While it’s easy to find hotels in Malaysia due to all the tourist companies, it can be hard to find good food. There are a variety of ways to find the good food, however.
One such way to find the best restaurants to eat at in Malaysia is to take a food tour. There are plenty of companies that offer these in Kuala Lumpur and the rest of Malaysia. One such tour offers an itinerary of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian food with a night market at the end. The tour is called “Off the Eaten Path”, as the restaurants do not usually attract tourists by themselves.
The food tours are also often available in the center of whichever city they are being held in. The tours offer the ability to see the best restaurants that a tourist may not otherwise try.
Another interesting thing to try while in Malaysia would the be Durian fruit. While many hotels will have signs that say “No Durian” in front of the building, the Durian fruit is actually quite delicious. It has a reputation for being a very stinky fruit – some have even described it as smelling like rotting human flesh. However, it is quite bitter but a foreign fruit that is difficult to find anywhere else. Descriptions from people all over the world and through time vary, but the best description of the taste is that is is a custard flavored with almonds (Alfred Russel Wallace).
Before one even begins to think about what to eat, there are two distinctly Malaysian additions that should be familiar to the tourist – at least, in concept. The first is called sambal and the second is belacan.
Belacan is a fish paste. Often sold as a solid block, the paste is made of dried shrimp that have fermented. While all it is is fish, it adds savory flavor and a backdrop that’s full to any dish it’s added to. Despite the fishy taste and incredibly pungent smell, it’s used in pretty much any dish: from sambal (explained below) to fruit salads. Even if the food is supposed to be sweet (such as fruit salad for example), belacan is usually cooked or toasted before it is used in the dish.
Sambal combines sweet, tart, salty, fish, and spicy into one blend. The main ingredients are chilies, lime juice from Calamansi limes, and belacan – explained above. Many dishes have this as an ingredient, a side, or an option to eat with the dish. Being sweet, fishy, spicy, tart, and salty is a distinct part of Malaysian food.
Other popular dishes to look out for in Malay restaurants range from those with fish to some that are simply out of the ordinary for the every day tourist.
One such other dish to try is called “nasi lemak“. This is the Malaysian version of a full breakfast. It is essentially an egg, cucumber, chicken curry, and ikan bilis – or anchovies. Large fried fish or a large chicken wing are also common accommodations with this dish. Sambal or curry are often spicy with this dish.
Mee rebus is another dish to try. This is simply egg noodles that are served in a sweet, slightly spicy gravy. The gravy is potato based. There’s usually a slice or two of boiled egg and some lime as well.
For a vegetarian, lontong is a good choice since it is one of the few dishes in Malay that has no meat. The dish is cooked in a yellow coconut gravy with cubed overcooked rice, and usually contains vegetables, tempeh, and soohoon.