In the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is a multicultural melting pot. Melayu, Tamil, Hakka, Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, and English are only a few of the languages used by the locals, who are comfortable utilising several in a single conversation.
These multilingual discussions are frequently about food, as Malaysia is a nation of food reviewers, with everyone having an opinion on not only the best dishes, but also where to locate them. Malaysians frequently spend their weekends driving long distances to a new restaurant or standing in enormous lines to sample a “famous” version of a dish. Food tourism is a big component of any traveler’s experience because of their distinct cuisine and corresponding environment, which ranges from glittering tropical shores to foggy rainforest mountains.
Chee Cheong Fun
Order a plate of chee cheong fun, a popular Chinese-Malaysian breakfast, to accompany your iced espresso. Before you get too excited, this Chinese delicacy technically translates to “pig intestine,” but in Malaysia, chee cheong fun is simply fat rolls of steamed rice noodles studded with black sesame seeds and drenched with a thick, rich layer of dark sweet sauce known as tim cheong (which is similar to Hoisin sauce). When visiting Penang, however, avoid this sauce because it frequently contains shrimp paste. Ask for it basic, Ipoh-style, with soy sauce and a generous dusting of chopped chilies instead.
Order a variety of kuih since no Chinese meal is complete without an abundance of appetisers. These chewy half-translucent rice cakes are often vegan and can be savoury or sweet. Try choo kuih (vegetable dumplings loaded with shredded jicama or daikon radish), ang ku kuih (bean or peanut paste), or nyonya kuih (a variety of gummy layered cakes flavoured with salty coconut, brown coconut sugar, and fragrant herbs like pandan, pulut tai tai, or citrus).
Lunchtime is the best time to visit a Malaysian mamak restaurant, so start with an iced cocktail made with freshly squeezed calamansi limes to go with Malaysia’s most famous dish, nasi lemak. This salty, creamy, and aromatic coconut-milk-infused rice is topped with crunchy cucumbers, a handful of peanuts, and a small sprinkle of flaky dry fish. If the nasi lemak is fresh, diners can ask for the dried fish to be removed (tidak ikan). If it’s available, order a large side of achar, a spicy pickled relish made with chilis, onion, cucumber, and occasionally pineapple.
Dinner can be found at the local Banana Leaf, a popular South Indian eatery that is usually vegetarian-friendly and frequently open 24 hours. Order thosai, a thin crepe-like bread stuffed with fragrant dal, spicy coconut chutney, and a variety of mustard-seed and chili-infused veggies. For a heartier meal, order masala thosai, which includes turmeric-infused mashed potatoes.