Malaysia Insider

Malaysia insider

Food, glorious food

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If you're coming to visit Malaysia you might be wondering what the must-try dishes are. Personally, I'd say the short answer is "all of them", but here are my top three, just to get you started:

Nasi lemak

This is essentially the national dish of Malaysia and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Keep an eye out for banana leaves folded into little green pyramids. You can get nasi lemak on a plate, but for some reason this mix of boiled rice, egg, peanuts, anchovies and spicy gravy (called sambal) always tastes best from a leaf.

Roti canai

If one Malaysian food could be accused of being totally addictive, it'd be this one. Roti means bread, but this is more of a chewy dough, flattened like a pancake and cooked with oil. You can have it with a spicy gravy but, for me, roti pisang is king — roti stuffed with bananas. Throw in a sweet teh tarik to drink (half tea, half condensed milk) and you have perfection on a plate.


If you think of Malaysian food before you visit, this will probably be the delicacy that comes to mind — meat on a stick, cooked over a barbecue and served with a peanut sauce. It's simple, succulent and not to be missed. The satay will usually come with a little side of cucumber slices and rice squares. The Malaysians say you should eat a piece of cucumber after each stick to stop it being too "heaty" on your stomach. I've never quite understood the concept of "heaty" (mango is also a "heaty" food, apparently) but it does no harm to go along with it!

Do you eat like a local when you travel? Tell us about your experiences below.

User comments
The concept of "heaty" relates to the Chinese approach to health and life- all things need to be in balance, the yin and the yang. Some types of food "heat" up your body and too much of "heaty" food can cause you to have a sore throat and can lead to other health problems. Food that is deep fried, barbecued, roasted and certain kinds of fruit such as mangoes and durians are considered "heaty". Mangosteens cool you down. So does beer and scotch by the way. Moral of it all - you should achieve a balance between food that heats up your body and those which cool you down eg have beer with your curry!! Too much of one or the other can lead to health problems. Makes sense? Hey, trust us. The Chinese have a longer history than the Irish!

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