“First we eat, then we do everything else” – M.F.K. Fisher
And yes, this applies even when you are on a trip to Asia’s one of the most beautiful countries – Malaysia. Scenic vistas, marvellous architecture, and amazing nightlife; this country has beauty to soak in, and cuisine is to die for! Malaysia’s reputation as the food paradise is well-known to the world. The cuisine is an exotic combination of Malay, Chinese, and Indian dishes. Yes, yes, you read it right – Indian cuisine too! But, dishes straight from the authentic Malaysian cuisine – lazat! The natives of this country are so diversified in their culinary skills that even the dishes are very creatively named (not joking!)
There’s a café or a small street shop almost every 2 km, so finding a good restaurant in Malaysia is pretty easy! But, the bigger question is – what to eat? Well, don’t fret! Take a deep breath because we are here to answer this question for you. Here are the top 10 must-try dishes and the list of restaurants in Malaysia that you will absolutely love!
1. The National Dish – Nasi Lemak at the Village Park
Already in Malaysia but haven’t tried Nasi Lemak? Change that immediately, please.
Nasi Lemak gives you a close look at what Malay natives offer with their cuisine. It is basically an aromatic rice dish which is cooked in coconut milk and pandan (screwpine) leaf. This dish is served with a boiled egg or a poached egg along with fried peanuts, the traditional sambal – a spicy red chilli sauce, and fried anchovies. Additionally, the gravy of chicken, pork, squids, or fish – depending upon your wish is also served along.
Apart from its lip-smacking taste, another great thing about this dish is the fragrance it gives out because of the pandan leaves. Though you can eat Nasi Lemak anytime, Malaysian people prefer having it in the morning.
Where to eat: The restaurant in Malaysia that offers the best Nasi Lemak is the Village Park restaurant. Known for offering the It is a cosy little café set up in the area of Selangor and has a very sweet and homely ambience.
2. The authentic Nasi Dagang at Pak Malau
Though it is similar to Nasi Lemak in some ways, the flavours of Nasi Dagang are quite different! This is a rice dish too but instead of the pandan leaves, fenugreek seeds are used. The rice is soaked in water for several hours and then cooked in coconut milk that is flavoured with fenugreek seeds and lemongrass along with some nicely sliced shallots. Nasi Dagang is served with Kari Ikan – a type of fish curry, fried coconut, hard-boiled egg, vegetable pickle, and of course, the spicy sambal. This dish is a must-try because of its unique flavour of coconut milk and fenugreek seeds which is sure to whet your appetite.
Where to eat: Pak Malau is one of the best places to have Nasi Dagang. This restaurant in Malaysia is on the list due to the rustic yet pleasant ambience that it offers.
3. Relishing some Laksam at Kak Su Nasi Kerabu
Is there anyone in this world who doesn’t have a soft heart towards noodles? We think not. Speaking of which, Laksam is a noodle dish that you just cannot resist to indulge in. It is basically thick flat white rice noodles served with fish. The soup is made of coconut milk which is flavoured with the boiled fish as well as lemongrass or any such herbs. Though restaurants provide a fork and spoon to eat this dish, Laksam is traditionally eaten with hands as the locals believe that the flavour enhances when eaten with hands.
Places to visit: One of the most popular restaurants in Malaysia that offers the best Laksam is Kak Su Nasi Kerabu.
4. Savouring Rendang at Opium
They say ‘cooking is an art’ and well, Rendang proves it right. This dish is not only famous in Malaysia but also in Indonesia and Singapore. But, as we said before – Malay Cuisine has a very different touch to their dishes. Rendang is basically cooked with red meat – beef or mutton as well as chicken. This dish is categorised into three different stages that range from soupy to thick gravy to dry. Here again, the meat is cooked in coconut milk (well, yeah Malay people have a thing for coconut milk)! Rendang is so appealing that even the thought of it can make your mouth water.
Where to eat: Opium – a cosy little restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is one of the best places to savour Rendang. Food, ambience, and décor – everything about Opium is just wow!
5. Penang Asam Laksa at O&S Restaurant
From the Malay islands of Penang comes this sour and lip-smacking dish of Asam Laksa which has been ranked 7th in the list of “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods” by CNN. The word ‘Asam’ is a Malay word that means tamarind. Penang Asam Laksa is made with mackerel fish wherein the fish is first poached and then crumbled. Other ingredients that give this dish a unique flavour include lemongrass, galangal, and chilli. Penang Asam Laksa is garnished with mint, sliced pineapple, thick sweet shrimp paste, and torch ginger flower.
Where to eat: O&S is one of the most popular restaurants in Malaysia if you want to binge on the authentic Penang Asam Laksa.
6. The delicious Bat Kuh Teh at Sun Fong
The name might sound a wee bit outlandish, but the flavour of this dish is heavenly. Bat Kuh Teh is a pork rib dish cooked in the broth of the meat. It has earned its dialect as “Meat Bone Tea” which, in its simplest form, consists of meaty pork ribs simmered in the flavoured broth. The soup is seasoned and boiled with spices and herbs like star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, garlic, and traditional herbs like dang gui for several hours. Bat Kuh Teh is a must-try dish if you want to treat your taste-buds to a different flavour.
Where to eat: The restaurant in Malaysia that has made to this list is Sun Fong. Located in Kuala Lumpur, this is a street-side restaurant that offers supremely delicious Bat Kuh Teh.
7. Street side Penang Hokkien Mee at Sentul Ah Yap
Hokkien Mee is a popular dish in Malaysia, Singapore, and to some extent in China and Fuji as well. But, the Malay version comes with a spicy twist. The Penang Hokkien Mee is cooked with rice vermicelli and thick yellow egg noodles in a spicy prawn broth which additionally consists of shells and pork ribs. The dish is finally served with sliced prawns and pork, bean sprouts, hard-boiled eggs, fried shallots, butter, and sambal.
Where to eat: Sentul Ah Yap is one of the best restaurants in Malaysia serving the authentic Hokkien Mee for you to savour.
8. The well-known Char Kway Teow at Ah Leng
In simple words, Char Kway Teow literally means stir-fried rice cake strips. It is a famous noodle dish that is cooked with flat rice noodles and stir-fried with light and dark soy sauce, chilli, belachan (shrimp paste), and whole prawns. The dish is garnished with Chinese chives, fishcake, and bean sprouts. It is known to be the national favourite in Malaysia.
Where to eat: Located in George Town, Penang – Ah Leng is one of the best restaurants in Malaysia to savour this delicacy.
9. Aunty Christina’s Sarawak Laksa
Ah well, here comes another delicious variant of Laksa – the Sarawak Laksa. Derived from the beautiful Malaysian state of Sarawak on the islands of Borneo, this variant of Laksa is a combination of both Laksam and Asam Laksa. The coconut milk and asam paste are simmered with sambal (the spicy chilli paste, remember?) and flavoured with garlic, galangal, and lemongrass. The dish is topped with striped eggs, chicken strips, peeled boiled prawns, and freshly chopped coriander leaves.
Where to eat: Well, if you want to relish on the yummiest Sarawak Laksa, Aunty Christina’s restaurant is your go-to spot.
10. Chicken Kapitan at the famous Chulia Street
Last but not least, this dish is to dig and crave for. On the face of it, Chicken Kapitan might look like normal Indian chicken curry but the taste – sama sekali berbeza (totally different). In Malay cuisine, this dish is prepared in coconut milk that is simmered well with sambal and other herbs. The chicken is cooked in the gravy with potatoes to enhance the flavour even more.
Where to eat: Though there are many good restaurants in Malaysia serving Chicken Kapitan, the one that makes it to this list is Restoran Kapitan which is located at 93, Chulia Street, George Town in Malaysia.
Authentic Malay cuisine is said to be diverse but complex because of which the exotic taste can be experienced only in Malaysia. Even though many restaurants across the world offer Malaysian cuisine, the authenticity in its taste is best savoured where it originated. Whether your Malaysia tour package includes these places or not, make sure you do visit them – for the traveller, and even more importantly, the foodie in you!