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Georgetown, Penang. Image: Phalinn Ooi / CC-BY-2.0 / Visualhunt

Welcome to our fifth Taste of ASEAN feature, where we take a culinary tour of native foods across Southeast Asia. Our hungry-eyed adventures have taken us to the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia where we discover traditional local recipes, that represent the true spirit of each country.

In this feature, we’ll be taking you on a food adventure of Malaysia. Join us as we explore the kitchens of this exceptionally vibrant Southeast Asian country.

Malaysian Cuisine

Known for its incredible beaches, luscious rainforests and mouth-watering food, Malaysia also boasts a lively mix of Malay, Indian, Chinese and European cultural influences. It is a unique coming-together of Asian differences and similarities, demonstrated in abundance through Malaysia’s richly diverse cuisine.

Malaysians love their food and it’s easy to see why. Due to the country’s wonderful cultural makeup, Malaysian cuisine has evolved over time, into a fascinating of Chinese, Indian and Malay. Food is hot topic in Malaysia, with locals planning what they are going to eat straight after their last meal. A common point of conversation, food holds an important focus and one that brings all Malaysians together. Talking about food provides a fantastic opportunity to integrate with locals, so join the food conversation to make a friend or two.

Malaysian Restaurant – TG’s Nasi Kandar

Most international flights take you straight into Kuala Lumpur. If you’re planning to start off your trip here in the capital city, head to TG’s Nasi Kandar – near foodie hotspot, Jalan Alor. Located near the tourist area of Bukit Bintang, this popular eatery offers sizeable portions, that satisfy the taste buds without the tourist price tag.

TG Nasi Kandar, a no-frills Indian-Malaysian venue, draws in hungry visitors each day and is often packed out. You can enjoy Malaysian-Indian favorites here, such as kadai chicken (Indian chicken curry) and murtabak (stuffed pancake). They also serve several tongue-tickling curries with the usual hearty accompaniments – dosa (savory pancake), biryani (mixed rice) and roti (crispy flatbread).

For those who are not ready to dive into the local cuisine head first, order the roti canai (flatbread) with dal (lentil curry) for a taste that’s not too spicy. Enjoy this simple meal with a cup of teh tarik (poured tea) and you can’t go wrong. Made with strong black tea and condensed milk (sweet milk), teh tarik is hugely popular in Malaysia and regularly enjoyed by both locals and tourists.

Malaysian Recipe: Roti Canai

All-time Malaysian classic – roti canai (or paratha) is a beautifully crisp and soft flatbread that find its roots in Indian cuisine. A versatile bread, it can be enjoyed as a savory side with curries or as a sweet snack – usually combined with condensed milk and bananas.

If your tummy is rumbling with all this talk of roti canai, try making your own version at home until your next trip to Malaysia. Olive Magazine shares a great step-by-step roti canai recipe, using only four simple ingredients -plain flour, fine sea salt, caster sugar and vegetable oil. Combine the flour, salt, sugar with warm water to form a dough and chill overnight. Next, the dough is broken off in pieces, rolled in vegetable oil and prepared using folding techniques, before being fried in a hot pan. A complementary curry recipe is also included, to eat with your crispy-delicious roti canai. Serve hot and enjoy!

Malaysian Restaurant – Limapulo Baba Can Cook

Chef and owner of Limapulo – Uncle John, serves up an incredible variety of traditional nyonya food at his long-standing restaurant, based in Kuala Lumpur. Nyonya (or Peranakan) cuisine evolved from the early Chinese migrants that inter-married with local Malays. Over the years, Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine was developed from a fusion of Chinese and Malay flavors, blending a range of colorful ingredients and cooking styles from both ethnic groups.  

Limapulo’s signature dish – Nyonya Laksa (coconut curry), attracts a loyal following of customers who drop in to slurp up a delicious bowl of this irresistible dish. Insider TV’s short video on Limapulo, shares a special insight on what to expect, before your visit to this well-established restaurant.

Head there on Monday, Wednesday or Friday to enjoy their famous Nyonya Laksa – it’s not to be missed.

Malaysian Recipe: Laksa

Curry Mee. Image: avlxyz / CC BY-SA / visualhunt

Popular spicy noodle dish – laksa is frequently found in Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern parts of Thailand. Laksa or curry laksa, originates from nyonya/peranakan cuisine and is traditionally made with coconut milk, bean curd puffs, spices, fish sticks, cockles and shrimp. Chicken-based variations of laksa are also popular. If you’re visiting Penang, remember to ask for the curry mee and you can choose various topping such as tasty big prawns and fish ball with extra sambal that will jazz up your taste buds.

This mouth-watering laksa recipe from Asian-American food blogger – Rasa Malaysia, shares an adapted laksa recipe that is tailored to western kitchens. Malaysian curry paste, chicken broth, lemongrass, tofu puffs, evaporated milk, coconut milk and salt for seasoning are combined in this incredibly tasty curry soup. Other ingredients include yellow noodles, bean sprouts, cooked shrimps, boiled eggs and fish pieces. Easy to assemble, this dish is best served hot!

Malaysian Restaurant – Ali Nasi Lemak

Frequently voted by locals as the best place for nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk), Ali Nasi Lemak is located in the Malaysian foodie-capital of Penang. Serving up six varieties of the much-loved nasi lemak, hungry locals queue up for their daily fix of this delightful Malaysian meal.

You’ll find Ali Nasi Lemak, located in the popular Sri Weld Food Court on Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai). Look out for the stall that’s abundant with gorgeous green pyramid parcels – a nasi lemak meal is neatly packed inside and ready to eat. There’s no difference in price between variations, so take your pick of fish or chicken. The standard nasi lemak includes anchovies, egg and a deliciously punchy shrimp chili sambal (hot spicy sauce).  A cheap, cheerful and delicious authentic dish that is a must-try when you’re next in Penang.

Curious to see more? Video blogger- Cynthia D. Bostwick shares this short video of her visit to Ali Nasi Lemak – and it looks delicious!

Malaysian Recipe: Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak. Image: Sham Hardy / CC BY-SA / visualhunt

Nasi Lemak can be found in several varieties in Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia but the original dish hails from Malaysia. Often referred to as the unofficial national dish, nasi lemak traditionally comes with a variety of accompaniments such as peanuts, vegetables, chicken (lamb or beef) curry, boiled egg and chili sauce – sambal.

For a taste of this national dish at home, this recipe from Food Republic, is a great place to start. A full ingredients list and instructions of how to make sambal (spicy sauce), coconut rice and accompaniments, is provided. Be prepared to feast on a range of flavors such as coconut, pandan, garlic, anchovies, peanuts, chili and tamarind.

Thanks for joining us on another food adventure of Southeast Asia. Have we tempted you into booking your next travel trip to Malaysia? Or are there any recipes you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear from you. Join us next time for another culinary tour, as we explore the wonderful cuisine of Myanmar.