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Experience a raw, passionate, and mind-blowingly delicious side to Malaysian cuisine with these Malaysian street foods, hugely popular on street corners and in food markets across the country.
While some of these dishes originate from Malaysia and others come from countries throughout Asia, all of them play an integral role in making the street food cuisine of Malaysia so diverse, beloved, and delicious.
Street food very much embodies the will, resourcefulness, and love for food, family, and community of the Malaysian people, and be you gracing the bustling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur or the scenic tranquility of Pulau Tioman, be sure to try as many of these delicious dishes as possible.
Malaysian Street Food
1 – Char Kuey Teow
Char Kuey Teow (or Char kway teow) is arguably one of the most famous (and delicious!) Malaysian street foods. It’s essentially a dish of stir-fried rice noodles with soy sauce and chili paste.
In most places, Char Kuey Teow is served with various sides, including chives, crab meat, cockles, bean sprouts, and prawns.
The simplicity yet diversity in this dish makes Char Kuey Teow a go-to for so many Malaysians. You can get Char Kuey Teow in almost any Chinese hawker stall in Malaysia, but it’s especially popular in Ipoh and Penang.
2 – Pisang Goreng
Rich and crispy banana fritters, or Pisang Goreng, are a street food anyone can enjoy as an energizing snack to get you through the afternoon slump. These deep-fried bananas have a crispy texture on the outside but are soft, creamy, and sweet on the inside.
Pisang Goreng is simple to make and only requires four ingredients: mashed bananas, all-purpose flour, eggs, and baking powder. Hence, it is a mainstay food sold at most Malaysian food stalls.
Nowadays, you can find many different variations of Pisang Goreng, including dishes with chocolate, cheese, and vanilla ice cream, among others. Rest assured, they’re all equally delicious and will leave you wanting more!
Pisang goreng is also popular in Indonesian cuisine.
3 – Lok Lok
If you’re indecisive about what to eat for dinner or looking for supper options in Malaysia, Lok Lok is, without a doubt, a tried and tested go-to. Lok Lok describes an array of steamboat-style foods served on skewers.
You’ll have a wide range of options, including meat, vegetables, and a combination of both, to choose from.
Once you have chosen your skewers, the vendor will either boil them in water or fry them in oil, depending on the type of ingredients. Finally, once your skewers are cooked, you can enjoy them with a range of dipping sauces.
This street food is usually sold from food trucks throughout Malaysia, especially during the evening or at night.
4 – Vadai
Originating in India, vadai is a savory, doughnut-shaped snack, made of dhal, lentils, and flour, and comes in two varieties: ulunthu (soft) or masala (crunchy).
The mixture for many Vadai can also include curry leaves, dried chili, and onions. Vadai is often served with a side of chutney or curry, and you can get the best Vadai in Malaysia from stalls in Brickfields, Klang, or Penang.
Related: Indian Foods You Need to Try
5 – Rojak
Rojak is a common dish in Malaysia, and can be found in so many places, including food trucks, roadside stalls, or even the local Kopitiam. The dish is a mixture of vegetables, fruits, peanuts, and unique-tasting sauces.
There are numerous variations of Rojak, depending on where you get it. For instance, Penang Rojak tends to be sweet, whereas Subang Rojak is a savory dish, with plenty of spice. Therefore, it’s always best to ask the vendors about the taste of their Rojak before trying it.
6 – Chee Cheong Fun
Chee Cheong Fun is a dish of steamed rice noodle rolls, either served as they are or with a wide range of delicious fillings.
This dish was first introduced to Malaysians by Chinese immigrants in the 19th century, and today is a dish loved by people of all races in Malaysia.
The steamed rice noodle rolls have a thin and smooth texture. While wholesome on their own, the rolls are incredibly delicious with fillings, which commonly include beef, shrimp, mushroom, or pork, along with a sauce. You can also enjoy a simpler Chee Cheong Fun dressed with shallots and sesame seeds.
7 – Teh Tarik
Teh Tarik is a hot beverage, and the process of making it is very much a skillful art. The name “Teh Tarik” literally means “pulled tea.” This refers to the process of preparing Teh Tarik, in which it has to be repeatedly poured (which looks like the tea is being “pulled”) between two cups so that the beverage becomes frothy.
Teh Tarik has a bittersweet taste and can be served hot or cold. You can order Teh Tarik at practically all local Malaysian stalls or eateries because it’s a very common beverage. When ordering Teh Tarik, you can customize it to your liking by asking for more or less evaporated milk and sugar in the beverage.
8 – Dodol
Dodol is one of the most authentic Malaysian street foods because it is made entirely of native ingredients such as palm sugar, pandan, and coconut.
Renowned for its sticky, chewy texture, today there are so many variations of this sweet, bite-sized street food to try, two of which include Dodol Durian and Coconut Durian.
However, the most famous variation is Dodol Gula Melaka which, as the name suggests, is hugely popular in Melaka. This is because Dodol Gula Melaka uses Gula Melaka, a special type of sugar only found in Melaka.
9 – Cakoi
Cakoi is a long golden-brown deep-fried strip of dough that can be consumed on its own or dipped in soups or porridges. It has a soft and crispy texture, making it ideal for a light breakfast or supper.
There are many Cakoi stalls throughout Malaysia, but two of the most famous ones are in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, and Pantai Dalam, Kuala Lumpur.
You can watch Cakoi being freshly prepared at these stalls and served with homemade sauces. On top of that, these stalls sell Cakoi for as low as 50 cents, which is an incredible deal!
10 – Asam Laksa
Asam Laksa is a juicy and flavorful noodle soup. The broth is made from shredded mackerel fish and tamarind juice, making for a wonderous blend of spicy, sour, sweet, and savory flavors in each and every mouthful.
Once prepared, the broth is then poured over noodles and served with onion, chilies, cucumber, and pineapple.
This dish is typically associated with Penang because it’s widely accepted as the best place to get a taste of Asam Laksa. However, you can also get comparable Asam Laksa in many other parts of Malaysia.
11 – Chicken Rice
One of the healthiest, protein-packed street foods you can eat in Malaysia is chicken rice.
Quite literally a dish of chicken and rice, the chicken can be served either steamed or roasted, and you can request different parts of the chicken (breast, thigh, or legs), depending on your preference.
The dish is completed with various condiments, including chili sauce, peanuts, ginger, or soy sauce. The simple yet flavourful chicken rice recipe can be found practically anywhere in Malaysia.
12 – Keropok Lekor
The state of Terengganu is home to the original Keropok Lekor. It is a dish of ground fish, commonly bream (Ikan Kerisi) or round scad (Ikan Selayang), mixed with sago flour and seasoning and shaped into sausages.
The sausages are then fried, and the dish is known for its strong fishy smell and soft texture. It is traditionally served hot with a chili dipping sauce, otherwise known as sambal.
13 – Cendol Durian
Durian is an exotic fruit, native to Malaysia and some other Asian countries, renowned for its pungent smell. However, it takes center stage in Cendol Durian, a layered ice-shaving dessert served with chunks of durian and other toppings such as coconut milk, jelly, and sugar syrup.
Cendol Durian is perfect for anyone as a cold, refreshing dessert for the hot Malaysian weather. Arguably the best place to try Cendol Durian is at Jonker 888, Melaka, the most famous hawker stall on the streets of Melaka.
Read more: Asian Fruits You Need to Try
14 – Ketupat Nasi
Although Ketupat is a famous delicacy traditionally eaten during the month of Ramadan, it can be found all year round (although it is far more challenging to find).
Originating in Indonesia, Ketupat is a traditional street food that symbolizes apology and blessing. It is a dish of rice cakes tightly wrapped in coconut leaves weaved in a criss-cross pattern.
Ketupat is known for its strong fragrance and smooth texture. It is a staple dish in Malay cuisine, commonly used as a substitute for plain rice.
Ketupat is commonly served with rendang (a type of “dry” curry), chicken, and vegetables.
15 – Sirap Bandung
Much like the Starbucks Pink Drink, Sirap Bandung is a truly refreshing beverage, perfect to quench your thirst in the hot Malaysian weather!
Sirap Bandung is a sweet-tasting rose syrup drink available everywhere in Malaysia and in many parts of Southeast Asia. It has a strong, pleasant floral aroma and is delightfully sweet and creamy.
Some stalls will even make this beverage with homemade rose syrup. These Sirap Bandung, in particular, have a fresher, more distinguishable taste.
So, the next time you feel thirsty while walking the streets of Malaysia, order yourself a glass of Sirap Bandung.
16 – Nasi Lemak
For many Malaysians, Nasi lemak is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of home. Malaysians love Nasi Lemak; so much so that it’s even sometimes referred to as our national dish!
This street food consists of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It’s served with sambal, anchovies, cucumber, and peanuts.
Aside from its heartiness and delicious taste, Nasi Lemak is very nutritious and a go-to at all times of the day.
Perhaps it’s the taste, or maybe it’s the simplicity of this dish; regardless, Nasi Lemak is undoubtedly one of the most loved foods among Malaysians.
17 – Cekodok
Cekodok, also called “Jemput-Jemput” or “Cucur,” is a common Malaysian street food consisting of fried mashed banana. These tasty banana balls have a crispy outside and a sweet and chewy inside.
This street food is usually eaten as a snack with a cup of coffee and tea. If your taste palate leans more to the savory side, you can also find Cekodok made of prawns or anchovies instead of bananas.
18 – Air Tebu
Sugarcane juice is a sweet and refreshing beverage that all Malaysians love, especially on a hot day. The original Air Tebu does not contain any added sugar, and the juice is freshly extracted for you by vendors.
Although you can get Air Tebu all year round, sugarcane plantations in Malaysia are typically in season from June to December. Therefore, it is best to try sugarcane juice during this time as it’ll be naturally sweeter and fresher.
Sugarcane juice is also available in many parts of the world where sugarcane grows, such as in Latin America, India, North Africa, and, of course, Southeast Asia.
Malaysian Street Food Summary
To truly experience the passion and purity of Malaysian cooking, you simply have to look to the street vendors and food markets.
Malaysian street food is loved and enjoyed by people from all parts of the country and is a huge part of Malaysian culture. These dishes are just the tip of the iceberg, and I urge you to try as much as you can from vendors and night markets during your visit – you’re in for a flavor-fueled treat, that’s for sure!
You Might Also Like to Read
- Malaysian Food: 18 Traditional and Popular Dishes to Try
- 20 Malaysian Desserts You Need to Try in Malaysia
- 17 Beautiful Places to Visit in Malaysia for a Memorable Trip
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Local Insight Contributor: Irshika Suthakar is a writer and content creator from Kulai, Malaysia. She writes about a number of social and cultural topics in both English and Malay for many publications.
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