Top Five: Local Malaysian Foods You Must Try

With so many delicious and diverse foods on offer in Malaysia, it is sometimes too easy to opt for the ones that have become familiar, but there is a wealth of curious edibles out there that demand a nibble, at least to say you’ve tried them! Get your taste buds around these five.

carrot cake

Carrot Cake

This is certainly not the carrot cake of your imagination. These stodgy, thick chunks of wobbly white stuff are made by mixing grated white radish with flour and water, before being steamed. Many Chinese folk buy these in the morning and eat them with chilli sauce, while you can often see the carrot or radish cake chopped up and stir-fried with beansprouts and garlic. It is much, much nicer than it looks!




The humble popiah is perfect for a light supper or snack, and marvellously simple. A thin pancake is spread with sweet plum sauce and/ or spicy chilli sauce, filled with various vegetables (onion, beansprouts, cucumber, fried white turnip) and any combination of egg, pork, and beancurd, before being rolled into a fat sausage. Malay stalls will sometimes deep-fry them, but they are better fresh and eaten while warm.



Indian eateries’ menus are so packed with unfathomable things that often the tasty things get overlooked. Idly are very simple and rather charming in their way: plain, rice flour dumplings that are steamed until soft and light like sponge cakes, and can be eaten alone or with various pickles and chutneys.

tempeh 2


Mamak stalls and Malay restaurants will often serve chicken and rice dishes with a small heap of fried tempeh, and while it may look a little like nuts squashed together, it is actually a compressed cake made of soy beans. These cakes are steamed or fried and mixed with various spicy sauces, and originally come from Indonesia. As well as being a great form of protein, tempeh has an interesting, nutty flavour and deserves a little taste.


Goose/Chicken Web

It is important to learn not to freeze in fear when a business dinner presents you with something you have never before associated with edible materials, and goose or chicken web is one of those that may sneak into a Chinese meal. These feet – still with their skin – are either boiled until limp and sad, or fried. While there is not much meat, it is worth having a go just to brag to your friends back home!

First published August, 2012

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