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4 Top Dishes of Malaysian Gastronomy

By Alejandra Romero |

Discover the diverse and delicious culinary creations of Southeast Asia with this 4 top dishes of Malaysian gastronomy.

Located in the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is one of the forty-nine nations that make up this continent. This destination is not often in the tourist spotlight, but its countless culinary delicacies such as laksa and wontons are one of its best cover letters.

In a federation that houses such a vast ethnic and cultural diversity like Malaysia, gastronomy is one of the many manifestations of said diverse composition. For this reason, DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, brings you this food tour that your palate can’t miss in your next trip to this Asian country.

Malaysian Food History

The roots of Malaysia are located in the surrounding territories of southern China, northern Indonesia and, in general, in the former Indochina, which is now divided into countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Moreover, Malaysia has a great influence of Indian culture. In fact, it’s one of the countries with the greatest number of Indian inhabitants in the world. This notable ethnic mosaic that makes Malaysia so unique is one of the features that justify the impressive diversity of recipes this country offers.

What Is Nyonya Food?

Local Malaysian food is known as nyonya or nonya. This term was given by Chinese immigrants who began to establish in the regions of Penang, Malacca, Indonesia and Singapore. The word nyonya is a dated term and means “respect and affection for women”. Thus, peranakan or nyonya cuisine is the result of the combination of Chinese ingredients with different spices and cooking techniques from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Among its basic ingredients you’ll find: rice, coconut milk, ginger, mustard, laksa leaves, tamarind, jicama, tropical fruits, spicy shrimp paste, fried fish and chili.

#1 Nasi Lemak

Rice is frequently served in Malaysian gastronomy as a side dish, just like it is traditionally done in Chinese cuisine. Nasi lemak is one of the dishes that exemplify the use of rice in many recipes, and it’s also one of the most common lunch foods you’ll find in your trip to Malaysia. Nasi lemak consists of rice which is boiled in coconut milk and served on banana leaves. You can combine it with chicken, fish, vegetables and diverse sauces. One of the most common versions is found in the shape of a small pyramid wrapped in kraft paper. It’s the perfect snack.

#2 Mee Goreng Mamak from Malaysia

Mee goreng mamak is a popular dish amongst Malaysians with a Muslim Indian origin. That’s why you’ll usually find it in Indian restaurants. It’s prepared with fried noodles, soy sauce, vegetables and eggs, chicken or shrimps can be added.

#3 Ikan Masak Tauco and Satay Daging

If you are a seafood lover, we suggest trying the ikan masak tauco, fish dipped in a kidney beans, ginger and pineapple sauce. Yet, if you are a meat enthusiast, even though Malaysia is mostly Muslim, it’s also famous for preparing dishes based on lamb meat and veal. The satay daging, for example, consists of skewers of broiled meat. They’re usually accompanied with cucumber, onion, rice, and a delicious peanut sauce.

#4 Laksa Lemak: Vegetarian Malaysian Food

If you are a vegetarian traveler, we have good news: in Malaysia, vegetables are very popular and they inspire recipes such as that of the laksa lemak, which we have already introduced to you in a previous article. It is a noodle soup with coconut milk. Another dish is the acar kuning, prepared with cucumbers, carrots and shallots.

Teh TarikMalaysian Tea

Another classic that you must try in your trip to Malaysia is the famous teh tarik, which is also quite cheap and which you can drink in the morning or evening. This tea is mixed with sugar and condensed milk. The peculiarity of this beverage, apart from its sweetness, involves the word tarik, which means “spilled”. In that sense, tarik is poured from one bowl to another with the purpose of creating foam full of flavor. If the foam in your tarik overflows the glass, you can be certain that it was prepared by an expert. This tea is usually served in a glass recipient that allows you to see the foam. The beverage is usually drunk hot, but sometimes hot  weather inspires people to drink it cold. In that case, order teh tarik ais or ice, for English speakers.

For a long time Malaysia was a British colony, so during your stay you’ll notice that many words are pronounced similarly to English. For this reason, if you speak this language, you’ll be able to communicate even if you don’t speak Malay.

Roti Prata: Typical Desserts in Malaysia

Finally, a food tour in Malaysia cannot end without dessert. Rotis are the perfect match for a glass of teh tarik. This type of pancake or crepe – depending on the roti you choose – is elaborated with flour and eggs, and it’s baked with butter and sugar. The roti tisu is a variation of a very fine and crunchy dough. It’s similar to a crepe shaped like a cone and bathed with condensed milk.

You’ll find this simple dessert in hawker stalls near markets, metro stations and tourist attractions.

Now that you know 4 of the best Malaysian dishes, do not miss the opportunity to try them in your next trip. If you are a foodie traveler, book some of the gastronomic tours this country offers.