Top Ten Malaysian Breakfasts: Nasi Lemak, Dim Sum, and More

Updated on February 25, 2020
SueM11 profile image

Sue is a mother and grandmother living in sunny Malaysia. Like many Malaysians, she is passionate about food.

Nasi lemak is the most popular Malaysian breakfast.
Nasi lemak is the most popular Malaysian breakfast. | Source

What Do You Eat for Breakfast?

Does nasi lemak or roti canai sound like something you want to wake up to? Well, bread or cereal may be your favourite, but breakfast in Malaysia can range from the tasty Chinese dim sum to the more spicy Malay dishes.

Now, they may not be a healthy way to start the day, but then healthy does not always apply to your favourite Malaysian food. Let me introduce some of the favorites. Bon appétit!

  1. Nasi Lemak
  2. Roti Canai
  3. Bread, Toast, Rolls or Buns
  4. Eggs
  5. Dim Sum
  6. Cereal
  7. Noodle Soup
  8. Cooked Oats
  9. Healthy Shake
  10. "Pig Intestine Noodle"

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.

— Adelle Davis
Nasi lemak: fragrant rice, wrapped and ready to go.
Nasi lemak: fragrant rice, wrapped and ready to go.

1. Nasi Lemak

The top spot must surely go to nasi lemak, which refers to rich, creamy rice cooked in coconut milk. Knotted screwpine leaves are often added during the cooking process to give the dish a beautiful fragrance.

It is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves with fried anchovies, sliced cucumber, hard-boiled egg, and a slightly sweet, spicy sauce called sambal. These days, many wrap it in grease-proof brown paper. You can find many makeshift stalls in most local neighborhoods where they sell it. Some operate from their car boots or set up a simple table at a prominent street corner.

Inexpensive, Filling, and Convenient

The great thing about nasi lemak is that it is so easily available and more than enough for any hungry stomach. A plastic spoon is provided, and you can eat it straight off the wrapper, which serves as a serving dish. After your meal, you can throw away the wrapper and spoon, and you are ready to start your day.

A simple pack costs about RM2; adding other accompaniments like chicken, beef, etc. will, of course, increase the price.

Roti canai: Indian flatbread.
Roti canai: Indian flatbread.

2. Roti Canai

Roti canai shows the influence of the Indian community on Malaysian food. It is a popular dish that you can find in the many Indian Muslim or mamak restaurants.

Roti canai is a flatbread where the dough is twirled until it is flat and thin and then folded to form a round shape and grilled with oil on a flatiron skillet. It is presumed to have been introduced by the Indian labor immigrants from Chennai, where they have a similar bread served with lentil curry.

Other Indian breads include chapati, tosai, and appam. So, if you have problem finding roti canai, why not try some chapati instead? It does not taste the same, but you can eat this Indian bread the same way with some lentil curry.

3. Bread, Toast, Rolls, or Buns

Bread is a popular breakfast for many around the world. Malaysians are no different. You may like yours toasted or even steamed but most folks just spread some butter and jam and—voila!—breakfast is ready.

How about some sandwiches with fillings of tuna, egg, chicken, tomatoes, or cheese? They will do nicely not just for breakfast but also lunch.

Bread Poll

How do you like your bread for breakfast?

See results
Eggs might be boiled, poached, fried, or scrambled.
Eggs might be boiled, poached, fried, or scrambled. | Source

4. Eggs

Eggs are another Malaysian favorite. Two soft boiled eggs provide good nourishment to start the day. Many cafes and "mamak" restaurants serve them however you want.

Here is some eggs-cellent news for those who love to eat eggs for breakfast: According to recent research, the cholesterol in our food has little effect on our blood cholesterol levels. So don't worry and enjoy your eggs!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Dim sum from Tang Palace Chinese Restaurant, Dynasty Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.Dim sum features small steamed or fried savory dumplings.Dim sum.
Dim sum from Tang Palace Chinese Restaurant, Dynasty Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.
Dim sum from Tang Palace Chinese Restaurant, Dynasty Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.
Dim sum features small steamed or fried savory dumplings.
Dim sum features small steamed or fried savory dumplings.
Dim sum.
Dim sum.

5. Dim Sum

This is a favorite breakfast food for Malaysian Chinese, especially on weekends. Dim sum are small bite sized portions of food fried or steamed and served in small steamer baskets.

Dim sum originated among the Cantonese people in Southern China and is popular among Malaysian Chinese. It is served from morning till lunch.

To enjoy fully, be sure to order a pot of Chinese tea as your breakfast drink.

Dim Sum Poll

Do you like dim sum?

See results
Cereal is a popular breakfast food all over the world.
Cereal is a popular breakfast food all over the world.

6. Cereal

Many like to have cereal, as it is convenient and does not require any preparation. It is a good choice when you are short on time.

There are lots of choices available from the stores. The health-conscious will go for muesli type.

Noodle soup is a breakfast favored by those who do a lot of physical work.
Noodle soup is a breakfast favored by those who do a lot of physical work.

7. Noodle Soup

Noodle soup is popular amongst Chinese workers who have their breakfast away from home. There are many coffee shops that cater to those who enjoy a bowl of noodles for breakfast.

There are many varieties to choose from, like wonton mee, pork noodle soup, or fish ball noodle soup. A bowl of wonton noodle is one of my favorites!

Cooked oats are a healthy alternative.
Cooked oats are a healthy alternative. | Source

8. Cooked Oats

Out of concern for their health problems, many Malaysians are turning to having cooked oats as a healthy alternative of what to eat for breakfast.

Try cooking your oats without the addition of milk or sugar but instead with just a pinch of salt for taste. It may take a while to get used to the blandness! Add some fruits to spice it up.

Once we sowed wild oats, now we cook them in the microwave.

Healthy shakes make for a more nutritious breakfast.
Healthy shakes make for a more nutritious breakfast.

9. Healthy Shake

An increasing number of Malaysians are drinking healthy shakes for breakfast.

It is convenient and quick to prepare. A side benefit is it helps them to lose some weight and live a healthier lifestyle.

Chee cheong fan (don't worry; the noodles aren't really made of pig intestines).
Chee cheong fan (don't worry; the noodles aren't really made of pig intestines). | Source

10. "Pig Intestine Noodle"

Don't worry, this is not a bizarre food! It is just in the name! The original Chinese name is chee cheong fan, meaning pig intestine noodle, because the flat-shaped noodle resembles the pig's intestine.

This is a popular street breakfast food for the Chinese. The noodle is eaten with a sweetened soy sauce, prawn paste, and sesame seeds. Being Malaysians, you can also have it with curry sauce. There are also other accompaniments like fish balls, soybean sheets (fuchuk), and other vegetables stuffed with fish paste.

Teh tarik: hot, frothy tea.
Teh tarik: hot, frothy tea.

Breakfast Drink

Coffee, tea, juice, or milk?

I love my morning cup of tea. Make it a strong brew. Some can't do without their morning coffee. A glass of juice is very refreshing as well.

What to Drink: Teh Tarik

Breakfast would not be complete without our famous teh tarik, which means pulled tea. In fact, you can have it any time of the day!

The black tea is made with condensed milk and then poured back and forth between two containers, giving it a thick, frothy top. The object of this pouring is to cool down the hot tea but many also love the improved flavor it gives.

It has become a tourist attraction so that there are even competitions for the brewers of this frothy tea to show off their skills.

If you fancy having your breakfast delivered to you, check out the food delivery service in your area.

© 2012 Sue Mah


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