Malaysia is a melting pot of culture, with different races living harmoniously together. Naturally, there would be a diverse ‘food culture’ as well! If you are wondering: where to bring your foreign friend on a food adventure in Malaysia to let them experience the complexity of Malaysian characteristics, you had come to the right place! Well, what type of dishes could best showcase the uniqueness of Malaysia? Let us begin by counting down from the top 10 foods which best represent our beloved country.
Top 10 Representative Food of Malaysia
- Durian – Needless to say, it is without mistake the king of fruits. It is a fruit found mostly in tropical countries. Although some may argue that durian is produced in Thailand as well as Malaysia, one would find stark differences in the taste and texture between them. Malaysian durians are known to be several times sweeter and richer in taste compared to Thai ones. In foreign countries, Malaysian durian fetches a higher price too – it costs up to 10 times more than Thai durians!
- Rice dish cooked with coconut milk/ banana leaf rice (better known as ‘nasi lemak’) – It is known as an informal dish of Malaysia. Being a typical Malaysian, one does not simply get enough of this dish! With its base ingredients consist of simple fried anchovies and eggs, it is widely sold, ranging from road-side stalls to high-class hotels. ‘Nasi lemak’ is an absolute must-have!
- White Coffee – Ipoh’s old town white coffee is not only well known to be reasonably priced, it is also rich and aromatic as well. It would hold its ground against expensive brewed coffee. All in all, it is an authentic Malaysian drink which spread the name of ‘Ipoh old town’ to the people. Therefore, if you are looking for a cup of good white coffee, it is a must to visit the old streets of Ipoh!
- Penang laksa – Upon traveling to Penang, having a savory bowl of Penang laksa is an absolute must. This hot, spicy, and sour bowl of noodles is served mostly with fish chunks. In 2011, this dish was specially rated by US cable television network (CNN) as the seventh gourmet food among fifty other dishes. Suitable as a worthy representative of Malaysian food!
- Cendol with coconut sugar – Cendol is not in itself a Malaysian food, but it hails from Indonesia. Nevertheless, what makes Malaysian cendol different from its Malaysian counterpart is the use of Malaccan coconut sugar (Gula Melaka), which dramatically alters its flavor. As such, a trip to Malacca is not considered complete without enjoying a few rounds of refreshing cendol.
- Iced ABC – Also known as ‘Ais Kacang’, it is a Malaysian national dessert. In the event one were to directly translate its name, it could be referred as red bean shaved ice. But, it is totally different from Hong Kong’s popular red bean ice. The Malaysian ABC contain Yada seeds, red beans, sweet corn, and aloe Vera as the base; then it is covered with ice before topped with syrup and a dash of condensed milk. Among Malaysians, ABC had a special place in their childhood memories!
- Nyonya dishes – It is another special must-eat in Malacca. Nyonya cuisine combines the best from Malay and Chinese dishes and uses generous amounts of spices when cooking. Each dish is meticulously prepared and has a slightly spicy taste. After combining with the rich aroma of the spices, it becomes a true embodiment of unique flavors.
- Bak Kut Teh – Though it’s called Bak Kut “Teh”, “Teh” being tea in Malay, this dish does not contain any tea leaves and is an original Malaysian Chinese creation. (Although the Singaporean government decided to obtain intellectual rights of this dish) This dish is mainly composed of spices, Chinese herbs, and broiled pork ribs. It is the grace of early Chinese miners, as the cold chills are scattered by a steaming pot of eating soup served with white rice, chili, and garlic.
- Curry fish head – This is a fusion of India and Malay cooking styles, which later became a popular Chinese dish. This dish is said to be dated as early as the colonial period, introduced by the Indians who migrated into Malaysia who improved it further by adding coconut milk. One question still lingers: Why choose the fish head solely for this dish? This is because, during the colonial period, the Indians and Malays who are poor chose fish heads as cheaper alternatives. Nowadays, restaurants priced curry fish heads are priced higher than curry fish meat!
- Instant noodles – This is a stunner! Instant noodles, of all things! In 2016, the ten bestselling instant noodles brands in America had four spots taken up by Malaysian brands. Although the top spot belongs to a Singaporean brand, but the third, fourth, and sixth place are bagged by Malaysian My Kuali and Carjeen brands! Malaysian instant noodles consisting of curry, prawn and tom yam flavors are world class!
All in all, there are numerous Malaysian delicacies, and all of them could not simply fit into ten slots. Satay, Hainanese chicken rice, otak-otak, bean sprout with chicken, Hainanese chicken chop and any others all resembles the uniqueness and diversity of Malaysian cuisine. Malaysia is blessed with not only richness in agriculture, but also a multicultural coexistence which brings forth a multitude of food ingredients. With a spark of innovation, many varieties of mouth-watering Malaysian dishes could be prepared. Thus, let us enjoy the cuisine of our homeland while being grateful of Malaysia’s prosperity!
Translated from: 最能代表马来西亚的饮食大盘点，你想不到的马来西亚代表美食！[:]