10 Mouth-Watering Traditional Dishes to Try in Malaysia

Mention places to go in Malaysia and few things that cross the mind would be the Petronas Twin Towers, Batu Caves and Jalan Alor for some street food. But if you venture outside of capital Kuala Lumpur, the various states offer scenic views from sleepy towns to breathtaking nature escape.

Beyond the beautiful attractions, a major highlight when you’re in these states is the traditional food. Just follow this smoke trail.

Before we begin, you’ll need to get to these cities and this is where AirAsia’s current domestic routes promo comes in. Be sure to be the first to book a seat now till 30 June 2019 at Travel now till 31 October 2019.

Kuching, Sarawak

1. Mee Kolok

This dish is so popular, it has found its way to eateries in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Brought in by Chinese settlers in Sarawak, a bowl of Mee Kolok is filled with thin noodles topped with minced pork, shallots, garlic, dark soy sauce, pepper and slices of char siew or barbequed pork. The halal option, similarly popular, is simply substituted with chicken or beef.

Where to go: Mohammad Lim Hand Made Mushroom Noodle
Operating hours: Monday – Saturday 7.30am till 6pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: Sarawak Cuisine @ Food Republic, Pavilion
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 10am till 10pm

2. Ayam Pansuh

This traditional dish for the Dayak people takes centre stage during festive seasons like the harvest festival called Gawai. Chicken pieces marinated in herbs like tapioca shoots, black pepper, garlic, salt, lemongrass and torch ginger flower for two hours. Then, it is cooked in bamboo over firewood or ember for about an hour where the marinade doubles as a savoury soup. White rice completes the meal.

Where to go: My Village Barok
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 4.30pm till 11.30pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: Sarawak’s Bowl @ Sunway Putra Mall
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 10am till 10pm

Ipoh, Perak

3. Rendang Tok

Just like the name suggests, this is like the grandfather of all rendang (spicy meat dish). Created by palace cooks, this dish was once only served to the Perak royal family. Chunks of beef or buffalo meat are mixed in spices, lemongrass and cekur root and slowly cooked till it’s drier and darker than normal rendang which gives it the signature flavourful taste. You can pair the dish with lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo), rice, pulut kuning (yellow glutinous rice), ketupat palas (rice dumpling), bread or better yet, just eat it on its own!

Where to go: Royal Rendang Tok Maknik
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 9am till 5pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: Bijan Bar & Restaurant
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 4.30pm till 11pm

4. Heong Peng

Image: Wikicommons

You haven’t tasted any biscuit as good as this one. Translated as ‘fragrant biscuit’, heong peng is baked with all sorts of sweet fillings and meat floss. Crispy (and even flaky) on the outside and soft on the inside, the many old shops in Ipoh still use coconut shells to bake heong peng, creating that fragrant smoke trail that’ll get you hooked from a hundred feet away.

Where to go: Guan Heong Biscuit Shop
Operating hours: Monday – Saturday 9am till 7pm; Sunday 9am till 6pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: Fung Wong Biscuit
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 9am till 10pm


5. Asam Pedas

Travelling to Melaka is simply incomplete without sampling asam pedas. Tetel (tender beef) or fish like wolf herring, stingray, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, marine catfish and golden snapper are ladled with tamarind, ginger, shrimp paste, garlic, chilies and other herbs. Pair this bright red dish with rice and raw greens called ulam. The spicy kick will heighten your senses and if it’s too much, cool down with several gulps of sweet iced syrup drink.

Where to go: Restoran Asam Pedas Selera Kampung
Operating hours: Wednesday – Monday 7am till 6pm; Tuesday 11.30am till 6pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: Restoran Asam Pedas
Operating hours: Monday – Saturday 11am till 11pm; Sunday 11am till 7pm

6. Chicken Rice Balls

Chicken rice is always good, but Melaka may have made it better with chicken rice balls! The dish is so good that you’ll find yourself in a queue filled with locals and tourists alike no matter which restaurant you go to. If patience is not a strong suit, simply avoid peak hours and weekends. It is believed the rice took such a shape to make it easier for farmers and workers to carry lunch. The classic Hainanese chicken rice comes with roasted or steamed chicken. Trust us, it’s so good a single plate will leave you wanting more.

Where to go: Ee Ji Ban Chicken Rice Ball
Operating hours: Friday – Wednesday 10am till 9.30pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: Ban Huat Heng Kopitiam
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 7.30am till 3.30pm; 6pm till 9pm

Sandakan, Sabah

7. Hinava

Image: Getty

This unique dish features fresh raw fish mixed with lime juice, bird’s eye chili, sliced shallots and grated ginger. Fun fact: the fish is essentially ‘cooked’ by the acid from the lime juice! Served as an appetiser, mackerel is the popular choice for this traditional Kadazan-Dusun salad.

Where to go: D’Place Kinabalu
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 11.30am till 4pm; 6pm till 10pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: Pinggan Borneo Restaurant
Operating hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9am till 8pm; Sunday 9am till 6pm

8. Ambuyat

Image: Getty

East Malaysians call this dish linut but it is generally called ambuyat. Also popular in Brunei, ambuyat is mainly served during special events as an alternative to rice. The starchy ingredient is taken from the trunk of the sago palm. The glue-like substance is usually eaten using bamboo sticks called candas. You roll the starch on the fork and dip it into a variety of sauces including sambal belacan (shrimp paste sambal), sour dipping called asam or you can even top it with pieces of steamed fish. The downside is, the dish is hardly served in restaurants because of its meticulous preparations.

Where to go: D’Place Kinabalu
Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 11.30am till 4pm; 6pm till 10pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: Pinggan Borneo Restaurant
Operating hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9am till 8pm; Sunday 9am till 6pm

Kuantan, Pahang

9. Gulai Patin Tempoyak

Image: Wikicommons

For the uninitiated, tempoyak is fermented durian. Love it or hate it, the entire Malaysia knows that when in Pahang, especially Temerloh, the one dish you should try is gulai patin tempoyak. Yes, you can pick up the lovely scent of this dish from afar, and yes the taste is an acquired one. Cooked with freshwater silver catfish, the gravy is yellow, the exact colour of the king of fruits. Enjoy the dish with rice, sambal belacan and ulam on the side. While durian is infamous on the other side of the world (most likely caused by bad quality because shipping takes too long), the dish (and the fruit) is highly sought after that you can find this dish almost anywhere in Pahang. Give it a whirl!

Where to go: Akob Patin House
Operating hours: Monday – Saturday 8.30am till 6pm

Option in Kuala Lumpur: House of Patin Lipis
Operating hours: Monday – Saturday 12pm till 10pm; Sunday 2pm till 10pm

10. Nasi Kebuli

Image: Wikicommons

This heritage Pahang dish from Kuala Lipis was first introduced by a cook called Hussin when he served Sultan Mahmud Shah (1914 – 1917) and his 60 dignitaries who requested a lunch meal comprising chicken and rice. Since then, the dish has been known as nasi kebuli (short for Nasi Ke Bawah Duli or His Royal Highness Rice). A plateful of this meal features rice cooked with coconut oil mixed with chicken (sometimes substituted with lamb or mutton), raisins, olives, clovers, olives and lemongrass. Despite the royal history, not many are aware of this dish. Unfortunately, it’s quite tough to find restaurants in Pahang let alone Kuala Lumpur serving the dish daily except at hotel buffets during special occasions like the Ramadan fasting month. Try asking the locals for help. If you do find it, feast like the royals!

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Written by Asyraf Naqiuddin

Asyraf believes there’s a story anywhere you turn that could inspire readers around the world. With a penchant for high-powered motorcycles, he hopes to one day get back in the saddle and cover the globe on two wheels.

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