Malaysian Food and Local Condiment

Malaysian loves their food. If tourist visiting Kuala Lumpur City, Restaurant and hawkers available at almost every block. For Malaysian, it’s much cheaper and convenience to meals outside because its cheaper. All the restaurant able to customized the dishes taste and portion size according to customer request. Eating with friends and family as part of socialize for Malaysian, and they very adventure to try any food. Before the tourist trying any Malaysian food, it’s good to understand a little bit the history of food in Malaysia.

Before the arrival of traders from China and India introducing pottery and copper as utensils. Local people use Bamboo, Coconut shell and Clay to cook simple food such rice and fish stew. A large number of foreign traders came to the Port of Malacca and lots of spices available in the Malay archipelago giving opportunity for local experiment a new recipe. Besides that, the marriage between foreign traders with local people plays a significant role to influence the taste of local cuisine.


Herb and Spices Used in Malaysian Food Recipes


  • Garlic
  • Coriander
  • Ginger
  • Tumeric
  • Dry Chilli
  • Nutmeg
  • Coriander leaves


  • Onion
  • Clove
  • Galangal
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Indian Walnut



Malaysian Food Consists Four Categories

  1. Malay Food – The food can be found throughout Malaysia but the style of cooking and taste will be slightly different. In East Coast the food much sweeter than the southern part. Malays food using a lot of Chili, such dry chilli, birds eyes chilli and Red Chili. The famous Malays food is Nasi Lemak, Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Dagang and Lemang (glutinous rice cooked in Bamboo). Malays food also heavily influence from Malay Archipelago.
  2. Chinese Food – Most of the Chinese food in the cities comes from few regions in China such Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew and Szechwan. The famous Chinese food among Malaysian such as Chicken Rice, Dim Sum and Roast Duck.
  3. Nyonya Food – Mostly the food can be found in Malacca, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Nyonya food is combination Malay and Chinese food where Pork and others Chinese ingredient were used with Malays herb and spice. The famous Nyonya food such Asam Pedas and Nyonya Laksa.
  4. Indian Food – There is three type Indian foods in Malaysia, North, South and Indian Muslim. Some of Indian Restaurant also serves fully vegetarian food for Jain followers where no Garlic and Onion used in the ingredient. The famous Indian food among Malaysian such Tandoori Chicken, Roti Naan, Chicken Tikka, Roti Canai (fried flat bread)


List of Typical Malaysian Food

Malaysian food less emphasized on presentation because all the condiment will be mix together before eating. Malaysian more concern about the taste and ingredient freshness. Condiments such Chilli, Salted Egg, Cucumber, Spring Onion and Green Chilli Pickled is a must.

1. Nasi Lemak

malaysian food
Nasi Lemak Wrapped with Banana Leaf

Nasi lemak unofficially become Malaysia No 1 popular food. The rice was cooked with coconut milk, later its steam to make sure its all the rice is fully cooked. Traditionally Nasi Lemak was wrapped with Banana Leaf and served with Chilli Paste, Ancovies, Cucumber and hard boil egg. Those days, Nasi Lemak only available and eaten in the morning. Today, Nasi Lemak is available 24/7 and comes with wide selection of dishes such Beef Rendang, dried Squid sauce and fried Chicken. Traditional condiment such Anchovies, Peanut and Cucumber become optional side dishes. Nasi Lemak very popular among Malaysian in big city because its easy to prepare and cheap.

2. Roti Canai/ Fried Flat Bread/ Paratha

Malaysian Food
Roti Canai Served with Dhal Gravy, Sambal and Curry Gravy

Roti Canai also known as Paratha very popular among local people as a breakfast because its fast to eat and cheap. Roti Canai can found at all Indian restaurant throughout Malaysia at any time, but some Indian Muslim restaurant served the roti in the morning and evening only. Word canai came from place Chennai in India originally the food came. The basic ingredient for Roti Canai is Flour, Baking Powder and Salt. Roti Canai served with few type of gravy such Chicken Curry, Dhal Gravy and Sambal. Besides plain roti, customer can be requested to have Banana, Eggs and Sardine as a filling.

3. Laksa/Asam Laksa

Malaysian Food
Asam Laksa

Laksa believed introduced by the Chinese people who migrated to Malaysia in 1700 century. According to CNN Travel, Asam Laksa was ranked NO 17 as the most delicious food in the world. The unique about Laksa food its has the most diverse style of cooking and taste. In Malaysia there are three types of Laksa known as Curry Laksa, Asam Laksa and Sarawak Laksa. Curry Laksa has a creamy taste where Coconut Milk, Bean Curb, Fish Cake or Chicken commonly used in the ingredient. Asam Laksa has a sour and spicy taste where Mackerel Fish, Pineapple and Tamarind used as a base. Sarawak Laksa has a spicy and creamy taste where Prawn or Chicken with others herbs and spice such Galangal, Fennel Seed and Coriander widely used.

3. Nasi Kerabu Kelantan

Malaysian Food
Nasi Kerabu Kelantan

Nasi Kerabu is popular traditional Malay food from Kelantan States situated in East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia. Among all Malaysian traditional foods, Nasi Kerabu is the most complex and time consuming food to prepare. Nasi Kerabu comes with main dishes such grill Fish or Beef, Salad – 5 to 6 type of local vegetable finely cut, two type of condiment – Coconut Sambal and Chili Sambal (Sauce) and side dishes such salted eggs, fish crackers and Solok Lada.

3. Lemang

malaysian food photo
Lemang Cooked in Hollow Bamboo

The oldest traditional Malaysian food that still maintain style of cooking and the ingredient. Due the process of cooking Lemang using the old school method where Bamboo used in the cooking process. Lemang not easy to find in the city, normally cook during the special festival such Eid Fitri. Glutinous rice with Coconut milk and salt cooked in the hallow Bamboo. The process cooking of Lemang can take several hours and the bamboo constantly rotate to ensure all the glutinous rice evenly cooked. Lemang ate with Chicken or Beef Rendang and peanut gravy.

4. Roti Jala

Roti Jala Served with Chicken Curry
Roti Jala Served with Chicken Curry

Roti Jala giving a meaning net Bread, this is because the shape of the bread similar like a fishing net. The main ingredient for Roti Jala is flour, eggs, margarine and cooking oil. Roti Jala best ate together with Chicken or Fish Curry. Besides eaten as a snack during afternoon Tea or Coffee break, Roti Jala also served during Dinner or Lunch as alternative for rice.

5. Nasi Goreng/Fried Rice

Malaysian Food
Nasi Goreng Malaysia Kampung Style

Another Malaysian food that influence by Chinese community that migrated to Malay archipelago. The history of Nasi Goreng started from nature habit Chinese community don’t like eating cold food and wastage. The leaf over rice fried with other ingredient and served again. Besides Malaysia, Nasi goreng also popular in neighboring country such Singapore and Indonesia. The most original Malaysia Nasi Goreng known as Nasi Goreng Kampung. Nasi Goreng Kampung ingredients including cooking oil, Garlic, Onion, Anchovies, Belacan (Shrimp Paste), Water Spinach and Bird’s Eyes Chilli fried together with Rice. Original Nasi Goreng Kampung served with fried Eggs and fish crackers as optional side dishes.

6. Asam Pedas/Sour and Spicy

malaysian food
Asam Pedas Fish

Asam Pedas has very strong sour and spicy taste. Besides Fish, Beef and internal organ of Beef such Liver, Muscle and fats also used. Normally fish with moderate size such Mackerel, Stingray and Red Snapper is main choice to cook this dish. To giving sour and spicy taste, lots of Tamarind and Chilli used in the recipe. Some Asam Laksa version such in Malacca States added Belacan in the ingredient. The trademark for Asam Laksa compare with others Malaysian food dishes is Okra aka Ladies Finger and Tomato used for giving additional sour taste. Asam Pedas best eaten with steam white rice and Soy Sauce or salted Eggs.

7. Ayam Percik/Spicy Barbequed Chicken

Ayam Percik
Ayam Percik/Spicy Barbequed Chicken

If the tourist like to try barbeque Chicken Malaysian style, Ayam Percik is the perfect choice. The Chicken marinated with Onion, Garlic and Ginger for at least 30 minutes. The basting or gravy made from Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, Ginger, Onion and Chilli. During the grilling process, the gravy used as a basting was applied to keep the Chicken moist and tender. Once Chicken cooked, the aromatic gravy used as dipping.


Malaysian Food Condiment

Three famous condiment normally served together with Malaysian food to enhancer the taste. Most of Malaysian local food condiment has a very strong smell that stick on the hand for quiet sometimes. Its might created unpleasant feeling to others people.

1. Sambal Belacan/ Shrimp Paste

Sambal Belacan
Sambal Belacan or Shrimp Paste

Sambal Belacan or Shrimp Paste the most popular condiment among local people especially Malays community. Raw Belacan made from Shrimp and fine salt. Sambal Belacan consists Bird Eyes Chilli, Lime, Sugar, Salt and Tamarind. Sambal Belacan ate together with mix rice, grill fish and fried rice.

2. Cencaluk

Malaysian Food
Raw Cencaluk

The raw Cencaluk has a similar ingredient as Belacan. Shrimp and Salt is used to fermented the Cencaluk but its not through drying process. Instead, Cencaluk keeps in salt water for few days during fermented process. To prepare Sambal Cencaluk, Bird Eyes Chilli, Onion, Lime and raw Cencaluk mix, and it’s ready to serve. Cencaluk condiment popular among people in South Malaysia especially Melaka.

3. Budu


Budu was popular among local people in East Coast of Malaysia especially in Kelantan and Terengganu States. The different with two others condiment, Budu was made from Anchovies, Salt, Asam Keping (Garcinia Atroviridis) and Palm Sugar. The process of fermented took about 30 – 40 days before its ready to eat. Raw Budu mix with Onion, Chilli and Lime. Best eaten with Nasi Kerabu, Grill Fish or Chicken, mix rice and Ulam (Malaysia Salad)


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