Malaysia Country Guide



Malay Cuisine

The Malays were Malaysia's original inhabitants, besides the Orang Asli. Subtlety is not a priority in Malay cooking, as it is characterized by a liberal use of spices (the most important are star anise, cinnamon/cassia, cardamom and cloves), pungent edible rhizomes (mainly galangal, ginger and turmeric), coconut milk (santan in Malay), and occasionally fresh herbs (lemongrass, fresh coriander, pandan leaves and various kinds of wild herbs or ulam). Most Malay dishes are curries, stews or dips of one kind or another, but all full of flavour.

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Malay foods
At a Malay restaurant
Nasi Lemak
Literally meaning  'creamy rice', it is the definitive Malay breakfast, consisting at its simplest of rice cooked in light coconut milk or coconut cream, some fried 'ikan bilis' (anchovies), peanuts, slices of cucumber and a dab of sambal (
thick chilli sauce) on the side. A larger fried fish or chicken wing are common accompaniments. More often than not, also combined with a variety of curry and/or sambal dishes.


Rendang, occasionally dubbed "dry curry", is meat stewed for hours on end in an intricately spiced (but rarely fiery) curry paste until almost all water is absorbed. Beef rendang is the most common, although relatively recent variations with chicken and mutton are not uncommon.


Sambal is the generic term for chilli-based sauces of many kinds. Sambal belacan is a common condiment made by mixing chilli with the shrimp paste belacan, while the popular dish sambal sotong consists of squid (sotong) cooked in red chilli sauce. Sambal 'ikan bilis' is a common accompaniment to nasi lemak, consisting of small dried fish with onions, chilli and sugar.

Satay are barbecued skewers of meat, typically chicken or beef. What separates satay from your ordinary kebab is the slightly spicy peanut-based dipping sauce.

Kangkung Belacan
Kangkung belacan is water spinach, wok-fried in shrimp paste (belacan) and hot chilli peppers.

Mee Rebus

Mee rebus is egg noodles served in a sweet and slightly spicy sweet potato-based gravy, usually with a slice of hard boiled egg and some lime.
Nasi lemak
Ever popular nasi lemak
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