8 Foods You Have To Try When Visiting Malaysia
Influenced by Peranakan Chinese and Indian dishes, Malaysian cuisine is some of the most flavorful in all of Asia. Lovers of curries and spices, rich creamy sauces and strong flavors flock to Malaysia, eager to sample the region's unique traditional recipes. These eight delicious dishes are a must-try when visiting the country.
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Nasi Lemak is considered Malaysia's national dish. Rice is cooked in coconut milk steeped with pandan leaf, a type of palm tree native to tropical and subtropical Austronesia and extensively cultivated for culinary use. The fragrant rice is then served with a variety of side dishes and garnishes like fresh cucumber, peanuts, egg, anchovies and pickles. It's most commonly eaten at breakfast, but can be enjoyed at any time of day, and many variations on the dish exist.
Brought by traders coming from India, nasi kandar is a dish of mildly-seasoned, steamed rice with an assortment of different curries. Traditionally, the rice took on its flavor from the special wooden container was stored in before serving. Typically all served on one plate, side dishes include eggplant, egg and chicken, lamb or seafood. The rice is then doused with an extra helping of curry sauce for additional flavor.
Fish Head Curry
Fish head curry is a local dish found in Malaysia and Singapore, with roots in Indian and Chinese cuisines. Traditionally, the head of a red snapper is stewed along with hearty vegetables in curry, and served with either rice or Malaysian-Indian flatbreads like roti prata. Fish heads and parts like the 'cheek' have long been considered a delicacy to the Chinese, and this belief has bolstered the dish's popularity.
Char Kway Teow
A popular Malaysian dish hailing from Penang, char kway teow consists of fried flat rice noodles seasoned with garlic, chili, radish and soy sauce. Bean sprouts, shrimp and chives come as the usual fixings, but this recipe has many variations throughout the country. Traditionally, the dish is fried in pork lard, imparting a rich, delicious flavor.
Laksa comes from Peranakan cuisine, a term referring to the localized Chinese descendants who have lived on the Strait of Malacca for generations. It's a creamy soup, either spicy (curry laksa) or sour (asam laksa), with thick rice noodles and chicken, shrimp or fish. The flavors come from local ingredients like coconut milk, tamarind and chili.
Originally a recipe from Indian state of Kerala, murtabak was brought over by Muslim settlers centuries ago and is now a street food staple in Malaysia. Murtabaks consists of a kind of pancake stuffed with vegetables and ground meat and often topped with gravy, curry or ketchup.
Pasembur / Rojak Memak
Pasembur is a type of salad served with a chili-based sweet, tangy and nutty dressing. The dish is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine but uses ingredients borrowed from Chinese cuisine like tofu and bean sprouts. Other common ingredients include potatoes, battered shrimp, cucumber and egg. It is known as pasembur in northern Malaysia, rojak memak elsewhere and Indian rojak in Singapore.
Mee goreng - meaning 'fried noodles' - are everywhere in Malaysia, from cheap street stalls to mall food courts and even high-end restaurants. The deceptively simple dish consists of thin, chewy egg noodles stir-fried with oil, seasonings like garlic and onion along with various vegetables and meats - Chinese cabbage and shrimp are popular additions.
Malaysian cuisine is a melting pot of Indian and Chinese traditions clashing with local ingredients and flavors. From the national dish of nasi lemak to the humble char kway teoh, this region's top eight must-try dishes are as varied as the people who make them.