5 Best Malay Food You Need To Try Today!

Last updated on November 21st, 2023 at 02:35 pm

Are you in the middle of planning your next trip and wondering where to go? Is your main concern the deliciousness of the food? Since you have to eat every day, you should definitely make sure to travel where you’ll love the food! If you’re on the fence about where to go, here are the top 5 Malay food you need to try!

Food is such an essential part of travel because it often reflects culture. For instance, think about a food native to your home country and how it reflects your country’s culture. See how the dish just instantly pops into your head? It’s the same for the countries you’re traveling to. Every country has its own culture, which means that every country has different food. Since there are 195 countries in the world, there are so many places to explore and dishes to eat!

But, we don’t want you to feel overwhelmed by all the choices. Whether you’re looking for food that’s completely different from your home country or flavors you’re already familiar with, we want to share the top 5 Malay food you need to try!

Before we tell you about these unique, mouth-watering dishes, let’s briefly talk about where you can find Malay food, some key terms to know in the Malay language, and the common features of Malay food. So, let’s get started!

Where Can You Find Malay Food?

First off, a common misconception is that Malay food is only served in Malaysia! Well, we’re here to clear that up. Below are all the places where you can try out the unique Malay flavors:

  • Southern Thailand
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore
  • Indonesia
  • Brunei
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka
  • South Africa
  • Cocos Islands (external territory of Australia)
  • Christmas Island (external territory of Australia)

As you can see from our list, there’s more than one place where people eat Malay food! Another common misconception surrounds the terms Malay and Malaysian, so that’s a topic you should read more about!

Malay Language: Key Terms

Malay Food You Need To Try

Now that you know where to find Malay food, it’s time to learn the basics of the Malay language. Of course, you could go around and point at the dishes you want to order, but wouldn’t it be better if you could speak to the merchants? That way, you can order your food! Imagine how impressed they’ll be!

So, we’ve created a shortlist of some key terms to learn when ordering food (assuming the merchant speaks Malay).

I would like to order…saya ingin memesan…
I am hungry.saya lapar.
I am thirsty.saya dahaga.
I am a vegetarian.saya seorang vegetarian.
Not spicytak pedas
Let’s eat!jom makan!
Can I have the bill?boleh says dapatkan bill?

There you go! Those are some key terms to help you out the next time you order Malay food. Now, let’s go over some common features of Malay food to know.

Common Features Of Malay Food To Know

Malay Food You Need To Try

Some people don’t mind not knowing the ingredients in the dishes they’re eating, but some people do. That’s why we’re going over some of the most common features of Malay food. That way, you’re aware of what’s in the food and have a greater appreciation of the flavors, or maybe you want to ask the merchant to substitute one of the ingredients for something else.

Malaysia is an ethnic and cultural melting pot, and the food reflects that diversity. Malaysian food is an exciting fusion of Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, and European influences, creating unique combinations of tastes, spices, and cooking methods.

Each state has its own specialties and signature dishes, and the cuisine varies greatly from region to region. For example, in the northern states of Penang and Kedah, popular dishes include nasi kandar, a plate of steamed rice served with various curries and side dishes. In the southern state of Johor, mee rebus, a spicy noodle dish with a thick sweet potato and shrimp sauce, is a local favorite.

Ready to learn more about the ingredients mainly used? Check out the section below!

Most Used Ingredients In Malay Food

It’s important to note that the main characteristic of Malay food is spices! So, if you aren’t a fan of spicy food or can’t handle spicy food, you might want to consider asking the merchant to lower the spice level when you order!

Here are some of the main ingredients used in Malay food. We’ve also included the ingredient names in Malay. That way, you can practice your language skills more!

  1. Coconut milk (santan) – used to make dishes rich and creamy
  2. Shrimp paste (belacan) – base for sambal*
  3. Lemongrass (serai) – herb
  4. Galangal (lengkuas) – herb
  5. Rice steamed (nasi) – served with the main dish

*Sambal is chili paste, sometimes also referred to as chili sauce, that’s made from different chilis, shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, shallot, green onions, palm sugar, and lime juice.

Side note: Did you know that Malays usually eat with their right hands?

Malay Food Should Be Enjoyed By The Family

In Malaysia, eating is more than just eating; it is living. Sharing a meal together is a typical value among families, and as such, many foods have been designed to be shared. As a result, Malaysian cuisine has a wide variety of dishes meant to be shared, such as nasi lemak, a fragrant coconut rice dish typically served with an assortment of side dishes such as fried chicken, sambal, and cucumber.

Other examples of communal dishes include satay, grilled meat skewers served with peanut sauce, and roti canai. This flaky flatbread is usually shared by a group of people. Malaysian cuisine is not only a celebration of Malaysia’s cultural diversity but also a reflection of the importance of community and togetherness in Malaysian society.

Three Main Influences Of Malaysian Food

Malay, Chinese, and Indian are the three primary cultures that have influenced the food that this little country in Southeast Asia eats. As a result, many dishes, from street food to restaurant fare, that is popular in Malaysia can trace their roots to these three influences.

Chinese cuisine tends to be more subtle, relying heavily on stir-frying and steaming techniques. In contrast, Malay cuisine is characterized by fragrant herbs and spices. Indian cooking, by contrast, is known for its complex blend of spices and tastes. A unique and flavorful cuisine that is distinctly Malaysian has resulted from the fusion of these culinary traditions.

Malay Food To Try ASAP!

If you plan on visiting Malaysia or any of the countries mentioned above, you should know that you can find most of these dishes in the form of street food. So, you don’t necessarily need to search for restaurants on Google. All you have to do is walk around until you see a stall that’s serving up any of these delicious dishes!

Dish #1: Nasi Lemak

Malay Food You Need To Try
Malay Food You Need To Try

Nasi lemak is definitely a popular dish in Malaysian cuisine! It consists of rice that’s first soaked in thick coconut cream and then steamed (sometimes with pandan leaf to give it even more flavor).

Nasi lemak is often served on top of a banana leaf with spicy sambal, a hard-boiled egg/hard-boiled eggs, cucumber slices, fried anchovies, and roasted peanuts. Sounds yummy, right?

Dish #2: Beef Rendang Curry

Malay Food You Need To Try

Rendang is a rich and tender coconut beef curry. This is a must-try dish if you’re traveling.

Basically, the beef is slow-cooked and braised in coconut milk and other spices until all the coconut milk gets absorbed. Then, the dish is best served with sliced green onions and nasi lemak (remember, the coconut milk rice?)

Dish #3: Char Kuey Teow

Malay Food You Need To Try
Malay Food You Need To Try

Char Kuey Teow is another favorite dish for many locals!

The dish consists of flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, Chinese sausage, eggs, bean sprouts, Chinese chives, cockles, and soy sauce. Malaysia and Singapore both find this dish irresistible – and we totally get it.

Feel free to add some spicy sauce (sambal), fried onions, fried shallots, or extra soy sauce to the top of the dish. It’s all up to your personal taste preferences!

Dish #4: Hokkien Char Mee

Hokkien fried noodles, otherwise known as Hokkien Char Mee, is a dish that originated in China’s Hokkien province.

This dish consists of thick yellow noodles braised in thick dark soy sauce with pork, squid, fish cake, and cabbage. The dish is typically served with fried pork lard or even fried pork liver.

No picture? Well, you’re just going to have to travel and see the dish for yourself!

Dish #5: Roti Canai

Malay Food You Need To Try

Roti canai is a very popular breakfast choice in Malaysia and Singapore.

This pan-fried bread made from flour is equally delicious and easy to find. You can find the bread topped with lentils, curry, minced meat, fried egg, condensed milk, and so much more!

Since roti canai has many variations, make sure to try them all!

Other Popular Malay Dishes


Laksa is a spicy noodle soup that can be made with either coconut milk or sour tamarind. It is usually served with fish balls, fish cake, prawns, chicken, bean sprouts, and tofu puffs, topped with a hard-boiled egg. This dish is popular in Singapore and Indonesia as well!


Skewered and grilled meat, usually chicken or beef, served with peanut sauce and cucumber chunks. Traditionally made with pork or chicken, this is one of the most iconic dishes in Southeast Asia!

Hainanese Chicken Rice

A dish made with poached chicken served with rice cooked in chicken broth, along with a chili sauce and ginger paste as a dipping sauce. It is light yet flavorful and is usually enjoyed as a lunch meal!

Mee Goreng

A spicy stir-fried noodle dish made with yellow noodles made from rice flour, dark soy sauce, prawns, tofu, and vegetables, all coated in a sweet and spicy sauce. You may be able to find mee goreng in instant noodles form, too!

Sambal Udang

A dish made with prawns cooked in a spicy chili paste, along with onions, garlic, chili peppers, and other ingredients. Best enjoyed with a cold glass of beer, banana fritters, and some fish sauce as a dipping sauce!

Learn Malay with Ling App

Want To Keep Learning Malay? Ling Is Here For You!

Are you interested in learning more terms in Malay? If so, the Ling app is here for you! The Ling App is one of the most effective language-learning apps out there for several reasons.

  1. Offers lessons in over 60 languages
  2. Uses the voices of native speakers to teach you each language
  3. Ability to practice and improve your pronunciation in real-time by talking with the interactive AI chatbot
  4. Lessons teach relevant vocabulary and phrases to make you sound more natural
  5. Huge selection of topics under its language blog for you to extend your knowledge even further

There are plenty of other benefits to using the Ling App, but we want you to go find out by using the app yourself! You can download the app from the App Store, Google Play, or a desktop version. Have fun (berseronok)!

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