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Malaysian Food

Malaysian Food for international students who are interested to study in Malaysia.

In cities around the world you can find a great variety of foods, but Malaysia’s multicultural culinary tradition is a mind-boggling daily choice. Each ethnic group has contributed to the nation’s great gastronomic heritage. You can arguably try a different local dish daily for a year and still not have tasted all.  Malaysian food will be explained in this page.

Food outlets of all types and for all budgets are easy to find around Malaysia. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised to discover that eating out here is easy on the pocket.

Malaysia has a hugely varied national menu with Malay, Chinese, Indian and regional fusion recipes from across Asia. Within each ethnic type, every subgroup has its own differences, and among the indigenous groups there are particular specialties. Although rice is the staple diet, many dishes go with a different base such as flour.

Generally, Malay and Indian cooking is spicier whereas Chinese food is milder on the palate. Japanese and Middle Eastern cuisine are increasingly popular while Western fare is not unfamiliar.


Spices play a huge part in not just Malay cuisine, but have also been a factor in Malaysian culinary history as part of the Spice Islands trade. Ingredients such as chili, black pepper, coriander, cumin, fennel, turmeric, lemon grass, ginger and coconut milk are common. The regional influences of the Javanese, Thais and the Minang of Sumatra have contributed to the exciting range of cuisine.

Signature Malay dishes include satay, the most loved eat-out dish in Malaysia. Bite-sized marinated chicken or beef pieces on sticks are barbecued over charcoal fire. Satay is served ketupat (rice cubes), raw cucumber and onions all dipped in sweet spicy peanut sauce. Nasi lemak is another national favourite especially for breakfast. Rice cooked in coconut milk is served with chili sambal, fried peanuts, anchovies, egg and cucumber slices. Nasi goreng (fried rice) comes in many forms, while nasi dagang (fish curry coloured rice), nasi kerabu are traditional East Coast fare. Other typical Malay dishes include various mee and laksa noodles as well as soupy lontong and soto. A Malay delicacy not to be missed is lemang or glutinous rice cooked in bamboo and eaten with rendang spice-blended meats.


Regional Chinese food from Cantonese to Hokkien to Szechuan are all common in Malaysia. Cantonese food is lighter and less greasy than the hot and sour flavoured Szechuan style. Rice and noodles are the staple diet. Chinese restaurants in Malaysia also offer other specialties such as Peking duck and shark’s fin soup. A popular choice is dim sum, a selection of steamed dishes such as dumplings, prawn bites and similar tidbits on small plates, served in little baskets with are presented from table to table. Choose as many plates as you like and later, the number of plates are tallied and billed accordingly. Yee sang raw fish salad is a must during Chinese New Year.


North Indian Mughal tandooris and briyanis, South Indian fish head curries as well as a variety of roti breads; all are readily available in Malaysia. The only thing common in this assortment of is a Indian fare is the use of spices, with rice and flour breads as the staple. The simple but famed roti canai pancake bread from flour and ghee is a much loved dish in local Indian-Muslim restaurants, accompanied by the teh tarik – hot tea with milk and ‘pulled’ to mix and cool them – a national mainstay. In some restaurants, experience a novelty of having your food served on a banana leaf instead of plate. From Penang comes the nasi kandar, literally ‘pole rice’ from the way the spicy rice makes dishes used to be balanced in containers hanging from a pole on the vendor’s shoulders. Then there is the rojak, which is a popular mixed salad served with peanut sauce and other ingredients. A Malay and Chinese variety is the rojak buah or local fruit salad.

Sabah & Sarawak

Sabah and Sarawak each offers local variations and particular native specialties. In Sarawak, there is Sarawak laksa and mee kolok. Among traditional jungle dwellers, food consists of natural forest ingredients cooked in hollow bamboo tubes, called pansuh. Rice and even meats can be placed in the bamboo hollow and cooked over a fire. Cooking in bamboo is naturally clean, fuss-free and environmentally friendly, while giving a unique aroma and texture not found in food cooked in pots. For the adventurous, Melanau cuisine offers a local delicacy of sago worms as well as umai marinated raw fish.

Similarly in Sabah, the Muruts are famous for jaruk, cooking in bamboo tubes but with the ingredients allowed to ferment. Pickled dishes are a local specialty. In days before refrigeration the interior peoples developed ingenious ways of preserving meats and vegetables. Utilising the preservatives ability of a number of fruits and seeds, together with salt, they created many types of pickles and preserves. The more well-known foods of this type are the various binava pickled dishes of the Kadazan Dusun community.


Nyonya cuisine refers to the mixed cooking heritage of the Baba-Nyonya of Chinese-Malay ancestry. It comprises a heady blend of Malay spices and local ingredients with Chinese and mixed recipes, resulting in Nyonya versions of steamed fish, curry laksa, otak-otak and enche kabin. Northern Nyonya delicacies from Penang have a slight Thai flavor and even Indian-Muslim influence, including Nyonya acar pickles, besombor mixed salad, minced meat congee and spare ribs soup. Southern Nyonya food in Melaka is similar but spicier and rich in coconut milk.


Cuisine of the Portuguese community offers a unique blending of spice paste, pounded herbs, lemon grass and shallots that bears little resemblance to food in Portugal. Popular dishes include devil curry with deeply blended spices, cucumber and pineapple chili salad and karing-karing fretu, a snack of fried silver thread fish sprinkled with lime juice.

Therefore all international students who study in Malaysian universities are encouraged to sample these food.