All About Malaysian Cuisine

Updated on August 4, 2019
lizmalay profile image

Liza is a homemaker. She has an obsession with coffee :) She loves collecting postcards from friends all over the world.

Common spices in Malaysian cuisine.
Common spices in Malaysian cuisine.

What Makes Malaysian Food Special?

I grew up in Malaysia, where I enjoyed eating local dishes every day. Now that I live in the United States and have become familiar with a very different cuisine, I've gained some perspective on what makes Malaysian food unique.

Precise Ingredients

In Malay cooking, having the correct ingredients is crucial to the success of each dish because every single flavor is a critical part of the whole. If you can't get the right ingredients, the dish won't be as authentic and genuine as it should be.

Let's take the example of chicken rendang. One of the main ingredients in this dish is called kerasik, or desiccated coconut. Kerisik is made by taking shredded coconut, toasting it in a pan, and then grinding it (with a mortar and pestle) into a thick oily paste. If you can't get this ingredient, or if it's not prepared properly, the flavor of the final dish just won't be right.

Multiethnic History

Another aspect of Malaysia's unique cuisine has to do with the nature of the country itself. Multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual, Malaysia's diversity has led to an exciting blend of many traditions from around the region. Traditional Malay cuisine reflects a generous use of spices and coconut milk, but it also borrows seasonings and cooking techniques from China, as well as certain aromatics (such as curry leaves) and flavored rice dishes from India.

My Mother, My Mentor

As far back as I can remember, my mother served me the most authentic, traditional, and tasty Malay foods. To this day, my mother is my mentor in the kitchen. I am lucky to have a mentor like her because she has an incredible depth of knowledge and understanding of Malay cookery over the past fifty years. By teaching me these traditional culinary techniques, I've learned to take pride in my ethnicity and culture.

Cooking Malay Food in the United States

In 2016, following my move to the United States with my husband, I started to miss the food from back home. I missed eating nasi lemak for breakfast, chicken curry for lunch, crispy fried banana for snacks, and fish curry for dinner. Soon, I began cooking Malay food at home.

There is nothing that compares to a home-cooked meal, right? It always tastes better. In my opinion, the most important thing when you cook is that it comes from your heart. That is the secret to making food taste delicious.

In sharing some of my favorite Malay dishes with you, I hope that you will appreciate the abundance and authenticity of Malay cuisine. I see this as a way of explaining my culture and my roots, and I hope you will discover some wonderfully delicious and meals along the way. Enjoy!

My All-Time Favorite Malay Dishes

  1. Chicken or beef satay
  2. Nasi lemak
  3. Mi sup (chicken noodles)
  4. Nasi goreng (fried rice)

  5. Curry noddles
  6. Malay-style chicken curry
  7. Chicken rendang
  8. Mi rebus (boiled noodles)
  9. Sambal udang (spicy shrimp)

  10. Shrimp curry with pineapple
  11. Fish curry
  12. Roti Canai

1. Chicken or Beef Satay

In Malaysia, chicken or beef satay is usually served with peanut sauce, compressed rice (nasi impit), fresh slices of cucumber, and fresh slices of onions. I love the sweet and spicy flavor that comes from the lemongrass.
In Malaysia, chicken or beef satay is usually served with peanut sauce, compressed rice (nasi impit), fresh slices of cucumber, and fresh slices of onions. I love the sweet and spicy flavor that comes from the lemongrass.

2. Nasi Lemak

Nasi lemak, or fragrant coconut rice, is known for the aromatic smell of fresh, green pandan leaves and the light flavor of sweet and creamy coconut milk. Pandan leaves are commonly used for coloring and flavoring in Southeast Asian cuisine.
Nasi lemak, or fragrant coconut rice, is known for the aromatic smell of fresh, green pandan leaves and the light flavor of sweet and creamy coconut milk. Pandan leaves are commonly used for coloring and flavoring in Southeast Asian cuisine.

3. Mi Sup

Similar to Vietnamese pho, the signature of this chicken noodle dish is the broth. It has a very intense flavor that tastes of spices such as star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom, ginger, garlic, and shallots.
Similar to Vietnamese pho, the signature of this chicken noodle dish is the broth. It has a very intense flavor that tastes of spices such as star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom, ginger, garlic, and shallots.

4. Nasi Goreng

In Malaysia and Indonesia, fried rice is known as nasi goreng, and it is one of my favorite comfort foods. It is very simple but delicious. I have to admit that it is so tempting when you're feeling hungry.
In Malaysia and Indonesia, fried rice is known as nasi goreng, and it is one of my favorite comfort foods. It is very simple but delicious. I have to admit that it is so tempting when you're feeling hungry.

5. Curry Noodles

Curry noodles are typically made with yellow noodles served with a thick, spicy gravy that is garnished with a hard-boiled egg, spring onions, fried shallots, and Asian red and green chilies. If you are a fan of noodles, I think you will enjoy this!
Curry noodles are typically made with yellow noodles served with a thick, spicy gravy that is garnished with a hard-boiled egg, spring onions, fried shallots, and Asian red and green chilies. If you are a fan of noodles, I think you will enjoy this!

6. Malay-Style Chicken Curry

One of my favorite dishes to make at home is Malay-style chicken curry. The main ingredients are coconut milk, curry powder, curry leaves, chicken, and assorted spices.
One of my favorite dishes to make at home is Malay-style chicken curry. The main ingredients are coconut milk, curry powder, curry leaves, chicken, and assorted spices.

7. Chicken Rendang

Cooked with a variety of spices, coconut milk, and kerisik (desiccated coconut), the sauce thickens as the chicken becomes tender and moist on the inside. Perfect for a weekend family dinner, this dish is traditionally served for the Eid festival.
Cooked with a variety of spices, coconut milk, and kerisik (desiccated coconut), the sauce thickens as the chicken becomes tender and moist on the inside. Perfect for a weekend family dinner, this dish is traditionally served for the Eid festival.

8. Mi Rebus

Mi rebus, or boiled noodles, is a very popular dish in Malaysia. Yellow noodles are served with a thick, spicy potato-based gravy that is garnished with a hard-boiled egg, spring onions, fried shallots, and Asian red and green chilies.
Mi rebus, or boiled noodles, is a very popular dish in Malaysia. Yellow noodles are served with a thick, spicy potato-based gravy that is garnished with a hard-boiled egg, spring onions, fried shallots, and Asian red and green chilies.

9. Sambal Udang

Sambal udang is famous for its spicy, sweet, and sour flavors. This dish is very quick and easy to make.
Sambal udang is famous for its spicy, sweet, and sour flavors. This dish is very quick and easy to make.

10. Shrimp Curry With Pineapple

I love the sweetness and sourness that comes from the shrimp and the pineapple. Best served with steamed white rice. Perfect for dinner.
I love the sweetness and sourness that comes from the shrimp and the pineapple. Best served with steamed white rice. Perfect for dinner.

11. Fish Curry

The main ingredients in this dish are fish, coconut milk, and spices. The color of this dish is beautiful, and the taste is delicious. Best served with steamed white rice or roti.
The main ingredients in this dish are fish, coconut milk, and spices. The color of this dish is beautiful, and the taste is delicious. Best served with steamed white rice or roti.

12. Roti Canai

Roti canai is a popular breakfast and snack dish in Malaysia. This dish is commonly served in mamak stalls all over Malaysia.
Roti canai is a popular breakfast and snack dish in Malaysia. This dish is commonly served in mamak stalls all over Malaysia.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Liza

    Comments

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      • lizmalay profile imageAUTHOR

        Liza 

        3 months ago from UT,USA

        Hi Kristi,

        Perfect! I hope you will try something new just because cooking doesn't have to be the same you know :) Thanks for stopping by!

      • profile image

        KristiRea 

        3 months ago

        Some of these sound's really good. I may try them I love trying different things and experimenting with food coming up with new ways.

      • lizmalay profile imageAUTHOR

        Liza 

        10 months ago from UT,USA

        Hi Rajan. Thanks for your lovely comment about Malaysian cuisine article. I have shared the fish curry and sambal udang recipes. However, I haven't yet made roti canai since I moved to the United States. Thanks for stopping by.

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        10 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

        The dishes look very tempting. It is interesting to know some Indian spices and other dishes form a part of the Malaysian cuisine. I just wish you had shared a couple of recipes of these dishes. I especially like the fish curry, roti canai, and sambal udang. Thanks for letting us have an idea about Malaysian cuisine.

      • lizmalay profile imageAUTHOR

        Liza 

        10 months ago from UT,USA

        Thanks for your kind and lovely comment Poppy! I would love to have you to come to my house to try Malaysian food. I'm sure Japan has the best food too!

      • poppyr profile image

        Poppy 

        10 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

        They all look great, and wonderful presentation in the photos as well! I'm a big fan of different kinds of curries and spicy cuisines. I think I would like Malaysian food very much. I would love to come over to your house for a meal sometime!

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