1. Char Kuey Teow (Penang)
Char Kway Teow, Char Koay Teow or Char Kuey Teow – it doesn’t really matter how it’s spelt. The one thing you need to know is that Malaysians are experts at spicing up the humble rice noodle, and Char Kuey Teow is one of the most incredible inventions. A masterpiece of smooth noodles stir-fried in soy sauce, egg, bean sprouts, cockles, prawns, chilli, and cooked over a smoky charcoal fire – the fragrant dish is a sensory explosion of taste and smell.
Though the noodles can be found all over Malaysia (and in fact Southeast Asia), Penangites prepare the dish their own special, extra-delicious way, and ‘Penang Char Kuey Teow’ was born. You’ll be able to find vendors hawking the noodles on just about every street corner, but for the ultimate Penang experience, head to the much-raved about Sister’s Char Koay Teow stall in Georgetown. Though the original Sisters have since passed their wok on to younger descendants, the family’s decades-old trademark recipe remains intact – expect nothing less than an incredibly well-balanced dish of Char Kuey Teow with just the right combination of sweet, savoury and spicy.
Where to find: Sister’s Char Koay Teow
Address: 185, Jalan Macalister, Georgetown, 10400 Georgetown, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Fragrant, smooth and scrumptious, the perfect plate of Char Kway Teow is well worth the effort.
Read more: 5 best places for hawker food in Penang
2. Hokkien Char Mee (Kuala Lumpur)
Another glorious noodle dish that’s heaven for your palate (and hell on your cholesterol) – Fried Hokkien Mee, done dark as sin in true KL style. Unlike the light-coloured variations found in other cities, Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Mee (also known as Hokkien Char Mee) is a deep, rich brown thanks to its main ingredient, dark soy sauce. Braised together with thick yellow noodles, caramel, pork lard, squid, and some cabbage, don’t be surprised if the flavourful zing of the silky noodles haunts your tongue for hours after.
Get your noodle fix at KL’s oldest Hokkien Mee restaurant, Kim Lian Kee. Rumoured to be the actual birthplace of Hokkien Char Mee, this amazing restaurant has been serving its signature noodles for over 100 years and has developed its own devoted following amongst the locals.
Where to find: Restoran Kim Lian Kee
Address: 49, Jalan Petaling, 50000, City Center, Kuala Lumpur
_Every bite of this is an explosion of taste in your mouth. Photo credit: babe_kl / Flickr_
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3. Assam Laksa (Penang)
Penang is known as Malaysia’s food capital, so its unsurprising that the state can claim yet another fabulous dish to its name – Assam Laksa, the spicy devil that Malaysians just can’t get enough of. Imagine a bowl of smooth white noodles drenched in a tangy orange soup that’s spicy and sour all at once (a la Thai tom yum style) thanks to the magical spices tamarind, lemongrass and chilli. Add some slices of shredded poached fish, pineapple and a dash of belacan sauce into the mix and you’ve got yourself a bowl of mouthwatering Assam Laksa.
Can’t wait to get your hands on some already? Try your luck at Kim’s Laksa, one of Penang’s most beloved laksa stalls.
Where to find: Kim’s Laksa
Address: 67, Nan Guang Coffee Shop, Jalan Balik Pulau, 11000, Balik Pulau, Penang
Give your tongue a tingly treat with the tangy taste of Assam Laksa. Photo credit:
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4. Bak Kut Teh (Klang)
Directly translated, Bak Kut Teh means ‘meat bone tea’ in English and sounds like the work of some mad chef who got confused in the kitchen one day. Don’t worry, though – there’s no trace of tea in this savoury dish, which actually consists of meaty pork ribs slowly simmered in a rich broth of herbs and spices (like pepper, garlic, star anise and cinnamon amongst others) for many hours before being served in a clay pot, accompanied by fragrant white rice.
The exact combination of spices in the broth differs from city to city, but in Klang the consistency of the soup is generally thicker and darker, with a more pronounced herbal taste. Sample a fine example of Klang-style Bak Kut Teh at the Lai Hing Restaurant in Klang itself, an establishment that has had 25 years of history in making this scrumptious dish.
Where to find: Restoran Lai Hing Bak Kut Teh
Address: 107, Jalan Chan Ah Choo, Pandamaran, 42000 Port Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
Few things are more comforting than a warm herbal broth paired with tender pork ribs. Photo credit: wormy lau / Flickr
5. Nasi Lemak (Klang Valley)
No list of Malaysian food would be complete without a mention of the country’s national dish, Nasi Lemak. The standard breakfast fare of Malaysians from every corner of the peninsula, Nasi Lemak is as much a part of life as clean water and fresh air. The charmingly simple dish consists of white rice sweetened with coconut cream and cooked with pandan leaves, served with a variety of savoury sides like fried fish, salted peanuts, a hard-boiled egg, anchovies, and a dollop of sambal sauce.
Though Nasi Lemak can be found throughout Malaysia, many of the most sought-after stalls are located in Klang Valley. Our recommendation? Nasi Lemak Tanglin in Kuala Lumpur, which has been in business since 1948 and is considered by many the Holy Grail of Nasi Lemak stalls.
Where to find: Nasi Lemak Tanglin
Address: Gerai No 6, Kompleks Makan Tanglin, Jalan Cendrasari, KL City Centre, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Forget scrambled eggs and bacon and wake up to a plate of Nasi Lemak. Photo credit: Mo Riza / Flickr
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6. Chendol (Melaka)
After a smorgasbord of rich, savoury dishes, a palate-cleansing sweet treat could not be more welcome. Enter Chendol, the cold dessert ubiquitous in Peranakan cuisine. Made with coconut milk, green jelly, red beans and shaved ice, a bowl of refreshing Chendol is the perfect finish to any Peranakan meal.
Get some at the popular Nyonya Makko Restaurant, a 30-year-old establishment that’s a top favourite with locals and tourists alike for its authentic Peranakan offerings.
Where to find: Nonya Makko Restaurant
Address: 123, Jalan Merdeka, Taman Melaka Raya, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia
Sweet, cold and with crunchy bits of jelly within it, Chendol is the perfect end to a savoury Malaysian meal. Photo credit: Jonathan Lin / Flickr
7. Kolo Mee (Sarawak)
If you’ve not had enough of scrumptious noodles yet, a visit to Malaysia’s Borneo island would give you access to a whole new world of amazing gastronomic creations. Sarawak’s capital city Kuching, for example, is famed for a whole other egg noodle dish that looks nothing like its counterparts in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Called Kolo Mee, these noodles are usually cooked in pork lard or shallot oil and are complemented with slices of barbecued pork, vegetables, and minced meat. Unlike the sauce-drenched Char Kway Teow and Hokkien Mee, Kolo Mee is more of a dry noodle dish. As such, the quality of the noodles – its smooth texture and springiness, for example – is emphasised and becomes a make-or-break point for a bowl of good Kolo Mee.
New to the dish? Let the Noodle Experts give you an education (and a good meal on top of that).
Where to find: Noodle Experts
Address: Lot 10716, Kenyalang Park Shopping Centre, Jalan Sim Kheng Hong, Wisma Lai Suee Yian, 93300 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Though a dry noodle dish, Kolo Mee still packs a punch in the taste department. Photo credit: Vernon Chan / Flickr
8. Nasi Kerabu (Kelantan)
Before you go away thinking that all Malaysian dishes are lard-fried plates of heart attack, let us introduce you to Nasi Kerabu, a healthy Kelantanese Rice Salad consisting of rice, thinly-sliced vegetables, fruits and herbs. The rice itself is merely steamed (no coconut cream here) but is, interestingly, also dyed blue with the help of the Butterfly Pea Flower. As such, expect a bright and colourful salad that makes eating healthy actually seem fun for a change.
Get your Nasi Kerabu fix at the Yati Ayam Percik restaurant in Kota Bharu, but do go early as the restaurant has been known to run out of its funky blue-coloured rice due to high demand.
Where to find: Yati Ayam Percik
Address: 847 Jalan Long Yunus, Kota Bharu 15200, Malaysia