Many people regard Malaysian food as the very best cuisine in a region, Southeast Asia, that is full of excellent contenders. It certainly has good reason to stake a claim as the best of the best. Street food in Penang for example is absolutely incredible, I cannot remember finding better anywhere. Here are some personal favourites in my list of the best food in Malaysia. I’m sure many people will find others that I have not included.
I might as well start with a typical street food and Roti Canai is about as street as it gets. It is simply flatbread. The Indian style bread is stretched and pulled until it takes on an elastic quality, then it is cook on oiled hot irons to perfection. Normally served with a curry sauce or a lentil Dal, it is perfect for a late night snack, though mostly eaten by locals for breakfast. Crisp and flaky on the outside and soft and a little chewy on the inside. Superb.
Considered by many to be the national dish of Malaysia Nasi lemak sums up the best food in Malaysia. It is a dish of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk served with any number of side dishes. Fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, hard boiled eggs with a tangy sauce make a great snack whilst when it is served with fried chicken, cuttlefish, cockles or beef it becomes a more substantial meal. Originally purely a breakfast dish it has become so popular that it is now eaten at any time of the day.
Laksa is Malaysia’s much loved noodle soup and there are many variations. Asam Laksa is based around a tart tamarind-based broth and is normally accompanied with flaky white fish. The noodles are at the bottom of the bowl, whilst cucumber, pineapple and the bitter tasting ginger flower make up the topping. It varies slightly depending on where you buy it. In Penang it is more often than not sharp tasting and spicy. I suppose the island’s close proximity to Thailand is reflected in the spiciness of their cooking.
This spicy meat dish is often called a curry but the experts will tell you that it is not. The difference is the cooking, Rendang is slow cooked allowing all the liquid to become absorbed by the meat, which is either beef, chicken or lamb. It is found across the region and although it originates from the ethnic group of Minangkabau people of Indonesia it has become a firm favourite of the Malay people. In a CNN televised poll it was voted number one in their list of the world’s top 50 food dishes, so it simply has to qualify as one of the best foods in Malaysia.
Sang Char Kwey Teow
An amazing dish of river prawns cooked cantonese style in a broth to which egg is added, then flat noodles to add the carbs. The orange roe from the prawns is the secret here. It leeches into the broth providing stunning flavours. The textures of the prawns and the noodles compliment each other superbly. The egg gives that consistency to the broth similar to Thai crab curry dishes. This really is a special dish.
This is one of those dishes that you can just eat and eat. A rich Prawn samba it is bursting with flavour and has a rich sauce, ideal for eating with simple plain rice. The dish was brought to Malaysia by the Straits Chinese, also known as Peranakan; originally from Fujian province in southeastern China. They settled in the Penang and Melaka regions of the country and brought this with them. Whole prawns are cooked in a rich sauce, stacked with flavour using chilli paste and prawn paste.
A firm favourite all over Southeast Asia Satay is similar just about everywhere but each country manages to put their own stamp on it. Various meats are coated with turmeric and other spices giving it the trademark yellow appearance. It is then grilled on a barbecue and served with a pungent spicy peanut sauce. Slices of cucumber and onion are also served and more often than not here, the whole dish comes accompanied by Ketupat, or rice cakes. These are very moorish and are great eaten on the street late at night.
Chinese style barbecue pork ribs are a great way to enjoy succulent tender pork ribs. The word Charsiew simply means “burn with a fork” . This is real comfort food, the fatty ribs are seasoned with honey, five-spice powder, dark soy sauce, fermented tofu and sometimes hoisin sauce. As this melts and cooks the meat takes on the distinctive red colour and glazed appearance. The inside though remains soft and succulent. Amazing, and definitely one of the best foods in Malaysia.
Lung Seng Tanjung Tualang
This amazing dish of freshwater river prawns is so loved by the locals in Kuala Lumpur that they think nothing of making the two hour trek to Tanjung Tualang, in Perak in the north, merely to eat it. The town has become synonymous with freshwater prawns and many restaurants can be seen with large tanks outside, ensuring they are as fresh as possible. At the centre of the town is a market where the produce arrives, the restaurants are situated round it. There are different ways to cook them, but this simple method served with butter is the best.
As in Singapore this dish has to be included, the Malaysians adore it. The Singapore style Hokkien Mee is only found in Singapore, and here the Malaysian version and is very close to people’s hearts. Hokkien is a Chinese dialect and region and it is from here, that the dish originated. Hokkien Mee is a mix of stir-fried egg and rice noodles. Eggs, sliced pork, prawns and squid, are added. It is then and served, garnished with vegetables, small pieces of lard and a sambal sauce. Lime is squeezed to add zest. The crispy pieces of lard used for the garnish, gives the dish its unique flavour.
And there you have it, ten dishes that make up the best food in Malaysia. I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with some and come up with their own options. Please let us know. There may be some we haven’t tried ourselves. Have you tried all these?