The Guide to Malaysian Cuisine

Malay Cooking

Malaysian cuisine is quite flavourful with spicy and aromatic rich tastes. Utilizing herbs and spices commonly found in Southeast Asia, Malaysian food is one of the country's three major cuisines including Chinese and Indian influences. The relaxed and easygoing qualities of the Malays transfer into their wonderful cooking. Malaysian cuisine is also most often eaten with the hands. Diners will take large scoops of rice and curry carefully enough to ladle the entire handful into their mouths. When it comes to Malaysian food, practice makes perfect. A signature Malaysian dish will include rice, meat, vegetables, and curry served family style in the middle of a large table.


The Malays were originally a seafaring people thus, there is a large amount of seafood worked into their diet. One will notice prawns, fish, squids, and crabs included regularly in several traditional Malay dishes. Mutton, chicken, and beef are also used frequently within Malaysian cuisine as well. It is quite popular for Malaysian seafood and meat to be marinated in an extra special concoction of herbs and spices prior to cooking. However, Malaysian vegetables are typically stir fried or eaten raw with a sambal belachan dipping sauce.

Lemang Bamboo Rice

Lemongrass, garlic, ginger, shallots, and chilies are all Malaysian staple ingredients usually blended together and the sauteed into either a chile paste or traditional sambal sauce. Additionally, herbs like turmeric, galangal, laksa leaves, wild ginger buds, torched ginger, and/or kaffir lime leaves are utilized for extra flavoring when needed. Malaysian cuisine is also well known for its utilization of spices like cumin, fennel, coriander, cloves, star anise, cardamom, mustard seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and fenugreek in their many curries and soups. Not to mention, Coconut is another ingredient coveted by the Malay people which is no surprise due to the flourishing coconut trees in Malaysia. Santan, or coconut milk are famous for adding the creamy richness curries so desperately need to reap the distinctive Malaysian flavor. See also Top 9 Malaysian Cooking Utensils.


Malay cuisine is known to differ by region. Northern Malaysia is best regarded for integrating a Thai flavor into their dishes. This comes as no shock because of the southbound migration of Thai people and their intermarriage with the local Malay. The Negri Sembilan features several dishes soaked richly in coconut milk and many other ingredients commonly utilized by West Sumatra like beef, ox meet, cured vegetables, and cili padi. The Minangkabau from Sumatra once dominated Negri Sembilan and left them heavily influenced by their culture.

Presently, Malaysian food uses numerous ingredients from Southern India such as purple eggplants, okra, fenugreek, curry leaves and brown mustard. Due to its many differing regional influences, Malaysian cuisine serves as an interesting taste adventure that people from all walks of life thoroughly enjoy.