Malaysian cuisine

Malaysian cuisine
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Malaysian cuisine reflects the multicultural aspects of Malaysia. Various ethnic groups in Malaysia have their own dishes, but many dishes in Malaysia are derived from multiple ethnic influences.[1] Food preparation differs from place to place, although many of the foods used are alike.[citation needed] Spices, aromatic herbs and roots are all used in Malaysian cuisine.[2]



Staple foods


Nasi Lemak.

Rice tends to be a staple food in Malaysia as in most countries in the region. The rice eaten in Malaysia tends to be the 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.

A popular dish based on rice is nasi lemak: rice steamed with coconut milk to give it a rich fragrance, and served with fried anchovies, peanuts, sliced cucumber, hard boiled eggs and a spicy chilli paste known as sambal. For a more substantial meal, nasi lemak can also be served with a choice of curries, or a spicy meat stew called rendang. Of Malay origin, nasi lemak is often called the national dish.[3] Although it is traditionally a breakfast dish, because of the versatility of nasi lemak in being able to be served in a variety of ways, it is now often eaten at any time of the day. The Malaysian Indian variety of the sambal tends to be a bit more spicy, and the Malay sambal in a nasi lemak tends to be a bit sweeter. Nasi lemak is not to be confused with nasi dagang, which is sold on the east coast of Malaysia — Terengganu and Kelantan — although both nasi lemak and nasi dagang can usually be found sold side-by-side for breakfast.


Noodles are another popular food, particularly in Malaysian Chinese cuisine, but used by other groups as well. Noodles such as bi hoon (米粉, Hokkien: bí-hún, Malay: bihun; rice vermicelli), kuay teow (粿條, Hokkien: kóe-tiâu) or ho fun (河粉, Cantonese: ho4 fan2; flat rice noodles), mee (麵 or 面, Hokkien: mī, Malay: mi; yellow noodles), mee suah (麵線 or 面线, Hokkien: mī-sòaⁿ; wheat vermicelli), yee meen (伊麵 or 伊面, Cantonese: ji1 min6; golden wheat noodles), langka (冬粉, Hokkien: tang-hún, Cantonese: dung1 fan2; transparent noodles made from mung beans), and others provide a source of carbohydrate besides the ubiquitous serving of rice that accompanies every meal.


Indian style bread such as roti canai, dhosai (Tamil: தோசை tōcai /t̪oːsaj/), , idli (Tamil: இட்லி iṭli /ɪɖlɪ/) and puri (Tamil: பூரி pūri /puːɾɪ/) are commonly eaten by most Malaysians as part of breakfast. Western style bread is a relatively new addition to the Malaysian diet, having gained acceptance in the last generation.



Malaysian poultry is handled according to Halal standards, to conform with the country's dominant and official religion, Islam.[4] Imported poultry is quite rare.


Beef is common in the Malaysian diet though it is notable that followers of certain religions such as Hinduism and some followers of Buddhism such as monks forbid the consumption of beef, while some Buddhists say people can eat beef and other meat. Beef can be commonly found cooked in curries, stews, roasted, or with noodles. Malays generally eat beef that is halal. Australian fresh beef which is prepared under supervision of the Government Supervised Muslim Slaughter System (AGSMS) is imported into Malaysia and that beef is halal.[5]]

  • Australian beef can also be found in supermarkets such as Giant.
  • Fresh beef can be found in supermarkets and hypermarkets.


Pork is largely consumed by the non-Muslim community in Malaysia like the Malaysian Chinese, natives like Iban, Kadazan, Orang Asli and expatriates. All Malaysian Malays are Muslim and therefore do not consume pork since Islam forbids it but does not prohibit others from producing and consuming pork products. Pork can be bought in wet markets, supermarkets and hypermarkets.[6]During the Nipah virus epidemic, over a million pigs were culled in an effort to contain the outbreak.[7]


Mutton is also a part of the Malaysian cuisine. It generally 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 or prawn, crab, squid, cuttlefish, clams, cockles, snails, sea cucumber and octopus. In general, members of all ethnic communities enjoy seafood, which is considered halal by Malaysian Muslims (and indeed all other Muslims), though some species of crabs are not considered Halal as they can live on both land and sea. Sea cucumbers are considered halal.


Fish features in the Malaysian diet and most local fish is purchased the day after it is caught. Frozen fish is generally imported. Such fish, namely salmon and cod, are well received on the Malaysian table but are not caught by local fishermen. Imported fish are frozen and flown in as pieces or as whole fish and usually sold by weight.


Vegetables are usually available year round as Malaysia does not have four seasons. During the rainy season, sometimes vegetable yield decreases but does not stop altogether. Therefore, vegetables can be purchased throughout the year 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 the 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 the Fruits".
  • The lychee, which has a bumpy red skin and sweet, sometimes made with tea to make it sweet. they are sold all year round.
  • The mango, a refreshing fruit
  • The longan, which name translates to 'Dragon Eye' in Chinese, and is called mata kucing in Malay (literally 'cat's eye') and it's similar to lychee

Food types

Malay cuisine bears many similarities to Indonesian cuisine, in particular some of the regional traditions from Sumatra. It has also been influenced by Chinese, Indian, Thai and many other cultures throughout history, producing a distinct cuisine of their own. Many Malay dishes revolve around a Rempah, which is a spice paste or mix similar to an Indian Masala. Rempahs 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.[8]

Malay food

Typical festive fare during Hari Raya Puasa or Hari Raya Haji (clockwise from bottom left): beef soup, nasi himpit (compressed rice cubes), beef rendang and sayur lodeh.
  • Apam balik - a bread like puff with sugar, corn, and coarse nut in the middle.
  • Ayam percik - grilled chicken with spicy sauce.
  • Ayam goreng kunyit - deep fried chicken, marinated in a base of turmeric and other seasonings.
  • Ikan bakar - grilled/barbecued fish with either chilli, kunyit (turmeric) or other spice based sauce.
  • Ikan pari - barbecued stingray
  • Kangkung belacan is water convolvulus 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 (plural: kuih-muih) is usually a selection of cakes, pastries and sweetmeats eaten as a snack during the morning or during midday, and are an important feature during festive occasions. It is a tradition shared by both the Malay and the Peranakan communities. Some example include:
    • Onde onde - small round balls made from glutinous rice flour with pandan [screwpine] leaves essence, filled with palm sugar and rolled in fresh grated coconut.
    • Kuih talam - steamed layered coconut pudding made of rice flour, sago flour and coconut milk is cooked by steaming. Pandan leaves lends aroma and the green color to one layer. A white coconut layer goes on top.
    • Pulut inti - a kind of steamed 'dry' rice pudding made from glutinous rice & coconut milk. It is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves folded into a pyramid shape, and topped with fresh grated coconut sweetened with palm sugar.
    • Layer Cake - a sweet cake with many layers
  • Mee rebus - a famous noodle dish which consists of mee (a spaghetti like mixture of flour, salt and egg) served with a tangy, spicy and sweet potato-based sauce. It is sometimes also called mee jawa, perhaps as a nod to its Javanese origins.
  • Nasi berlauk - Plain rice served with different variety of dishes
  • Nasi Dagang - the Nasi Lemak of east coast Peninsula Malaysia, in the state of Terengganu and Kelantan.
  • Nasi kerabu - a type of rice which is blue in color (dyed by a kind of blue flower or bunga telang), originated in Kelantan state.
  • Nasi Paprik - originated from southern Thailand, rice with "lauk", typically chicken.
  • Nasi Minyak - a multi-colored rice (dyed in a similar manner to Nasi Kerabu) usually eaten with rendang. It is very oily as the name implies. (minyak means oil)
  • Nasi goreng - fried rice. Nasi goreng kampung is a typical variant, traditionally flavored with pounded fried fish (normally mackerel), though recently fried anchovies are used in place of it.
  • Soto - Soup with mee hun or ketupat.
  • Pulut - Glutinous rice is a type of short-grained Asian rice that is especially sticky when cooked. It is widely used during the Raya festive seasons as traditional food.
    • Ketupat - a type of glutinous rice dumpling that has been wrapped in a woven palm leaf pouch and boiled. As the rice cooks, the grains expand to fill the pouch and the rice becomes compressed. This method of cooking gives the ketupat its characteristic form and texture. Usually eaten with rendang (a type of dry beef curry) or served as an accompaniment to satay or gado-gado. Ketupat is also traditionally served by Malays at open houses on festive occasions such as Idul Fitri (Hari Raya Aidilfitri).
  • Rendang - a spicy meat stew originating from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia, rendang is traditionally prepared by the Malay community during festive occasions.
  • Roti jala - The name is derived from the Malay word 'roti' (bread) and 'jala' (net). A special ladle with a five-hole perforation used to make the bread looks like a fish net (picture in the works). It is usually eaten as an accompaniment to a curried dish, or served as a sweet with 'serawa'. Serawa is made from a mixture of boiled coconut milk, brown sugar and pandan leaves.
  • Sambal sotong - squid are cooked in a sambal-based sauce, made with chillies, shallots, garlic, stewed tomatoes, tamarind paste and belacan.
  • Sayur Lodeh - a stew of vegetables cooked in a lightly spiced coconut milk gravy.
  • Sup kambing - a hearty mutton soup slow simmered with aromatic herbs and spices, and garnished with fried shallots and fresh cilantro.
  • Serunding - Shredded meat in a form of meat floss with spices.
  • Tempoyak - a popular Malay delicacy. It is durian extract which is preserved and kept in an urn. Commonly eaten with chillies and other dishes.

Malaysian Indian food

Malaysian Indian cuisine of the ethnic Indians in Malaysia is similar to its roots in India, especially South India although there are many notable foods with influences from North India too. Before the meal it is customary to wash hands as cutlery is often not used while eating, with the exception of a serving spoon for each respective dish. This cuisine consists of curries which uses a lot of spices, coconut milk, and curry leaves. Some of the most popular curries include chicken curry, fish curry, and squid curry.

Type of food found in Malaysian Indian Cuisine

  • Banana leaf rice is white rice served on banana leaf with an assortment of vegetables, curry meat or fish and papadum.
  • Chapati is a type of bread originated from Punjab. It is made from a dough of atta flour (whole grain durum wheat), water and salt by rolling the dough out 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.
  • Fish head curry - a dish where the head of a fish (usually ikan merah, or literally "red fish"), is semi-stewed in a thick curry with assorted vegetables such as okra and brinjals.
  • 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 spread into a thin, circular disc on a flat, preheated pan, where it is fried with a dash of edible oil or ghee until the dosa 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 usually served in pairs with chutney, sambar, or other accompaniments.
  • Naan bread is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread. It is usually eaten with an array of sauces such as Chutney and curries such as Dhal curry. Some examples of Naan bread include Garlic Naan, Butter Naan, Garlic Butter Naan, Cheese Naan, Garlic Cheese Naan.
  • Paneer is a dish that uses cheese. Unlike other types of cheese, it does not use rennet as the coagulation agent. This makes it completely lacto-vegetarian. Some of the usual types of Paneer include Paneer Tikka, Paneer Butter Masala and Palak Paneer (Spinach).
  • Payasam is a popular dessert, payasam is an integral part of traditional South Indian culture.
  • Pongal - rice boiled with milk and jaggery, it also shares the same name as the harvest festival which is celebrated every January. The name itself is derived from the fact that pongal (the dish) is cooked in the morning and offered to the gods, thanking them for the harvest.
  • 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, or, unrefined block sugar. 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. The homemade version in Malaysian Indian homes tend to be eaten as a savoury accompaniment to curried dishes or dal.
  • Rasam is a type of lentil soup with pepper, coriander and cumin seeds
  • Sambar is a thick stew of lentils with vegetables and seasoned with spices.
  • Upma/Uppittu is a staple meal prepared from semolina (rava), onion, green chillies, and certain spices.
  • 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.
  • Murtabak is a dish of savoury stuffed roti, usually including minced mutton, garlic, onion, and folded with an omelette, and is eaten with curry sauce.
  • Nasi Beriani or 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.
  • 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.

Mamak Culture

Mamak (Indian Muslims) dishes have developed a distinctly Malaysian style. 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. A type of Indian Muslim meal served buffet-style at specialist Mamak eateries is called nasi kandar (analogous to the Indonesian nasi padang, where you pay for what you have actually eaten), white rice or briyani rice served with other dishes of curry either with chicken, fish, beef, or mutton, and usually accompanied with pickled vegetable and papadums.

Malaysian Chinese food

Penang Rojak in Malaysia.

Malaysian Chinese food is derived from mainland southern Chinese cuisine such as Fujian cuisine and Hakka 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). Some Chinese food restaurants nowadays can be found serving halal food. 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.
  • 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 period.
  • 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 egg and cornstarch 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. Usually, with an option of cockles as well.
    Kulim Char Kway Teow
  • 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 : 咖喱面). 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 : 鸭腿面线) is famous in Penang food stalls, ingredients include duck meat in hot soup with mixed herbals and slim white noodles mee-sua.
  • Fuzhou cuisine can be found in the Sitiawan area, as well as several cities and towns in Sarawak. Specialities include Kong piang.
  • Ginger Duck Mee (Chinese : 姜鸭面). 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 cuisine can be found throughout the country, as there is a substantial Hakka community within the greater Chinese population. Yong tau foo (Chinese : 酿豆腐) is a stuffed tofu dish with Hakka origins but is now popular Malaysians of all races, and is particularly associated with . As a localiazed adaptation, brinjals, lady fingers, fried tofu, bitter melon and chillies are also stuffed with the same meat paste used for the original version.
  • Hokkien Mee(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 mostly in Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Klang, Kuantan and Penang.
  • 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 & ground 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 are served with light soya sauce flavoured with oil and with a plate of beansprouts. This dish is favoured by all Malaysians.
  • 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 basically 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 : 板面) is a Hokkien-style egg noodle soup, some forms of Ban mian, comprises hand-kneaded pieces of dough, while others use regular strips of noodles.
  • 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 a menu item found in Dim Sum places, although these days it can be seen in most coffee stalls.
  • 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'. The Penang version is particularly popular and well regarded.
  • Sin Chow (Singapore) Fried Meehoon (Chinese : 星洲米粉). Rice noodles stir fried with various ingredients such as barbecued pork, fish cake, carrots etc. 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.
  • Turmeric chicken (黄姜鸡) is a chicken stew cooked with from a blend of bases mashed into a paste, consisting fresh turmeric, ginger and lemongrass.
  • 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 with a lot of variety. Basically a sweet 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 resembles many meat dishes in look and even taste although they are made solely from vegetarian ingredients. You can get vegetarian roast pork, steamed fish with skin and bone, chicken drumstick complete with authentic looking bone, etc.
Wantan Mee
  • Wonton 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.
  • Yau Zha Gwai or Eu Char Kway or You Tiao (Chinese : 油炸鬼 or 油条) is Cantonese doughnut, a breakfast favourite eaten either like a doughnut—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.
  • Duck Roaster (Chinese : 烧鸭) is a duck roaster. The famous duck roaster located in Lunas, Kulim.
    Kulim Duck Roaster

Nyonya food

A bowl of Asam laksa.

Nyonya food was developed by the Nyonya (Straits Chinese) and Peranakan (mixed Chinese/Malay ancestry) 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 with some Thai influence .

Examples of Nyonya dishes include:

  • 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).
  • Asam Laksa (Malay: 亞三叻沙). A bowl of thick white rice noodles served in a soup made of fish, tamarind, onion, basil, pineapple and cucumber in slices.
  • Ayam pongteh, a chicken stew cooked with tauchu or salted soy beans and gula melaka. It is usually saltish-sweet and can be substituted as a soup dish in peranakan cuisine.
  • Ayam buah keluak, a chicken dish cooked using the nuts from Pangium edule or the "Kepayang" tree, a mangrove tree that grows in Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • Bak Chang. Similar to the original zongzi, or 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. A common Peranakan variant (Nyonya zong (娘惹粽) involves pandan leaves being used as the wrapping instead.
  • Cincalok, a distinctly Nyonya condiment made of fermented shrimp
  • 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 made up mainly of shredded vegetables like turnip or jicama, carrot, and cabbage and fried together with thinly shredded dried cuttlefish.
  • 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 née (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).
  • 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".
  • Laksa lemak is a type of laksa served in a rich coconut gravy.
  • 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.
  • Masak Lemak is a style of cooking 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 style of cooking vegetable soup that makes liberal use of peppercorns. One version uses watermelon rind as the main ingredient. Another makes use of green or semi ripe papaya.
  • Mee Siam is a dish of thin rice noodles (vermicelli) in spicy, sweet and sour light gravy.
  • 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.
  • Nasi Ulam is a herbed rice comprising a variety of herbs (daun kaduk, daun cekur, daun kesum etc.) shredded thinly and mixed raw into hot rice with pounded dried shrimp (hae bee) and salt fish (kiam hu) and chopped shallots.
  • Ngo Hiang (so called because of the use of Chinese five spice powder to flavour the minced 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.
  • 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 clearly evident in this unique version.
  • Perut Ikan is a spicy stew (of the asam pedas variety similar to asam laksa) comprising mainly vegetables/herbs and getting its distinctive taste mainly from fish bellies preserved in brine and daun kaduk (The Wild Pepper leaf is from the Piper stylosum or the Piper sarmentosum). A classic Penang Nyonya dish.
  • Se Bak, pork loin, marinated overnight with herbs and spices, cooked over a slow fire and simmered to perfection.
  • 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.

Sarawak Indigenous Cuisine

Sarawakians tend to have a distinct cuisine from their Peninsula counterparts. Some of them are part of the traditional cuisine of the natives, while some are influenced by either Chinese or Indian cuisine. Among the cuisine unique to Sarawak are:

  • Laksa Sarawak, is a beehoon with aromatic curry gravy topped with shredded chicken, egg and chilli paste.
  • Sarawak Kolo Mee, is a slightly sweet noodle dish, and often a main component of it is char siew, compliments the dish. Halal-type Kolo mee normally replaces pork slices with beef. Beef stock is used to replace lard.
  • Manok Pansoh, is a traditional Iban cuisine. Chicken is briefly cooked in a bamboo until tender and complimented with lemongrass, ginger and tapioca leaves. Another similar to Manok Pansoh but with added rice, is a traditional Bidayuh cuisine named Assam Siok. It can be hardly found in any restaurants in Sarawak as it is normally home cooked.
  • Umai, is a traditional Melanau cuisine. It is a raw seafood salad consists of raw sliced seafood (either 'terubok' fish, prawn or jellyfish), sliced onions and served with ketchup and chillies. 'Umai Jeb' is a type of umai with no other ingredients than the seafood itself. Normally fresh 'terubok' fish is used. It is similar to Japanese sashimi.
  • Kek Lapis Sarawak, or Sarawak layer cakes are famous among not only Sarawakians, but Peninsular Malaysians, especially during festive seasons. It is a must have for festive occasions like Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Gawai and Christmas. Among the most popular ones are Sabok Tun Razak layer cakes, Evergreen layer cakes and Hati Pari cakes. .
  • Linut, is sticky broiled sago flour, normally complimented with 'sambal belacan' (shrimp paste) or curry gravy. It is popular among Melanau and Kedayan people in Sarawak. The same dish can be observed in Sabah and Brunei with different name, which is 'ambuyat'.
  • Tebes or Ti'ong, is a traditional Melanau Baie 'kuih', which originated from Bintulu. It consists of fresh shrimps, wrapped wholly in coconut husk, and wrapped again in pandan or coconut leaves, then toasted.
  • Selorot, is a traditional Sarawakian Malay 'kuih'. It is made from palm sugar and rice flour, cooked in a spiraled coconut leaves. It is normally eaten during a tea break, normally between lunch and dinner.
  • Midin, is a jungle fern (quite similar to 'pucuk paku' that is popular in the Peninsular, but crispier). Midin is much sought after for its crisp texture and great taste. Midin is usually served in two equally delicious ways - fried with either garlic or belacan (shrimp paste). It is normally eaten with rice.
  • Nasik Aruk is a traditional Sarawakian Malay fried rice. Unlike Nasi Goreng, Nasik Aruk does not use any oil to fry the rice. The ingredients are garlic, onion and anchovies, fried to perfection with very little oil and then rice. The rice must be fried for longer time (compared to frying rice for Nasi Goreng) for the smokey/slightly-burnt taste to absorb into the rice. It is a common to see Nasik Aruk in the food menu list at Malay and Mamak coffee shops and stalls throughout Sarawak.
  • Tomato noodle is a variation of the popular fried noodle or kueh tiaw (thin, flat rice noodles), with tomato gravy, meat (usually chicken pieces), vegetables and seafood (usually prawns). Sometimes crispy noodle is used.
  • Foochow bagel is a traditional Foochow Chinese food. It is normally addressed as kompia. This pastry can only be found in Sibu, Bintangor or Sarikei where ethnic Chinese of Foochow clan formed a majority.
  • Bubur Pedas (or transliterated as 'spicy porridge) is unlike many other porridge that we know. Bubur Pedas is cooked with a specially prepared paste. It is quite spicy thanks to its ingredients, which include spices, turmeric, lemon grass, galangal, chillies, ginger, coconut and shallots. Like the famous Bubur Lambuk of Kuala Lumpur, Bubur Pedas is exclusive dish prepared during the month of Ramadan and served during the breaking of fast.
  • Tuak is a type of liquor, unique to Iban and Bidayuh communities in Sarawak. It is made from either fermented rice or sugarcane although the former is more popular. It is normally served as a welcoming drink to guests, or during festive occasions like Gawai or Christmas.
  • Manok kacangma is a type of traditional Chinese-influenced dish, consists of a tender chicken parts cooked with lots of garlics and 'kacangma' herbs. Non-Muslims normally cook 'manok kacangma' with some Chinese wine or 'tuak' of their choice.
  • Kelupis is similar to 'ketupat', but wrapped in spiraled pandan leaves. The rice used is glutinous rice, unlike ketupat which normally use plain rice.
  • Pulut panggang is a type of traditional Malay kuih in Sarawak, which is a glutinous rice wrapped in pandan leaves then cooked over a fire. Unlike 'pulut panggang' in Peninsula, Sarawakian pulut panggang has more tastes in its glutinous rice and no filling.
  • Murtabak corned beef is a type of traditional Indian-influenced dish. It is similar to murtabak in Peninsular Malaysia, but with corned beef filling. It is unique to Sarawak and Brunei Malays.
  • Terubok Masin is a salted 'terubok' fish (or American shad fish), a type of oily fish with lots of scales and Y-shaped bones. The fish can be either freshwater or seawater, local or imported, but local seawater 'terubok' fish costs more than other types.
  • Cerodet is a type of traditional Indian kuih which is very popular in Kuching.
  • Kuih Jala is a type of traditional Iban kuih which is quite similar to kuih karas in Kedah.
  • Suman is a traditional food of Malay in Pusa. It is a sea fish cooked in a banana husk and wrapped in banana leaves. It is almost the same with tebes and ti'ong in Bintulu.

Cross-cultural influence

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.


A bowl of cendol.

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.
  • Sago Gula Melaka (Sago, Coconut Cream and Palm Sugar) Cooked translucent sago with coconut cream topped with palm sugar syrup.
  • Pineapple tarts

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.

See also


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