Malaysia is a tropical Southeast Asian country known for its beaches, cities, culture, history, and most importantly, food. If you’ve ever visited or lived in Malaysia, you’re bound to miss the endless choices. No matter how often you eat out, there will always be a new restaurant to try or a favorite you keep going back to.
Hanging out with friends will inevitably lead to a conversation consisting of, “Where you want to eat ah?” followed by, “You choose lah.” To actually decide, you need to determine four factors in this order: location/area, cuisine, restaurant, and ETA depending on the traffic jam.
Then comes the hard part of choosing what to order. If you are ever in doubt, remember these five dishes. Whether these dishes have long been your favorites or whether you’re trying them for the first time, you won’t be disappointed.
1. Nasi Lemak
This traditional dish is enjoyed by all ages in every corner of the country. With its celebrity status, it is widely considered the most famous dish in Malaysia. Every restaurant will have created their own variation of it, but the essential elements remain the same.
Each hearty serving comes with rice cooked in coconut milk, chicken curry, spicy sambal (a sauce made with shrimp paste), ikan bilis (fried anchovies), roasted peanuts, cucumbers, and a boiled egg.
With this, you can have your choice of chicken, beef, or lamb on skewers, grilled to perfection on a charcoal fire and served with a rich crunchy peanut sauce, rice cubes, slices of onion, and refreshing cucumbers.
These meat skewers have come a long way since their days as street food at night markets. In Malaysia, you can find them anywhere from local food courts, to upscale restaurants, to in-flight dining. No matter where you go, don’t forget the sauce.
3. Roti Canai
This dish might be the cheapest on the menu but it definitely doesn’t lack in the taste department. Commonly served at mamak stalls (outdoor food stalls) with chicken curry or vegetarian dahl, this flatbread is light, fluffy, flaky, and stretchy.
“How is that possible?” one might ask. Well, the dough is stretched out until it is translucent by spinning it in the air with two hands, then folded into layers before it’s cooked. Enjoy it with iced teh tarik, a type of milk tea, on a hot day in Malaysia (which is essentially every day).
4. Mee Goreng
The name, translated to fried noodles, tells us exactly what it is. Made with yellow wheat noodles, soy sauce, egg, and meat, this dish sounds simple but is arguably one of the best noodle dishes around.
Variations include adding vegetables and chili to spice it up. Not only is this easy to make at home, but mamak stalls have made it easier by using instant Maggi noodles to create maggi goreng, a new favorite amongst locals.
5. Beef Rendang
Whilst it doesn’t look like the most appetizing dish, it certainly is one of the tastiest. Named the world’s best food, rendang takes hours to cook as the beef slowly simmers in coconut milk and ground spices until the liquid has evaporated completely. It’s worth the wait as the meat comes out extremely tender and flavorful. A type of dry curry, the dish is commonly served with steamed rice, vegetables, and sambal.
With this list in mind, you’re now ready to go forth and spread your knowledge of Malaysian food. If you’re in the Boston area, you can find all these dishes at Royal East Restaurant, or hunt for the best Malaysian restaurant near you to try these delicious dishes!