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Malaysian Cuisine : Foods in Malaysia

Updated on September 19, 2012

Malaysian Cuisine : Foods in Malaysia

Some important facts about Malaysia :

Malaysia is a country with 13 states and the type of government is constitutional monarchy but at the same time it is federated. Malay is the national language and is adjacent to the neighboring countries like Thailand Borneo and Indonesia. It is also considered near to the Philippines, as you just cross the sea from the Sulu Sea and you can reach Borneo -- part of Malaysia. This gives us a hint of the food availability in the area.

The food in Malaysia is a by product of its multi-ethnic background, religion and local tastes of the people, they mostly eat chicken specially among Muslims. Beef is eaten by some Buddhists with consideration and Hindus don't eat beef at all.

Nasi lemak -- consists of cooked rice with coconut milk, chicken, peanuts fried and sambal

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia and considered a multi-ethnic country. There are Chinese, Indians and the native Malays who practiced different religions but are living harmoniously. Majority of Malaysians are Muslims,then Buddhist and Hindus in that order. So in terms of food, you can see that there is variation of food in relation to their basic religions, although we will see later on that rice is the basic staple which is common in Southeastern Asia region.

In Malaysia there are variations of food according to ethnic backgrounds like :

  • Chinese -- Malay foods
  • Chinese -- Chinese/Malay foods
  • Malay - Indian foods
  • and Malay foods -- the natives

Foods in Malaysia : Influences and Availability

Nearby Country influences :

Thailand, Indonesians -- Sumatran culture and food tradition plus Indians and Chinese influenced the food choices of Malaysians. Rempah is a seasoning or condiments grinded so as to produce a paste for flavorings and nice smelling food. it is the same as the masala of Indians.

Fruits and Vegetables in Malaysia:

Malaysia lies in the equator and is a tropical country, fruits and vegetables are abound and green, and the same with nearby countries.The vegetable produce are expensive during off season.

Fruits like papaya, melon, mangosteen, durian, rambutan (red hairy covered fruit) mangoes, bananas and a lot more. They also eat  lychee (harvested in cooler climate),

Fruits in Malaysia

Sambal -- chili anchovies sauce

Herbs, spices, ingredients and condiments

Fish paste or shrimp paste and chili peppers are also used as spices. Like in other Asian countries the Malay use curries and shrimp paste for flavorings and seasoning purposes. Chilies, sambal, tumeric, soy sauce are also used as ingredients in noodles and dishes.

Satay Making

Satay dish

What is satay? it is a meat which was grilled chicken, beef or lamb meat with coconut milk as the sauce and fried peanuts and oftentimes they are sold int he streets, They grill it in an open grill and then mixed with spices as sauce, usually chili sauce.

Satay Dish


Murtabak dish

Another famous dish in Malaysian cuisine is the murtabak, which has other variants in the Muslim countries like the Middles eastern countries. it consists of chopped lamb meat with spices  and omelet styled plus a mixture of curried powder.

Malay food -- Foods in Malaysia

  • Nasi Paprik
  • Nasi goreng
  • Soto
  • Pulut
  • Rendang
  • Roti jala
  • Sambal sotong
  • Sayur lodeh
  • Sup kambing -
  • Serunding -
  • Tempoyak

Malay food -- Foods in Malaysia

  • Apam BalikAyam percik

  • Ayam goreng kunyit
  • Ikan Bakar
  • Ikan Asam Pedas
  • Kangkung belacan
  • Keropor lecor
  • Kui
  • Mee rebus
  • Nasi berlauk
  • Nasi Dagang
  • Nasi kerabu -

Sample of Malay dish -- Ikan Bakar dish -- grilled marinated fish with spices in banana leaf

Laksa (mixture of Chinese -- Chinese/Malay cooking) a noodles with spices and ingredients

Mixture of Chinese and Chinese -- Malay cooking

  • Mee Siam.
  • Nasi Kunyit
  • Nasi Ulam
  • Ngoh Hiang
  • Otak otak
  • Perut Ikan
  • Se Bak,
  • Ter Thor T'ng

Mixture of Chinese and Chinese -- Malay cooking

Noodles rice noodles with herbs and spices used for cooking usually of Chinese Malay mixed cooking.

Pineapple and cucumber are also added plus the sour tamarind.

Other foods which are of Chinese Malay mixture of food culture

  • Acar
  • Ayam pongteh
  • Ayam buah keluak
  • Bak chang
  • Cincalok
  • Itek Tim
  • Jiew Hu Char
  • Kerabu Bee Hoon
  • Kiam Chye Boey
  • Laksa lemak
  • Lam Mee
  • Masak Belanda
  • Masak Lemak
  • Masak Titik

Penang Rojak dish in Malaysia

Malaysian Chinese Foods in Malaysia

  • Mee Hon Koor
  • Ngah Choy Kai
  • Ngah Po Fan
  • Pan Mee
  • Pao
  • Popiah
  • Rojak
  • Sin Chow
  • Turmeric chicken
  • Tau foo fah
  • Tong sui
  • Wantan Mee
  • Wu Tau Guo
  • Yau Zha Gwai
  • Zuk or zhou

Malaysian Chinese Foods in Malaysia

Although Chinese loves to put pork as main ingredients for their foods, they also have to consider Malay who are mostly Muslim and they consider this when establishing a restaurant. Soem of the foods which are Chinese - Malay foods are :

  • Bak kut teh
  • Bakkwa
  • Bread with curried chicken
  • Cantonese Fried Mee
  • Chai tow kwa
  • Char kway Teow
  • Chee cheong fun
  • Curry mee
  • Duck Noodle soup
  • Ginger Duck Mee
  • Hainanese chicken with rice
  • Hakka cuisine
  • Hokkien Mee
  • Prawn Mee
  • Kaya toast
  • Kway chap
  • Loh Mee

Sambar dish -- sample of the mixture of Indian Malay dish -- vegetable stew with tamarind -- sour

Sources for the List of different ethnic foods.

Malaysian -- Indian Cusine in Malaysia

  • Rasam
  • Sambar
  • Mamak
  • Roti Canai
  • Mamak rojak
  • Maggi goreng
  • Murtabak
  • Biryani
  • Teh tarik

Malaysian -- Indian Cusine in Malaysia

  • banana leaf rice
  • Fish head curry
  • Chapati
  • Thosai
  • Idli
  • Payasam
  • Pongal
  • Putu Mayam


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    • saif113sb profile image

      saif113sb 6 years ago

      Good Information: thanks

    • oldrick profile image

      Richard Ingate 6 years ago from UK

      This brought back many good memories of living in Malaysia! The first thing I ever ate was Kway Teow and I was hooked on Malaysia food from that moment!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      This is a wonderful hub on Malaysia and their food looks wonderful Rated up!

    • Good Guy profile image

      Justin Choo 7 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Alexandriaruthk,

      Please don't call me "Sir." I am just plain simple "good guy"...honest to the bone!!!

      I think it is only in Malaysia, that once a non-muslim marries a Muslim, he or she becomes a Muslim for life. And all the children will also be forever Muslims! Not a joke!! Just like the Eagle's song "Hotel California"...."You can check out anytime but you can never leave."

      By the way, another "first and only" Malaysian product....All Malays are Muslims. They are not allowed to otherwise. "Strange" but true. So your "Malay-Chinese" dichotomy has a caveate, that is, they automatically become Muslims, and also their descendants. So no more pork. No more authentic Chinese food!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      Very well done! Love Malaysian food myself and will have to think about making some very, very soon now that I've gotten these pics in my head!

    • alexandriaruthk profile image

      alexandriaruthk 7 years ago from US

      Hi Good guy, thanks for the comments, I appreciate it very much.

      I think I missed about lychess -- Lychees are likened by the people there and not grown in that region, thanks for that info Sir, ,

      When I say Chinese and Chinese Malay, in bloodlines but not in religion, most of the Chinese intermarried with Malay and if the the religion is Muslim, they don't partake pork, but if they are mostly Chinese--Buddhist after marrying, they eat pork? Am I correct Sir?

      Thanks for your comments!

    • Good Guy profile image

      Justin Choo 7 years ago from Malaysia


      First I must tell you that I am a Malaysian, of Chinese origin.

      A very good attempt on your part for this hub.

      Hope you don't mind I point out 4 facts:

      1. China is not our immediate neighbor.

      2. Certain Buddhists don't eat beef. Hindus DEFINITELY don't eat beef. Cow is sacred in their religion; and it would be against their religion to eat beef!!

      3. You don't grow lychee in Malaysia. It needs a cooler climate.

      4. The item on "Chinese-Malay foods" are Chinese foods and not Malay foods, as many of the mentioned items contain pork. Malays are Muslims, and they are forbidden to eat pork. It is against their religion.

      On a lighter note, I eat everything! (LOL)


      Well done!

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Malaysian cuisine has quickly become a favorite around the world:)!!