Top 10 things to eat in Malaysia

As anyone who knows us well will know, we love our food. Neither of us had been to Malaysia before and given it’s diverse cultural heritage and influence on the food, we were really excited about trying lots of what’s on offer. Here are the top 10 dishes we enjoyed.

Nasi Campur

A local favourite, Nasi Campur is an array of home cooked dishes laid out for you to help yourself to. The choice can be overwhelming with curries, grilled fish and shellfish on offer. Unlike a buffet, you fill your plate once and then pay for what you’ve picked, but it’s usually incredibly cheap with our favourite one costing only 5.50 Ringgits each!


Grilled chicken and fish in the foreground / Salad and greens in the background


A huge selection of curried meats, fish, veg and other dishes

Our selection for lunch! Mine was a thai-style chicken curry, fried egg in a kind of sweet and sour sauce, soy glazed chicken and some pumpkin. Anna had a mackerel like fish, green bean salad with squid and an curried vegetable, fruit or even flower that we're yet to identify!

Our selection for lunch! Mine was a thai-style chicken curry, fried egg in a kind of sweet and sour sauce, soy glazed chicken and some pumpkin. Anna had a mackerel like fish, green bean salad with squid and a curried vegetable, fruit or even flower that we’re yet to identify!

Ikan Bakar

Another local favourite, Ikan Bakar is a dish of marinated and charcoal-grilled fish, squid and other seafood. The best spots fill up early and it’s easy to see and smell why with an unbelievable amount of fish being grilled ready for eager diners. For this kind of seafood, the value is incredible; we had a whole fish, a ray wing, a plate of prawns and a whole squid for under 60 Ringgits!


As if this wasn’t enough, we later ordered another whole fish too.


Hard at work grilling all that seafood!


Not a Malaysian dish, but with a large Indian population it’s easy to find great Indian food. Cheap authentic tandoori is readily available. If you’re visiting try Pak Putra Restaurant in Malacca or Kapitan in Penang, both were seriously tasty and quite possibly addictive given the daily tandoori cravings I developed! Oh and it’s dirt cheap, about 13 Ringgits for a set meal with chicken, naan bread, dal and sauces.


I want another one now!

Char Siu Steamed Buns

Originating in China, these bbq-pork filled steamed buns are widely available, and mega cheap costing around 2 Ringgits. We even found a giant one in the Lot 10 food hall in Kuala Lumpur, which is highly recommended. Other versions with sweet and savory fillings are available, but bear in mind you won’t find Char Siu with the Muslim vendors.


The GIANT bun!


These ones were filled with spicy crab meat.

Satay Celup

This is basically like a buffet of raw meats, offal, seafood, tofu and vegetables on small bamboo skewers that you select and then cook at your table with your own cauldron of boiling satay sauce! You pay per skewer, so when you’re done they simply count up your empties. Each skewer cost 1.10 Ringgits in the place we tried, Capitol Satay in Malacca. Tasty stuff and fun too!


We played it pretty safe with pork, prawns, sausage and veg, but there’s much more on offer for the brave.


This is the better know version with skewers of meat and prawns grilled over charcoal and of course served with the classic spicy peanut sauce. We paid around 10 Ringgits for a selection of 10 skewers.


Pork, Beef and Mutton skewers.

Dim Sum

Another dish originating in China and like the steamed buns, Dim Sum is widely available. We’d heard about traditional restaurants where trolleys full of steamed dumplings are wheeled around for you to choose from and managed to find Tai Tong Restaurant in Penang, with thanks to Mark Wiens. Dishes of 3-4 dumplings were around 3-4 Ringgits.


Har gow and Shumai dumplings (plus some sesame short ribs from their a la carte menu)


The slightly grumpy looking, but in the end very helpful and quite friendly old ladies with their trolleys of dim sum.

Roti Canai

An Indian influenced thin flatbread that can be like a crispy pancake to eat. Available plain or with fillings like egg, cheese, onion or banana. Usually they will be served with some dal or sambal. The plain version costs as little as 1 Ringgit, filled versions about 2-3 Ringgits.


Mine was filled with egg, Anna’s banana and honey.

Banana Leaf

Vegetarian south Indian food served up on a banana leaf. Rice, dal, sambals and chutneys all served up for a tasty, healthy and cheap lunch at around 4 Ringgits. Widely available, but we had ours at the base of Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur.


Anna eating like the locals with her hand!


Similar to a spring, pancake or summer roll, a thin wheat flour pancake is filled with a variety of ingredients. Ours was first spread with a variety of sauces and then filled some kind of turnip, lettuce leaves and chopped peanuts. We paid around 2 Ringgits.


I neglected to get a dedicated pic, but here’s one top-center along with (clockwise) some garlic short-ribs, the giant bun and some beef noodles.

This is just a small sample of some of the great things we tried in our month in Malaysia. Food really is a big part of Malaysian culture and it’s been a great experience trying all the things we have.

At time of writing 1 Ringgit = 0.15 Pounds or 0.24 US Dollars


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