The street food of Malaysia is heavily influenced by Thai, Indian, Indonesian and Chinese cuisines. The speciality of Malaysian street food is its vibrant and diverse flavour influenced by its rich past. Feast your senses on the some of the most famous street food in Malayasia like Nasi Dagang, Bakuteh, Hokkien Meh, Satay, Sang Har Noodles, and Nasi Kandar.
Here is a list of 20 must-try street food in Malaysia:
Asam Laksa is a dish hailing from Penang state of Malaysia. Tamarind and humble fish soup with rice noodles make it one of the most famous street food in Malaysia. Herbs, lemongrass, mackerel shavings, ginger flower and Vietnamese mint leaves add to the flavour of this dish. Apart from mackerels, sardines and skip jack tuna are also used in the dish. This type of Laksa uses very thick rice noodles. The dish is found almost everywhere in Penang - coffee shops, mobile carts, roadside stalls and hawker centres.
Where to try: Jalan Pasar, Makan Kitchen
2. Lok Lok
One of the most famous Malaysian street food, Lok Lok literally means “dip dip”. One can choose from a variety of skewers and dip them in delicious hot broth. Skewers of meat, vegetables, fish balls, dumplings and seafood are boiled and dipped into an assortment of flavoured dips like garlic, Malaysian Satay or chilli sauce. In order to counter the spiciness of the soup, Lok Lok is accompanied by coconut water, barley drinks or tea.
Where to try: Ping Hwa Lok Lok, Padang Brown Hawker, Caravon Street
Rojak means “mixed” in Malay, as it a salad comprising of mixed fruits and vegetables. The dish exemplifies cultural diversity of the region by including both Chinese and Malay elements in its ingredients. Vegetables like water spinach and bean sprouts are blanched, whereas cucumber and turnips are chopped to add crunch. Pineapples, mangoes, apples and starfruits are also added to the dish. Sauce is an important ingredient of Rojak, marking its authenticity. A sticky paste is made by mixing water, lime juice, sugar, chillies and peanuts. The ingredients are added and mixed with the paste to give it a tantalising flavour.
Where to try: Hasan’s Rojak and Cendol, Rojak Bellamy
Little known outside Southeast Asia, Cendol is a famous dessert in Malaysia. It is ubiquitous and can be found in all restaurants and hawker centres. This icy dessert provides a respite from the tropical heat. The worm-like green jellies, made of rice flour, add to the taste of the dish. Cendol can be eaten from a bowl or drunk through a straw. This street food of Malaysia is best experienced after having a hot bowl of Laksa. The origin of this dessert is contested, as countries like Indonesia and Vietnam lay claim to it. Though debates about the origin exist, the fact that the dish is famous across all 10 countries shows how much it is liked by the people.
Where to try: Cendol Sawit, Kuatan
5. Apam Balik
Apam Balik (literally “overturned pancake”) is a sweet peanut pancake, which is a favourite street food in Malaysia. The pancake is stuffed with buttery, sugary, peanut filling. The cake is usually thick and has a honeycomb texture. The corners are made to be thin and crispy. One can also add sweet corn to the filling to enhance the taste. The dish is also known as Kuih Haji, Chin Loong Pau and Apam Pulau Pinang. It is usually found in the late afternoons, when people look for snacks to savour along with tea.
Where to try: Apam Balik stall at Petaling street, Swee Kong Coffeee Shop
6. Fried Bee Hoon
It is a simple yet delicious Malaysian street food, often served for breakfast. “Bee Hoon” literally means “rice sticks”. The rice vermicelli can be eaten in soups, with gravy and in salads. It is seasoned with soy sauce, rice wine, pepper and salt. Topping the dish with fried omelette enhances the taste. It is very easy to get yourself a plate of Bee Hoon as it is easily available on the streets. Bee Hoon can also be a meal by itself.
Where to try: Limapulo: Baba can Cook, Ginger Restaurant, Kian Lian kee, Restoran Setapak Teochew
7. Char Kuey Teow
Char Kuey Teow is a flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, Chinese sausage, eggs and bean sprouts in a mix of soy sauce. While the dish can be found throughout Malaysia, the Penang version is supreme. This Malaysian street food is reputed for being unhealthy due to its fatty content. The stir was initially served only to the labourers. It is commonly served on a banana leaf, to enhance the aroma of noodles. The dish also has vegetarian variants that exclude eggs. “Wok Hei”, the breath of Wok, is the hot air produced from the heat in the Wok which gives extra flavour to the noodles. One can sense the aroma while walking on the streets of Penang.
Where to try: Lorong Selamat, Damansara Kim, 888 restaurant, Koay Teow King
8. Nasi Lemak
Considered to be the de facto national dish of Malaysia, Nasi Lemak is a type of coconut milk rice. It is perfectly served with fried anchovies, cucumber and boiled egg in chilli sauce or shrimp paste. The best authentic Nasi Lemak is served on a banana leaf with fried fish and boiled eggs as side dishes. This traditional serving style has been inherited through generations- from a little stall to commercial restaurants, the dish is served in banana leaf. It makes for a good breakfast among the locals.
Where to try: Village Park Restaurant, Nasi Lemak Tanglin, Ali Muthu & Ah Hock
9. Roti Canai
Roti Canai is an Indian-origin flatbread that is extremely liked in Malaysia. In the Malay language, it means “flying bread”. It is usually eaten with dal curry, chicken or fish curry. Sometimes, it is served sweet with condensed milk, bananas and chocolate cream. This delectable Malaysian street food is similar to a croissant due to its flakiness of the layers of the oiled dough. The Roti is made with flour, butter and ghee. Roti Canai can be easily bought from hawkers and restaurants.
Where to try: Mansion Tea Stall, 123 corner, Raj’s Banana Leaf
10. Koay Chiap
Koay Chiap is a braised duck noodle soup. This dish is unique to Penang, with duck meat, duck eggs, intestine and blood. The soup is served with boiled eggs, rice noodles and soy sauce. Instead of a normal noodle, Koay Chaip uses “Koay”, a thicker version of the noodle. All the ingredients are immersed in a light herbal soup. Unlike most hawker dishes, Koay Chiap is filling.
Where to try: Kimberly Street
11. Chee Cheong Fun
This street food of Malaysia was brought to its shore by 19th century Chinese immigrants. It is a very popular street food among the Chinese groups in Malaysia. Chee Cheong Fun is similar to rice-noodle rolls and can be found in dim sum restaurants. In its initial form, it is served with soy sauce. Today, the dish has varied forms across the peninsula.
Where to try: Petaling Street, Taman Paramount
12. Teh Tarik
Teh tarik literally translates to “pulled tea”. It is a Malaysian Ceylon milk tea, often sold in “Mamak” restaurants of Malaysia. Preparing the tea is interesting as it involves the art of pouring tea from one glass to another by lifting the glass as high as possible. Pulling the tea high creates a layer of frothiness at the top, making it lip-smacking good. The tea is enjoyed with Dhal curry or Roti Canai. The origin of this drink is traced back to the arrival of Indian Muslims in Malaysia. Today, the drink is enjoyed by all and can be found in tea stalls.
Where to try: Wangsa Walk, Teh Tarik Place
13. Ice Kachang
A very popular shaved ice in Malaysia, Ice Kachang is commonly sold by the street vendors and is a top favourite Malaysian street food. Toppings like red beans, sweet corn, palm nuts and grass jelly add to the taste. Fruits and raisins are also added to the dessert. Shaved ice is topped with pink syrup, giving it a bubble-gum type taste. Ice Kachang serves as an alternative to ice cream or yogurt in the summers.
Where to try: Stall No. 22 Ayer Panas Hawker Centre, Desa Parkcity, Jalan Kepong Baru
Known as the smelliest fruit of the world, Durian is a fruit native to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. It is a foot-long, slightly oval fruit with the outer shell covered with spikes. The fruit weighs between two to seven pounds. It is known for its long-lasting smell, that lingers around the shell even after the fruit is removed. Though its smell awful, the taste is heavenly.
Where to try: Johor Bahru, Selangor streets
15. Hokkien Mee
Hokkien Mee is one of the most famous dishes within the Chinese community and a loved street food of Malaysia. The dish is popular in Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines and finds its origin in the Chinese province of Fujian. It replicates the “Wok Hei” technique, where noodles are braised in soy sauce for best flavours. Although there are three types of Hokkien Mee, the dark noodles from Kuala Lumpur is the most famous type. Some eateries toss the noodles over charcoal stove for the smoky flavour. Pork, fish cake, cabbage and squid are the main ingredients.
Where to try: Ming Hoe, Mun Wah, Aik Yuen, Hoopla
16. Wonton Mee
Wonton noodles or “Wonton Mee” are thin egg noodles served with Chinese barbequed-pork, pickled green chillies, vegetables and meat dumplings with soup. Green chillies are essential ingredient of the dish, which give it a balance.
Where to try: Layang-Layang, Yip Kee Café
17. Bak Kua Bread
Bak Kua Bread is a sandwich made using the famous Chinese meat jerky, which is in high demand during the Chinese New Year. The meat jerkies are sweet and fluffy, but adding sauces will jazz up the flavour. Sweet chilli sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup and BBQ sauces are other sauces that can be added to the dish.
Where to try: Presgrave Street, Penang
18. Otak Otak
Otak Otak (“brain brain”) is a fishcake wrapped in banana leaves. This street food in Malaysia is brightly flavoured with aromatic herbs and exotic spices, infused with rich coconut milk. Wild beetle leaves are the main ingredient of the dish, giving it an authentic taste. Street vendors mis it with dark Chinese sauce for taste.
Where to try: Otak Otak Cheng Boi, Little Yum Yum
19. Kuih Kosui
Kuih Kosui a saucer-shaped rice cake flavoured with screw pine leaves’ juice. It is best eaten with freshly grated coconut. The Malaysian street food is sweet and is filled with stir-fried coconut. The dish can be found in the form of a rice dough wrapped in banana leaves.
Where to try: tasty Kuih Nyonya, Own creation bakeries
20. Roast Chicken Rice
This scrumptious street food of Malaysia is a favourite among the locals. The delicious roasted chicken is served with flavoured rice cooked in chicken oil. Aromatics like ginger add to the flavour of the dish. In spite of being rice, it can be enjoyed for both breakfast and dinner. The meat is juicy and the skin is tender with a hint of sweetness.
Where to try: Ipoh, Jelutong, Petaling Jaya
If you want to get a taste of Malaysian culture, explore the mouth-watering Malaysian street food, for it is on the streets that you can get a feel of the place you are visiting.