily, since its expensive
features in the Malaysian diet. Local fish is purchased fresh the day after it is caught, while imported fish is generally frozen, in pieces or intact, and sold by weight. Such fish, namely salmon
, are well received on the Malaysian table.
are usually available year round as Malaysia does not have much seasonal variation in temperature during the year. During the rainy season, sometimes vegetable yield decreases but does not stop altogether. Therefore, vegetables are available year round but are slightly more expensive at certain times of the year.
Malaysia's climate allows for fruits
to be grown all year round. Most tropical fruits are either grown in Malaysia or imported from neighbouring countries. The demand for fruits is generally quite high. Some notable fruits include:
- The durian, a fruit with a spiky outer shell and a characteristic odour is a local tropical fruit that is notable because it provokes strong emotions either of loving it or hating it. It is also known as the "King of Fruits".
- The rambutan also has a distinctive appearance, being red or yellow in colour (when ripe) and having fleshy pliable spines or 'hairs' on its outer skin.
- The mangosteen, often called the "Queen of Fruits".
- The lychee which has a bumpy red skin and sweet, sometimes made with tea to make it sweet
- The mango, a refreshing fruit
- The longan, whose name translates to "Dragon Eye" in Chinese and is similar to lychee
Indigenous Malaysian cuisine has been influenced by Chinese, Indian, Thai and many other cultures to produce an entirely new and rich cuisine of their own.
Many Malay dishes revolve around a Rempah
, which is a spice paste or mix similar to an Indian Masala
are made by grinding up fresh and/or dried spices and herbs to create a spice paste which is then sauteed in oil to bring out the aromas.
- Kangkung belacan is water convolvulus (kangkung) wok-fried in a pungent sauce of shrimp paste (belacan) and hot chilli peppers. Various other items are cooked this way, including petai (which is quite bitter when eaten raw; some older generation Malays still eat it as is) and yardlong beans.
- Keropok lekor, a specialty of the state of Terengganu and other states on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia, is a savoury cake made from a combination of batter and shredded fish. Sliced and fried just before serving, it is eaten with hot sauce.
- Kuih is usually a cake eaten during the morning or during midday.
- Ikan Bakar, grilled/bbq-ed fish with either chilli, kunyit (turmeric) or other spice based sauce.
- Ketupat and rendang is served normally on Hari Raya festival .
- Nasi Lemak - a rice cooked with coconut milk and served with anchovies, roasted nuts, cucumbers,a slice of egg, a chili paste known as sambal and a choice of curries & rendang
- Nasi Dagang is the Nasi Lemak of east coast Peninsula Malaysia, in the state of Terengganu and Kelantan.
- Nasi Kerabu is a type of rice which is blue in colour (dyed by a kind of blue flower), originated in Kelantan state.
- Nasi Paprik originated from southern Thailand, rice with "lauk", typically chicken.
- Nasi Goreng Kampung a type of fried rice, traditionally flavored with pounded fried fish (normally mackerel), though recently fried anchovies are used in place of it.
- Lontong is a yellowish creamy soup mix with mee hun and ketupat.
- Soto Soup with mee hun or ketupat
- Apam Balik - a bread like puff with sugar, corn, and coarse nut in the middle.
- Pulut- Glutinous rice serve with either rendang or coconut and brown sugar
- Serunding - Shredded meat in a form of meat floss with spices.
- Nasi Berlauk - Plain rice served with different variety of dishes
- Ayam Percik - grilled chicken with spicy sauce
cuisine of the ethnic Indians in Malaysia is similar to its roots in India. Hands are washed before and the right hand is used during the meal.
- Banana leaf rice is white rice served on a banana leaf with an assortment of vegetables, curry meat or fish and papadum.
- Thosai (in Johor Bharu spelt Dosai) is a batter made from lentils and rice blended with water and left to ferment overnight. The batter is poured onto a flat, preheated pan, where it is fried with a dash of edible oil or ghee until it reaches a golden brown colour. Then the thosai may optionally be turned over on the pan, and partially fried. The end product is neatly folded and served. Thosai is served with sambar (vegetable curry) and coconut chutney.
- Idli is made from lentils (specifically black lentils) and rice — into patties, usually two to three inches in diameter, using a mold and steamed. Most often eaten at breakfast or as a snack, idli are served in pairs with chutney, sambar, or other accompaniments.
- Putu Mayam (String hoppers/ Idiyappam) is a sweet dish of rice noodles with coconut and jaggery as main ingredients. It is served with grated coconut and jaggery. In some areas, gula melaka (coconut palm sugar) is the favourite sweetener. Putu piring is a version of putu mayam in which the rice flour dough is used to form a small cake around a filling of coconut and brown sugar.
- Biryani is a rice dish from the made from a mixture of spices, basmati rice, meat/vegetables and yogurt. The ingredients are ideally cooked together in the final phase and is time-consuming to prepare. Pre-mixed biryani spices from different commercial names are easily available in markets these days, which reduces the preparation time though the taste differs considerably.
- Chapati is a type of bread. It is made from a dough of atta flour (whole grain durum wheat), water and salt, rolled into discs of approximately twelve centimeters in diameter and browning the discs on both sides on a very hot, dry tava or frying pan (preferably not one coated with Teflon or other nonstick material). Chapatis are usually eaten with vegetable curry dishes, and pieces of the chapati are used to wrap around and pick up each bite of the cooked dish.
- Curries Malaysian Indian curries uses a lot of spices, coconut milk, and curry leaves. Some of the most popular curries include chicken curry, fish curries, and squid curry.
Mamak (Indian Muslims) dishes have developed a distinctly Malaysian style. One of the most popular kinds of food by the Indian Muslims is called "nasi kandar". Nasi kandar originally came from Penang. Also available throughout the country, the omnipresent Mamak stalls or restaurants are particularly popular among the locals as they offer a wide range of food and some outlets are open 24 hours a day. They're fast, economical and perfect as a meeting place for a drink and snacks.
- Roti canai is a thin bread with a flaky crust, fried on a skillet and served with condiments. It is sometimes referred to as roti kosong. In Singapore, it is referred to as prahta.
- Roti telur is a roti canai with egg in it. Telur means egg.
- Mamak rojak is a variant of rojak consisting of substantial ingredients like boiled potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. Also known as 'pasembur'.
- Maggi goreng is a dish of fried Maggi instant noodles with flavouring (usually curry), vegetables, egg, tofu and occasionally chicken.
- Nasi Kandar is white rice or briyani rice served with other dishes of curry either with chicken, fish, beef, or mutton and with pickled vegetables. It is accompanied by papadums.
- Nasi Lemak is rice steamed with coconut milk to lend it special fragrance. It is served with anchovies, peanuts, cucumber and a chili paste known as "sambal". The mamak variety of "sambal" tends to be a bit more spicy whereas the malay version of "sambal" in a nasi lemak tends to be on the sweet side.
- Teh tarik literally meaning "pulled tea", is a well-loved drink amongst Malaysians. Tea is sweetened using condensed milk, and is prepared using out-stretched hands to pour piping hot tea from a mug into a waiting glass, repetitively. The higher the "pull", the thicker the froth. The "pulling" of tea also has the effect of cooling down the tea. Teh tarik is an art form in itself and watching the tea streaming back and forth into the containers can be quite captivating.
Malaysian Chinese food in Malaysia is derived from mainland Chinese cuisine but has been influenced by local ingredients and dishes from other cultures though it remains distinctly Chinese. Most Chinese meals have pork as their sub-ingredient, but due to the popularity and unique taste of the actual food, there are chicken options available for the local Malays (most Malays are Muslims, and Islam forbids them from eating pork). Some Chinese food restaurants nowadays can be found serving halal food i.e. food without ingredients that are forbidden by the Islamic religion. Chinese restaurants serving food in Halal can introduce a wider range of customers to it.
- Bak Kut Teh (Chinese : 肉骨茶) (pork ribs soup). A soup cooked with herbs, garlic and pork ribs which have been boiled for many hours. The city of Klang is famous for it. In some towns, additional ingredients include sea cucumber and abalone. Bak kut teh is believed to have medicinal properties.
- Bak Chang. Chinese Rice Dumpling made from glutinous rice wrapped in leaf along with pork, Shiitake mushrooms, nut and salted egg yolk of a duck's egg.
- Bakkwa (Chinese : 肉干), Known also as barbecued pork and it literally means dried meat. This delicacy is sold everywhere throughout Malaysia and is especially popular during the Chinese New Year celebrations.
- Pao (Chinese : 包) also known as bao, is a steamed bun made of wheat flour, with fillings of various types of meat. It is usually found in Dim Sum places, although these days it can be seen in most coffee stalls.
- Bread with curry chicken, chicken cooked in curry with a covering of bread. Found in the town of Kampar.
- Cantonese Fried Mee. (Chinese : 廣府炒, 河粉, 鴛鴦) Deep fried thin rice noodles served in a thick white sauce. The sauce is cooked with sliced lean pork, prawns, squids and green vegetables such as choy sum. It is one of the common Chinese foods in Malaysia.
- Chai tow kway (Chinese : 菜頭粿) is a common dish in Malaysia and Singapore, also known as fried radish cake, it is made of rice flour and white radish.
- Char Kway Teow (Chinese : 炒粿條，炒河粉). Stir fried rice noodles with prawns, eggs (pork or chicken), chives and beansprouts and possibly cockles as well.
- Chee cheong fun (Chinese : 豬腸粉) is square rice sheets made from a viscous mixture of rice flour and water. This liquid is poured onto a specially-made flat pan in which it is steamed to produce the square rice sheets.
- Curry Mee (Chinese : 咖喱麺). A bowl of thin yellow noodles mixed with beehoon (rice vermicelli) in spicy curry soup with coconut milk with dried tofu, prawns, cuttlefish, chicken, mint leaves and topped with a special sambal.
- Duck noodle soup (Chinese : 鸭腿麺线) is famous in Penang food stalls; ingredients include duck meat in hot soup with mixed herbs and slim white mee-sua noodles.
- Fuzhou cuisine can be found in the Sitiawan area. Specialities include Kong piang.
- Ginger Duck Mee (Chinese : 姜鸭麺). Egg noodles cooked with duck stew. The duck is stewed with ginger in black sauce. This dish is available only from selected restaurants in Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley as the duck stew can be cumbersome to prepare.
- Hainanese Chicken Rice (Chinese : 海南雞飯). steamed chicken served with rice cooked in margarine or chicken fat & chicken stock and chicken soup. The rice is usually served in a bowl or a plate but in Malacca (a historical town), the rice is served in the form of rice balls.
- Hakka Ham Cha (Chinese : 客家 咸茶/雷茶)
- Hokkien Mee Kuala Lumpur (Chinese : 福建麵). A dish of thick yellow noodles fried in thick black soy sauce and pork lard which has been fried until it is crispy. This dish is served only in Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Klang and Kuantan.
- Hokkien Mee or Hae Mee or Prawn Mee (Penang) This is a bowl of yellow mee and meehoon (rice noodles) served in soup boiled from prawns, boiled egg, kangkong vegetable and chilli.
- Kaya toast or Roti bakar is a traditional breakfast dish. Kaya is a sweet coconut and egg jam, and this is spread over toasted white bread. Traditionally served with a cup of local coffee/tea and soft-boiled eggs in light/dark soya sauce & grounded white pepper.
- Kway chap (Chinese : 粿汁), Teochew dish of rice sheets in dark soya soup, served with pig offal, tofu derivatives and boiled eggs.
- Loh Mee (Chinese : 滷麵). A bowl of thick yellow noodles served in a thickened soup made from egg, flour, prawn, pork slices and vegetables.
- Mee Hoon Kor (Chinese : 面粉粿)
- Ngah Choy Kai (Bean sprouts chicken) of Ipoh (Chinese : 芽菜雞) is similar to Hainanese chicken rice. The steamed chicken is served with light soya sauce flavoured with oil and with a plate of beansprouts. This dish is a Malaysian favorite.
- Ngah Po Fan Also known as Claypot Rice/Sha Po Fan(Chinese : 瓦煲雞飯 or 沙煲饭) is a claypot chicken rice dish. It is chicken rice cooked over high heat in copious amount of soy and oyster sauce. Dried salted fish is optional but highly recommended.
- Pan Mee or Ban Mian (Chinese : 板麺) is a Hokkien-style egg noodle soup. Some forms of Ban mian are made of hand-kneaded pieces of dough, while others use regular strips of noodles.
- Popiah (Chinese : 薄饼), Hokkien/Chaozhou-style rolled crepe spring roll style , stuffed mainly with stewed vegetables, usually shredded tofu, turnip and carrots. Other items may also include egg, Chinese sausage ("lup cheong").
- Rojak (Malay Influenced: 水果囉喏). A fruit salad with a topping of thick dark prawn paste and some sliced fried 'yau cha kwai'.
- Sin Chow (Singapore) Fried Mee Hoon (Chinese : 星洲米粉). Rice noodles stir fried with various ingredients such as barbecued pork, fish cake, or carrots. Some restaurants may use different ingredients but the noodles should have the distinct Sin Chow Fried Rice Noodle taste popular in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas. The American Chinese version uses curry powder. Interestingly, this dish did not originate from Singapore.
- Tau foo fah or Dau Huay (Chinese : 豆腐花 or 豆花) is a curdled version of soya bean milk and is flavoured with syrup. It looks much like Tau Foo but it is very tender. Sold in many places, it is a popular dessert among Malaysians and Singaporeans.
- Tong Sui (Chinese : 糖水), Chinese dessert drink with different ingredients such as black beans, sea coconut, yam, sweet potato, longan and others.
- Vegetarian dishes (Chinese : 素食, 斎) In some towns in Malaysia, there are vegetarian restaurants that serve vegetarian dishes which resemble meat dishes in look and even taste although they are made solely from vegetarian ingredients.
- Wantan Mee (Chinese : 雲吞麵), Chinese noodles with Chinese dumplings (Chinese : 雲吞), chooi sam and BBQ pork . Dumpling are usually made of Pork and/or prawns. The noodles may be served either in a bowl of soup with dumplings or on a plate with some dark soya sauce flavoured with oil and slices of roast pork and vegetable. For the latter, the dumplings will be served in a separate bowl with soup.
- Wu Tau Guo (Chinese : 芋頭糕), is yam cake that is made of mashed yam and rice flour. It has deep fried onion and shrimp on top, and usually served with red chilli paste.
- Yong tau foo (Chinese : 酿豆腐) is a soup dish with Hakka origins but is accepted by Malaysian all races. Brinjals, lady fingers, fried tofus, chillies are stuffed with fish paste, rice flour and flavourings.
- Yau Zha Gwai or Eu Char Kway or You Tiao (Chinese : 油炸鬼 or 油条) is a Cantonese doughnut, a breakfast favourite eaten either alone with coffee, or as a condiment for congee. It is shaped like a pair of chopsticks, stuck together. The name itself amusingly translates into "greasy fried ghosts".
- Zuk or zhou (Chinese : 粥) is congee, a rice porridge that comes with such ingredients as fish slices, chicken breast, salted egg, century egg and minced pork. Mui is the teochew version of rice porridge, and is usually more watery with visible rice grains. It is often cooked with sweet potato and served with an assortment of Chinese dishes like vegetables, meat and salted egg.
Nyonya food was invented by the Peranakan
people of Malaysia and Singapore. It uses mainly Chinese ingredients but blends them with South-East Asian spices such as coconut milk, lemon grass, turmeric, screwpine leaves, chillies and sambal
. It can be considered as a blend of Chinese and Malay cooking.
Examples of Nyonya dishes include:
- Asam Laksa (Malay: 亞三叻沙). A bowl of thick white rice noodles served in a soup made of fish meat, tamarind, onion, basil, pineapple and sliced cucumber.
- Laksa lemak is served in a rich coconut gravy.
- Perut Ikan is a spicy stew (of the asam pedas variety similar to asam laksa) comprising vegetables and herbs flavored with fish bellies preserved in brine and daun kaduk (pepper leaf from the Piper stylosum or the Piper sarmentosum).
- Nasi Ulam is rice mixed with shredded herbs (daun kaduk, daun cekur, daun kesum etc.) and mixed raw into hot rice with pounded dried shrimp (hae bee) and salt fish (kiam hu) and chopped shallots.
- Kerabu Bee Hoon is a salad dish comprising rice vermicelli mixed with sambal belacan, honey lime (limau kesturi/calamansi) juice, and finely-chopped herbs and spices. Other famous salad dishes are kerabu bok nee (black fungus/tikus telinga), kerabu kay (chicken), kerabu kay khar (chicken feet), kerabu timun (cucumber), kerabu kobis (cabbage), kerabu kacang botol (four angled bean), kerabu bak poey (pork skin).
- Itek Tim or Kiam Chye Ark Th'ng is a soup whose main ingredients are duck and preserved mustard leaf and cabbage flavoured with nutmeg seed, Chinese mushrooms, tomatoes and peppercorns.
- Jiew Hu Char is a dish of shredded vegetables like turnip, carrot, and cabbage and fried together with thinly shredded dried cuttlefish.
- Ter Thor T'ng' (pig's stomach soup) requires a skilled cook to prepare and deodorise the ingredients, using salt, before cooking. Its main ingredients are pig's stomach and white peppercorns.
- Kiam Chye Boey is a mixture of leftovers from Kiam Chye Ark Th'ng, Jiew Hu Char, Tu Thor Th'ng and a variety of other dishes. "Boey" literally means "end".
- Otak-otak is a fish cake grilled in a banana leaf wrapping. The town of Muar is famous for it. The Penang Otak Otak is steamed, not grilled and the distinct flavour and aroma or daun kaduk and coconut milk is evident in this unique version.
- Ayam pongteh, a chicken stew cooked with tauchu or salted soy beans and gula melaka. It is saltish-sweet and can be substituted as a soup dish in Peranakan crusine.
- Ayam buah keluak, a chicken dish cooked with Pangium edule nuts or those from the "Kepayang" tree, a mangrove tree that grows in Malaysia and Indonesia.
- Cincalok, a distinctly Peranakan condiment made of fermented shrimp
- Se Bak, pork loin, marinated overnight with herbs and spices, cooked over a slow fire and simmered to perfection.
- Acar - various pickled meats and vegetables like acar keat lah (honey lime/calamansi), achar hu (fried fish), acar kiam hu (salt fish), acar timun (cucumber), acar awat (mixed vegetables).
- Ngoh Hiang (so called because of the use of Chinese five spice powder to flavour the mined meat), also known as Lor Bak (so called because of the lor or starch-based dipping sauce) is a fried, sausage like dish made from minced pork rolled up in soya bean curd sheets and deep fried.
- Masak Lemak is a vegetable stew that makes liberal use of coconut milk. There are various versions of masak lemak. One example uses spinach as the main ingredient. In another version sweet potato is the main ingredient.
- Masak Titik is a vegetable soup spiced with peppercorns. One version uses watermelon rind as the main ingredient. Another makes use of green or semi ripe papaya.
- Lam Mee is long yellow rice noodles cooked in a rich gravy made from the stock of prawns and chicken. It is always served at birthdays to wish the birthday boy or girl a long life, and is also known as birthday noodles.
- Masak Belanda is a dish made from sliced pork and salt fish simmered together with tamarind juice.
- Nasi Kunyit (Translated into English as "Turmeric Rice") is glutinous rice cooked with turmeric colouring and is usually served with coconut milk chicken curry, "Ang Koo" (Literally "Red Tortoise", a Nyonya Cake) and Pink-dyed hard-boiled egg(s) as a gift of appreciation in celebration of the 1st month of a newly-born child.
Being a multicultural country, Malaysians have over the years adapted each other's dishes to suit the taste buds of their own culture. For instance, Malaysians of Chinese descent have adapted the Indian curry
, and made it more dilute and less spicy to suit their taste.
Chinese noodles have been crossed with Indian and Malay tastes and thus Malay fried noodles and Indian fried noodles were born.
also features strongly in Malaysian cuisine and localised versions of Thai favourites like tom yam
are widely available. Smaller pockets of migrants such as Filipinos and Indonesians also have set up shop locally, catering mostly to their exclusive clientèle. Being culturally close to Malaysia, a lot of Indonesian food
have been accepted by Malaysians as a part of their own, like sate
, Soto (food)
and others. In Kuala Lumpur and other major towns, one can find more restaurants serving Japanese, Korean, Italian, American and other international cuisines.
Desserts in Malaysia tend to make use of generous amounts of coconut milk. Some common desserts include:
- Cendol. Smooth green rice noodles in chilled coconut milk and gula melaka (coconut palm sugar).
- Ais kacang (also known as air batu campur or just ABC. "'air batu' is ice in Malay") Sweet corn, red beans and cincau (grass jelly) topped with shaved ice, colourful syrups and condensed milk.
- Pulut hitam. Black glutinous rice porridge cooked with sago and served hot with coconut milk.
- Bubur cha cha. Yam and sweet potato cubes served in coconut milk and sago, served hot or cold.
- Honeydew sago. Honeydew melon cubes served in chilled coconut
milk and sago.
- Pengat (Tapioca and Banana) a thick brown sugar mixed together with coconut milk, the fruits mentioned and boiled.
A huge variety of tropical fruits are commonly served as desserts in Malaysia. The most famous is possibly the durian. Other popular fruits local to Malaysia include mango, pineapple, watermelon, jackfruit, papaya, langsat, rambutan, star fruit, banana and mangosteen.
Some of the foods are similar to the food of its neighbouring countries. Due to its diversity in cultures, there is a wide variety of different foods available.