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With people of diverse cultures residing in Malaysia, it is no surprise that Malaysia offers an impressively wide-range of dishes. Each ethnic group in Malaysia have their own unique food, such as Malay food, Indian food and Chinese food. However, the cuisine found in the country is affected by the influences of the different ethnic groups in Malaysia, creating a truly unique range of food offered in the country.


With such a wide variety of food, as well as with worthwhile eateries in Malaysia ranging from the common hawker to high-class restaurants, it’s almost certain that you can find something you will like no matter your budget or tastebuds. Penang in particular is famous for its delicious hawker food, but good food can practically be found almost everywhere in Malaysia. There is no end to your gastronomic adventure in Malaysia!


Local Street Foods & Delicacies

Malaysia’s very own distinctive culinary tradition is the product of waves of immigration and settlement over decades. These have brought unique flavors from our multicultural Malay, India, Chinese, and Eurasian population.


Histories record where Malaysia was a major hub of spices in South East Asia. Merchants, Seafarers and traders would gather from different nations where they bring new culinary traditions. Among popular ethnic groups are Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Portuguese, Arab, British and Dutch influences that further blended into distinct flavors that represent Malaysia today. The major flavors around Malaysia today come from the Chinese, Malay and Indian spices. These further derived into hybrids from cross cultural influences like the renowned Mamak and Nyonya.


Hawker stalls are always the best source to hunt for authentic local delicacies. You could spot them easily all over the country, serving inexpensive and delicious food along the roadside.

Malay cuisine

Malay cuisines generally revolves around rice, accompanied with their signature dishes such as curry, mixed vegetables, sambals, fried chicken etc. That being said, Nasi Lemak is always a mainstay on malay menus with rice cooked in coconut milk and served with fried chicken, ikan bilis, sambal and sliced eggs. Some westerners might not like the extremely spicy pastes and curry condiments. As far as the variety grows, you won’t find pork in the menu due to the fact where all Malays are Muslims. Where mutton is listed, most times it is goat, which is preferred over lamb for its less musty taste and aroma. Satay is one of the most famous Malay dishes, delicious barbecued skewers of marinated chicken, mutton of beef served with peanut sauce.


Another interesting local variation to try is Malay cuisine influenced by Indian Muslim’s cooking and flavor. Walk down to any Mamak Stall and try out the Roti Canai, a fried pastry dipped in chicken curry or vegetarian curry; as well as bak which is fried bread with egg, onion and meat also served with curry sauce. Top up your meal with the tarik (frothy tea made with sweetened condensed milk) exclusively in Malaysia.

Ethnic influences to local cuisines


Malaysian Indian cuisine

Malaysia Indian Cuisine of the ethnic Indians was brought to Malaysia by Indian migrants back in the 19th century who came to work as labors in rubber estates and railway construction during the revolution era. Indian cuisines are primarily divided into 2 mainstreams – Northern and Southern.


Northern Indian cuisines are distinguished with the rich spices and meat as ingredients in their cooking. Ghee and Yoghurt are elaborated without being overly spicy in most of their dishes. Wheat flour pancakes are used sparingly to replace rice as their main course in Southern cooking as compared, while coconut milk, mustard seeds and chilies are used widely.


Spices are the language of Indian cooking. Spices are freshly grounded and added in many different combinations and the most commonly used are coriander, turmeric, cumin, chillies, fennel and fenugreek. Dishes are traditionally served on thali (metal tray with divisions for sauces), eaten with fingers. Banana leaves are often used in plates in which rice are served on top, followed by various curries and accompaniments which includes dried fish, pappadams (lentil wafers), fresh chutneys made from herbs, coconut, and acid fruits among others.


Malaysian Chinese cuisine

Chinese food was brought to Malaysia by waves of Chinese traders during the 19th century, bringing in workers who are then relocated and brought Cantonese style of Chinese cuisine. One of the most popular dishes that are brought in is Hainanese Chicken Rice and Steamboat. Just like anything else in the Chinese culture, it all revolves around the blance of Yin (cool) and Yang (heat). Therefore, Chinese cuisines are served within the perfect balance of ingredients. If one wishes to taste expensive delicacies you will not be disappointed with bird’s nest soup, abalone soup, shark fin soup, pun choy etc.


Malay cuisine

Malay food has been developed into a wide array for varieties compared to the traditional culinary styles. They are greatly influenced by other countries like Indonesia, China, India and other Middle East regions. Malay food is often recognized by their spicy spices and herbs. Malay cooking incorporates uncommon ingredients such as the likes of lemon grass, pandan leaves and lime leaves. On top of that, they never seem to forget traditional spices like pepper, cardamom, star anise and fenugreek, also fresh herbs like turmeric and nutmeg.



Essential guide to the country’s most famous dishes

If you are in a hurry with not much time to spare for reading, we have a brief list just for you.


Nasi Lemak:

Rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves. Served typically on top of banana leaves; accompanied with Sambal Ikan Bilis, fried anchovies, cucumber, fried peanuts and eggs.



Barbequed skewered meat is famous across Malaysia. Tender and juicy Satay comes with variety of meat choices like chicken, beef and lamb. Fresh salads, onions and rice (ketupat) is served together with the spicy-sweet peanut sauce to dip into.


Beef Rendang:

Traditional Malay spiced coconut beef, made with tenderly simmering meat balanced by tangy spices. Rendang is normally served on special occasion like weddings and festive seasons. It is made commercial due to popular demands, often accompanied with turmeric rice.


Roti Canai:

All time favorite Indian pastry that could be found anywhere in Malaysia’s mamak stall. They are often eaten as appetizers, served with chicken or vegetable curry for dipping.

Penang Mee Rebus

Penang Mee Rebus

Putu Piring

Nasi Lemak


Char Kueh Teow

Bak Kut Teh

Claypot Chicken Rice