The vast majority of Malaysia’s population can roughly be divided among three major ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians.
For this reason, we’re blessed with a whole lotta good food that blends a range of cuisines and flavours!
Although we can’t really say that one is better than the other, here is our list of 50 must-eat Malaysian foods:
1. ABC (Ais Kacang/Shaved Ice)
Ais kacang is considered one of Malaysia’s most unique dishes, in which you can add your preferred topping such as durian, chocolate syrup and more. Traditionally, an ice shaving machine is used to churn out the shaved ice used in the dessert.
Many Southeast Asian coffee shops, hawker centres and food courts sell this dessert.
2. Ikan bakar
Ikan bakar is street-style fish and seafood grilled the Malaysian way. Our choice of seafood, often ikan pari (stingray), is marinated in a spicy, tangy concoction before wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled over charcoal.
This dish goes well with the all-important dipping sauce of chopped chillies, garlic, and lime.
3. Claypot Loh Shu Fun
Served in a sizzling hot claypot, chewy loh shu fun (finger vermicelli) is coated in a salty soy sauce and tossed with minced meat.
The crowning glory of the dish is a raw egg cracked right on top and mixed in for creamier and silky-smooth texture.
A Cantonese term which literally translates to ‘boil-boil’, consisting skewers of meat, offal, vegetables, quail eggs, fish balls and more. These are then dipped into pots of boiling water/oil before being slathered in a sauces of your choice. Oh, did we mention that these skewers are dished out from a van?
Aside from Lok Lok, another local favourite is satay! It is an Indonesian and Malaysian dish consisting of small pieces of meat grilled on a skewer and served with a spiced sauce that typically contains peanuts.
6. Bak Kut Teh
Whoever thought of throwing various cuts of pork, tofu, vegetables, and often times, offal, into a savoury broth infused with aromatic herbs was an absolute genius. Throw that diet out the window! Who cares about cholesterol levels when there’s something as delicious as bak kut teh on the table!
Otak-otak is a grilled fish cake made of ground fish meat mixed with tapioca starch and spices. It is widely known across Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
8. Apam Balik
Apam balik may have come from Sri Lanka, but it’s a firm favourite in Malaysia. This crepe-like dessert is often found in pasar malam, which can be served plain or with a sweet santan sauce and filled with anything from crushed peanuts to sweet corn.
9. Burger Bakar
Before any hipster burger joints ever cropped up, there was the good old-fashioned burger bakar, found on almost any street corner.
Whether you prefer your meat grilled or fried, there are endless variants with anything from the humble Ramly burger (the special cheese is a crowd favourite) to the heftier grilled beef patties of Abang Burn’s.
10. Asam Pedas
Asam pedas is a sour and spicy fish stew dish, a fusion of Minangkabau and Malay cooking styles. Although it originated from Indonesia, the dish is very popular in Malaysia, mainly in Malacca. The best ones are usually served in claypots!
11. Ayam Percik
In Malaysia, we’re not satisfied with simply barbequing pieces of chicken marinated in turmeric and chilli powder. After grilling them to a nice crisp, we douse them in a thick sauce made from coconut milk, ginger, and garlic with hints of tamarind and lemongrass for a tangy kick. The ayam percik goes wonderfully with rice dishes like nasi kerabu, a combo which you can find at Hayaki.
12. Char Kuey Teow
Judging from the looks, who knew that such a simple dish of flat rice noodles stir-fried with garlic, pork lard, chives, prawns, eggs could taste so good?
13. Chee Cheong Fun
The silky-smooth flat rice noodles is often served doused in a mix of sweet sauce or curry with a side of yong taufu. In Penang, chee cheong fun is simply served with the island’s trademark prawn paste to give it a very rich and pungent taste.
14. Nasi Lemak
Nasi lemak is a Malaysia’s national dish consisting of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf.
15. Chili Crab
Chilli Crab is a Southeast Asian seafood dish originating from Singapore. Mud crabs are commonly used and are stir-fried in a semi-thick, sweet and savoury tomato-and-chilli-based sauce. Despite its name, chilli crab is not a very spicy dish.
A Nyonya delicacy made of fermented shrimps, cincalok’s strong flavour is a bit of an acquired taste. A common way to eat this is by incorporating it into an omelette, topped with chillies, shallots, and lime juice.
17. Bubur Chacha
A traditional Malaysian dessert that is equally as delicious hot or cold, bubur chacha is a creamy coconut soup with chunks of soft sweet potatoes, taro, and tapioca pearls (sago).
18. Cucur Udang
A Malaysian take on prawn fritters, strips of onions, carrots, and chives along with shrimps are bound together by a sprinkle of flour and baking powder before being deep-fried to a delightful crunch.
19. Curry puff
Curry puffs are one of the many favourite ‘kuih’ in Southeast Asia. Also known as karipap, the crispy pastry is stuffed with a variety of savoury fillings such as potatoes, sardine or a combination of curry potatoes and minced meat.
20. Coconut Shake
Coconut Shake, an absolute tropical delight to taste buds, is prepared by blending toasted coconut, milk and ice cream and sweetened with sugar to taste. It’s perfect for sunny days in Malaysia!
21. Debel Curry (Devil Curry)
A classic Kristang (Portuguese-Eurasian) dish, debel curry is a fiery hot curry dish. The gravy is thick and rich with one-of-a-kind earthy flavours from candlenuts, galangal, and vinegar.
The King of Fruits, you’ll either love it or hate it — but this pungent, thorny fruit holds a special place in our hearts. Only in Malaysia do you get multiple variations of the fruit, from sweet to bitter and even bittersweet!
Dumpling is a broad classification for a dish that consists of pieces of dough (made from a variety of starch sources) wrapped around a filling, or of dough with no filling.
The dough can be based on bread, flour or potatoes, and may be filled with meat, fish, cheese, vegetables, fruits or sweets.
24. Fish Head Noodles
This dishis distinct for its milky broth, combining a tangy, sweet, and savoury broth with crispy fish and crunchy preserved vegetables, blending multiple flavours and textures together beautifully.
25. Fried Chicken
Malaysians and fried chicken can never be separated. Do we need to say more?
26. Gulai Lemak
Gulai lemak is a vibrant yellow Malaysian curry with a supposed origin in Negeri Sembilan. The dish can be prepared with various proteins such as chicken, simmered in coconut and curry broth.
27. Heong Peng
A unique Chinese baked snack, heong peng (literally fragrant biscuit in Cantonese) is a crunchy, flaky biscuit filled with a sticky, golden caramel. If you have it fresh out of the oven, there’s nothing quite like biting into the crispy biscuit and warm, gooey caramel. It also makes a great souvenirfrom Ipoh where you can get the finest heong peng from Seng Kee.
28. Hokkien Mee
Hokkien mee consists of thick, yellow noodles fried in a dark, sticky sauce with lots of pork lard and sliced pork. The satisfaction of this dish hinges on how much wok hei (wok breath) infuses the noodle for a truly slurp-worthy meal.
A milder version of ABC, we’d go for this simple shaved ice treat over any fancy dessert any day! A mound of ice so finely shaved it’d melt at the touch of your spoon, it’s served with pandan worm-like jellies with a generous amount of creamy santan and rich, earthy gula Melaka.
30. Ju Hu Char
A Nyonya dish, joo hoo char is a delectable fried salad made up mostly of crunchy shredded jicama with dried cuttlefish and mushrooms for extra flavour. It can be eaten wrapped up with lettuce leaves and a little sambal for those who love a little heat or simply as is!
31. Kaya Toast
Kaya toast is a popular breakfast or afternoon snack, usually found in kopitiams. It was invented by Hainan immigrants to the Malay peninsula, which explains why it’s well-known in Singapore and Malaysia.
32. Kerabu Rice
Why have normal rice when you can have one in blue! A Nyonya salad using banana blossoms cooked in creamy coconut milk, a healthy dose of chilli and kerisik (toasted ground coconut) cuts right through the richness with fresh flavours.
33. Kek Lapis Sarawak
The Sarawak layer cake, known as kek lapis Sarawak, is a layered cake served on special occasions. They are often baked for religious or cultural celebrations such as Eid ul-Fitr, Christmas, Deepavali, birthdays and weddings.
34. Keropok Lekor
Keropok lekor is a traditional Malay fish cracker snack originating from the state of Terengganu, Malaysia. It is made from fish and sago flour, seasoned with salt and sugar.
35. Kolo Mee
A noodle dish unique to Sarawak, kolo mee makes use of a springy, curly noodle that is served with char siew, ground pork, sliced pork, fried shallots, and fresh spring onions.
36. Laksa Sarawak
Traditional Sarawak laksa is a famous Sarawak noodle dish which looks like the normal curry laksa. It is made using a laksa paste consisting of sambal belacan, tamarind, lemongrass, herbs and spices with a little coconut milk.
A sweet banana-infused treat, cekodok is the perfect teatime snack (or any time really). Ripe bananas mashed together with a flour batter are formed into balls and deep-fried to a golden crisp. Break it apart to reveal warm and chewy insides for a sweet snack that will go perfectly with a frothy cup of teh tarik.
38. Mee Bandung
Mee bandung is a cuisine that originally consisted of noodles and eggs in addition to a soup made of a mixture of chilli, onion, spices, shrimp paste and dried shrimp. Later it was improved by the addition of shrimp, meat, fish cakes and vegetables.
Murtabak is often described as spicy folded omelette pancake with bits of vegetables. It is sometimes mixed with green onion and minced meat, made from pan fried crepes which is folded and cut to squares.
40. Chicken Rice Balls
Make a mention of Melaka, and Hainanese chicken rice balls almost always springs to mind. Rice, plump and fragrant from being steamed in chicken stock, is formed into juicy balls to accompany succulent and silky-smooth chicken pieces. Pair it with a tangy and spicy chilli dip to complete the meal.
41. Tempoyak Ikan Patin
Tempoyak ikan patin is a specialty of Pahang. You can smell this sweet and spicy dish from a distance, and although it’s cooked with Tempoyak (durian paste), it’s hard to say no to this flavourful cuisine!
Made of ground potatoes, minced meat, peeled and ground corn or tofu, or minced fish. Most common bergedil are made from mashed potatoes, yet there are other popular variants which uses corn as the base instead.
43. Oyster Omelette
The dish consists of an omelette with a filling primarily composed of small oysters.
44. Pan Mee
Pan Mee | You can always count on pan mee to warm you up on a cold day. A Hakka dish of handmade noodles, you can have it thick, thin, or in flat pieces, and in a fiery-spicy version or just regular and soupy. Usually served with crunchy ikan bilis, minced pork, shredded mushrooms, and sayur manis, the dish can be had soup or dry, spicy or savoury. Whatever the case, pan mee is our go-to comfort food (one of our many!)
45. Rojak / Pasembur
Pasembur is a Malaysian salad consisting of cucumber, potatoes, beancurd, turnip, bean sprouts, prawn fritters, spicy fried crab, fried octopus or other seafoods and served with a sweet and spicy nut sauce. This dish is usually found in Penang.
46. Roti John
Roti john is an omelette sandwich dish originating from Maritime Southeast Asia and is popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as street food.
47. Roti Canai
48. Ayam Pongteh
Ayam pongteh (or sometimes pork) is the ultimate Peranakan comfort dish combining the pungent savoury flavours of preserved bean paste (taucu) and the sweet smokiness of gula Melaka.
The resulting thick and creamy gravy ladled over steaming white rice is absolute perfection!
Soto is a traditional Indonesian soup mainly composed of broth, meat, and vegetables.
Tapai is a fermented rice dish. Although it is an alcoholic product, it is considered Halal. The alcohol content is so high that you can smell the fumes from a distance.