Malaysia has often been described as heaven for food lovers both local and abroad. The cuisine reflects the country’s multi-ethnic population where the signature dishes of various ethnic groups have soared to even greater heights thanks to the multiple ethnic influences that are uniquely Malaysian. The three main ethnic groups—Malay, Chinese and Indian—provide most Malaysians and tourists with their fill but for food connoisseurs, they can also choose from a number of different styles as well such as Western, Nyonya, Portuguese, Thai and more. Several international fast food chains can be found operating here as well, a perfect complement to the local food bazaars and road side stalls.
Malay food is often times described as spicy and flavourful as it utilizes a rich mixture of spices and herbs. Malay dishes can be distinguished into a few methods of cooking namely masak merah (tomato sauce), masak lemak (coconut milk), masak asam (sour-ish tamarind) and masak pedas (spicy). Some of the popular dishes that you wouldn’t want to miss include nasi lemak (coconut milk steamed rice), sambal belacan (shrimp paste with pounded chillies), beef rendang (dried beef curry), satay (barbecued skewered meat) and serunding (meat floss).
Chinese food in Malaysia is derived from mainland Chinese cuisine but has been influenced by local ingredients and dishes from other cultures in Malaysia though it remains distinctly Chinese. Popular dishes among locals and tourists alike include dim sum, sweet and sour dishes, char siew (sweet barbecued pork) and bak kut teh (herbal soup).
Popular for their curries, banana leaf rice and breads such as chapati, naan and roti (called prata in some countries), Indian food has been assimilated with Malay food through mixed marriages among Indians and Malays, resulting in what is locally known as mamak (Indian Muslim), which cannot be found in India itself. Mamak restaurants can be found all over Malaysia, especially in the peninsular, and can be seen populated till the wee hours of the morning by people from all walks of life.