It is no wonder that Malaysia has earned the title of “Food Paradise.” Malaysia’ s uniqueness does not just come from its multicultural and multiracial country. It is also due to the abundant amount of specialty food and cuisines, and that is what makes Malaysia beautiful.
As many people are aware of, the most famous food in Malaysia will be the one and only Nasi Lemak. However, each state in Malaysia has its own unique dish that deserves a chance under the spotlight. Although there are countless of Malaysian food choices that are worth mentioning, but here is a list of delicacies that can help you in your journey of food discovery in Malaysia.
Perlis – Ikan Bakar
Let’s start with the Northern region of Peninsular Malaysia: Perlis. When it comes to Perlis, many will relate that the one food you shouldn’t miss out on is Ikan Bakar (or Grilled Fish)! Ikan Bakar’s recipe is as simple as ABC; simply season a fresh fish using turmeric, salt, and black pepper, and barbeque it; this helps to add a smoky flavour to the fish.
Finally, serve the hot Ikan Bakar with its partner in crime, Air Asam; a spicy and sour sauce, and other Perlis-made chilli sauces. As easy as this recipe sounds, this flavourful and aromatic dish will make your mouth water.
Special mention: Pulut Mempelam
Due to its location, Perlis food does contain some influences from Malaysia’s neighbouring country, Thailand. The most obvious choice will be Pulut Mempelam (also known as sticky mango rice). The main difference between Pulut Mempelam and Thailand’s mango sticky rice is the mempelam mango found locally in Perlis is sweeter and more fragrant.
Kedah – Nasi Ulam
Kedah is one of the main agricultural states (known for producing rice), which is an obvious reason why Kedah’s famous delicacy is involved its made product. Nasi Ulam is made using rice, raw vegetables, and many different types of herbs (such as ginger flower, chili padi and cucumber) that is mixed well. This delicious delicacy is often paired with Kerisik, pan-fried coconut flakes. The coconut’s aroma with the sour plum juice is definitely something worth fighting for!
Special mention: Laksa Kedah
Laksa Kedah deserves a special shout-out. It is a combination of rice noodles added into fish broth, topped with different vegetables and herbs.
Penang – Char Koay Teow
As one of the busiest market centres in Malaysia, Penang has the most amazing food choices, which made it challenging to pinpoint what’s best. However, if in doubt, Penang Char Koay Teow is the one to go for. The flat Koay Teow noodles are stir-fried repeatedly with side toppings such as bean sprouts, shrimps, eggs and sausages.
The combination of these ingredients led to the birth of one of the most famous dishes in the world! Some hawkers will even opt to stir-fry Koay Teow using charcoal, (which is said to provide a nostalgic charcoal aroma), or replacing chicken egg with duck egg, which is said to be more flavourful.
Special mention: Cendol
As most Malaysians are aware, Cendol is one of the most favoured desserts. Simple and delicious, it is very common to have Cendol in Malaysia’s scorching hot weather due to its icy coolness. A simple Cendol usually consists of coconut milk, pandan flavour rice pudding, black sugar syrup, and shaved ice. However, hawkers can be pretty creative, with some adding red beans, and even durian flesh to keep up with the trend!
Perak – Gai Si Hor Fun
Perak is not to be missed out as the food there is amazing too! The most popular food is said to be Gai Si Hor Fun. Picture a bowl of chewy Koay Teow, paired with a fan of tender shredded chicken, fresh shrimp and chives; it is absolutely delicious! Gai Si Hor Fun is known as the state’s breakfast food, typically paired with Ipoh’s white coffee. Definitely a match made in heaven!
Special mention: Hainanese Chicken Rice
Hainanese Chicken rice’s specialty is the chicken that has unforgettable taste. It is carefully prepared to ensure that it maintains its tenderness and flavour. In Perak, Hainanese Chicken rice often comes with a plate of bean sprouts cooked with soy sauce. For those who don’t prefer rice, can opt for the Hor Fun, which is equally delicious.
Kelantan – Nasi Kerabu
Kelantan’s famous Nasi Kerabu may be an insta-worthy food due to its bright and vibrant blue colour. The rice is often paired with fried chicken, fermented vegetables, prawn (or fish) cracker. Of course, what makes it insta-worthy and eye-grabbing is the rice colour that comes from a natural source, the butterfly pea flower.
Special mention: Laksam Kelantan
As the name suggests, Laksam Kelantan is a form of Laksam. Replacing the anhydride with coconut milk makes the laksam to have a thicker consistency and more vibrant colour. The surface of Laksam Kelantan is slightly dense as it is often topped with beef floss or sambal.
Terengganu – Nasi Dagang
Nasi dagang is known as “Malaysia’s East Coast Food” and is made from coconut milk. However, this delicacy is not like the nasi lemak that we are familiar with. Terengganu’s Nasi Dagang uses fragrant rice from Thailand and glutinous rice, paired with gulai ikan tongkol, a curry that is cooked using locally sourced tuna.
Special mention: Bubur Lambuk
Bubur Lambuk combines a few simple ingredients to make it into a special dish. It’s a porridge that is cooked using a medicinal herb, sweet potatoes, and dried shrimps. Bubur Lambuk comes from the Malay dialect from Terengganu, which is so-called “Soft porridge”.
Pahang – Gulai Tempoyak Ikan Patin
This is definitely one of the most famous food in Pahang. The main ingredient alone is the reason why it is said to be the most authentic Malay cuisine. This delicacy combines tender squid and also curry made from fermented durian. Although it may sound weird and challenging to try for many, once you have tasted it, you are sure to be back for seconds!
Special mention: Nasi Kebuli
Originally from Indonesia, this dish often makes its appearance during the festive season and special occasions. The dish is normally served in a pot of rice, coconut milk, raisins, olives, meat and herbs.
Selangor – Satay
Satay is barbecued meat skewers paired with a slightly spicy peanut sauce. Typically, the meat of choice for satay are chicken, beef, lamb. Thrill-seekers may opt for gamier meat such as wild boar and even rabbit’s meat. Satay may be common within Malaysia; however, Kajang satay stands out as the best.
Special mention: Hokkien Mee
There is a vast difference between Selangor’s hokkien mee and Penang’s hokkien mee. In Penang, hokkien mee uses shrimp and fried egg gravy as its broth, while Selangor’s hokkien mee is a dish of fried noodles with vegetables and meat. Although it may not be the typical hokkien mee you imagine, but it tastes delightful as well.
Seremban – Siew Pau
Siew Pau is a staple food in Seremban although it is non-halal. Its fatty and tender pork or chicken meat that is inside a crispy pastry will make you want to give up on your diet plan!
Special mention: Chicken Curry Bun
This special delicacy was derived from the French’s pain de campagne by adding a little Malaysian twist. As obvious as it sounds, this dish is simply a combination of curry chicken within a big bun.
However, you may want to sit down for this one; the chicken is wrapped with tin foil and paper, which is then stuffed in the bread and cooked! The bread’s soft texture paired with the spicy curry; now that’s the Malaysian way!
Malacca – Chicken Rice Balls
Malacca’s chicken rice is not served like the usual. The chicken rice that they serve is in the form of a ball. With its unique appearance, it is definitely something picture-worthy! Don’t be deceived by the rice balls’ small appearance as they are very filling once you start to lose count.
Special mention: Satay Celup
Do not be fooled by its name and generalise it just like any other satay in Malaysia, satay celup does not mean the skewered meat but is referring to the action of dipping the food (celup) into a spicy peanut sauce broth or steamboat. The meat available for dipping is usually crab meat, meatballs, cuttlefish and even vegetables.
Johor – Laksa
This is the second entry for laksa in the list. What sets this laksa apart from the rest is the noodle used to make the dish. Instead of the conventional white, rice noodles, Johor Laksa uses spaghetti. This dish is unique due to its western influence but still maintains its original cooking style by using typical Laksa ingredients such as cucumber, bean sprouts, and herbs.
Special mention: Briyani Gam
Briyani Gam is a common delicacy in Malaysia; however, Johor’s Briyani Gam is absolutely the bomb! This traditional dish is made with a combination of turmeric rice, juicy tender meat and paired with tasty sauce, which is delightfully delicious.
Sabah – Tuaran Mee
Tuaran mee is known as Sabah’s top-notch delicacy, and is even known as “Sabah’s golden noodle”. Tuaran mee is a dish of fried egg noodles, topped with char siew (roasted meat), vegetables and spring rolls. It is undoubtedly one of the most famous delicacies that is highly recommended by local Sabahans.
Special mention: Nigu Chap Mee
Another famous cuisine in Sabah will be the Nigu Chap Mee. It is a bowl of rice noodle paired with soft and tender beef, beef tendon and beef tripe. However, the soup has got to be the main star of the show. So remember, don’t let the soup go to waste!
Sarawak – Kolo Mee
In Sabah, you can’t miss Tuaran Mee, while in Sarawak you can’t miss Kolo Mee. This traditional dried noodle contains chewy noodles, char siew and minced meat. This noodle is typically mixed with soy sauce and meat stock, with some hawkers going to the extent of including fried pork lard for a crispy element to the dish. Although it sounds sinful, but it is irresistible!
Special mention: Sarawak Laksa
Once again, Laksa will be our grand finale. The uniqueness of Sarawak Laksa comes from its ingredients. It uses typical Laksa vegetables, topped with shredded egg, chicken, and fresh shrimps. Compared to other state’s Laksa, Sarawak Laksa is filling and satisfying.
Malaysia’s 13 states’ delicacies, which one have you tried? If you have not, what are you waiting for? Start your adventure in each state to discover more delicious food!