14 Unique Malaysian Rice Dishes To Enjoy in Malaysia
In Malaysia, rice this the staple food, BUT did you know that there are unique Malaysian Rice Dishes you can taste and replicate when you are home?
There were so many ways to cook rice to make these tasty dishes you can find (and must-try) in Malaysia.
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Table of Contents for Unique Malaysian Rice Dishes
- Nasi Ayam (Hainanese Chicken Rice)
- Banana Leaf Rice
- Nasi Dagang (Kelantan & Trengganu)
- Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)
- Nasi Kandar (Rice with Curries)
- Nasi Kerabu (Kelantan)
- Nasi Kunyit (Turmeric Rice)
- Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)
- Nasi Minyak (The Wedding Rice)
- Nasi Tomato (Tomato Rice)
- Nasi Tumpang (Kelantan)
- Nasi Ulam (Kelantan & Nyonya)
- Linopot (Sabah)
- Nuba ‘Laya (Sarawak)
1 Nasi Ayam (Hainanese Chicken Rice)
Nasi Ayam (Hainanese Chicken Rice) has two lovely variations of this Chicken and Rice dish that you must try.
Hainanese Chicken Rice is a dish of poached chicken and seasoned rice, served with chili sauce and usually with cucumber garnishes.
The dish was first brought to Malaysia by Chinese traders from the Hainan province.
To this day, Hainanese Chicken Rice remains the most popular lunch meal in Malaysia.
You can find this in Kopitiam or any of The Chicken Rice Shop franchise in any shopping mall in Malaysia.
The Chicken Rice is cooked in chicken fat, chicken stock, pandan leaves, and seasoned ginger.
Hainanese Chicken Rice is served with either poached or roasted chicken.
The condiments are ginger garlic chili sauce, soy sauce, cucumber slices, sometimes bean sprouts, and a bowl of chicken broth.
After being steeped in boiling water until it is fully cooked, they soak the chicken in cold water to make sure that it retains its tenderness.
Alternatively, the chicken is deep-fried whole but is called roasted.
The Malay community has its version, called Nasi Ayam.
The rice cooked is with star anise, and the marinated chicken pieces are deep-fried just before serving.
2 Banana Leaf Rice
A Banana Leaf Rice meal in itself is quite an experience – power-packed with spicy and sour flavors.
Instead of plates, food is served on a whole banana leave.
You can have a Banana Leaf Rice meal with or without meat.
Traditionally, you enjoyed using the fingers instead of cutleries, whereby eating is treated as a sensual activity as you feel your food.
A typical meal of Banana Leaf Rice has a hefty serving of parboiled rice with 2 to 3 types of vegetables, rich curries, ‘Papadam’ and ‘rasam’ (sour soup).
You have a choice of curries to select from Chicken, Fish, or Dhal.
It is considered a courtesy to fold the banana leaf toward you at the end of the meal, indicating satisfaction with a good meal.
With the large South Indian ethnic community in Malaysia, Banana Leaf Rice restaurants are widely available.
3 Nasi Dagang (Kelantan and Trengganu)
Nasi Dagang is a popular breakfast staple in the east coast states of Kelantan and Trengganu.
The unique red-colored rice is made from husked red rice (or the combination of jasmine and glutinous white rice) steamed in coconut milk.
The flavorful Nasi Dagang is usually served accompanied by a spicy flavor-packed fish curry Gulai Ikan Tongkol, Acar (pickled vegetables), hard-boiled eggs, toasted coconut, sambal, and fish crackers.
4 Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)
Nasi Goreng refers to “fried rice” in Malay.
There are many varieties of Nasi Goreng in Malaysia as you wish, including Nasi Goreng USA.
In fact, every Malaysian household has its own fried rice recipe.
The great thing about cooking Nasi Goreng is that it doesn’t require many ingredients, effort, or cooking skills.
Almost any teen can produce a sumptuous meal of Nasi Goreng using overnight rice and an egg.
5 Nasi Kandar (Penang)
Nasi Kandar is a classic Malaysian dish that combines steamed rice and an assortment of different curries, sides, and condiments.
According to fans, you can find the best Nasi Kandar in Indian Muslim restaurants in Penang.
Many people, including dignitaries, are willing to journey to Penang just for a plate of the best Nasi Kandar.
“NASI, ayam goreng, kuah campur banjir”.
Essentially, Nasi Kandar is white rice with a mixture of rich curry gravy served with a simple combination of vegetables, meats, but it’s comfort food for many.
Diehard fans will tell you that it is the combination of the various curry gravies that make the Nasi Kandar taste irreplaceable.
In the old days, the vendors would go around George Town selling their rice and curries in two wicker baskets balanced using traditional kandar bamboo sticks, eventually giving the dish its current name.
Nowadays, Nasi Kandar is sold at hawker centers across the country and is traditionally enjoyed as breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper.
6 Nasi Kerabu (Kelantan & Nyonya)
Nasi Kerabu is traditionally blue since they cooked together with the petals of the butterfly pea flower.
The color is for aesthetic purposes and doesn’t change the taste or smell of the rice.
Nasi Kerabu is typically served with raw vegetables such as finely shredded cabbage, long beans, and bean sprouts or cucumbers tossed with grated coconuts and fresh herbs.
Other side dishes include salted eggs, sambal, stuffed green chilis, fermented fish paste, and fish crackers.
Nasi Kerabu goes very well with Ayam Percik (roasted chicken with a thick coating of coconut-based gravy).
7 Nasi Kunyit (Turmeric Rice)
Literally meaning “turmeric rice,” Nasi Kunyit is often prepared to celebrate special events such as a wedding, graduation, the birth of a baby, or the arrival of an important guest.
So, if you go to someone’s house and cook this, feel exceptional!
Nasi Kunyit typically uses glutinous rice and is eaten with meat curry or rendang.
8 Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)
Nasi Lemak Bungkus of the most popular breakfast item in Malaysia.
A simple rice dish cooked in coconut milk, Nasi Lemak is served with a spicy red chili gravy called sambal, fried anchovies, peanuts, boiled egg, and cucumber slices.
The basic Nasi Lemak can be upgraded by adding sides like Fried Chicken, Beef Curry, Bendi (Okra), or even topped up with a crispy Fried Egg.
The breakfast version is a small cup of cooked coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves or plastic-lined old newspaper.
You can find Nasi Lemak Bungkus in almost any cafe, restaurant, and street vendor in the morning.
Nasi Lemak is a versatile dish and is often found on the menus of fancy restaurants or hotels.
The popularity of Nasi Lemak from Malaysian street stall vendors has evolved into a national dish loved by all Malaysians.
9 Nasi Minyak (The Wedding Rice)
Nasi Minyak literally meaning ‘oil rice,’ a rich and luxurious dish usually only served at Malay weddings or special occasions and rarely sold in restaurants.
Nasi Minyak is cooked with clarified butter (Ghee) and a mixture of five types of spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, and stock for that special taste and fantastic fragrance and flavor.
Many recognized this fragrant rice from its significant shade of bright yellow and that wonderful aroma that you can detect miles away.
Whenever someone in Malaysia mentions Nasi Minyak, the next question on the lips of Malaysians is “Where is the Wedding?”
Nasi Minyak is associated with big celebrations and is served to commemorate weddings or the Muslim’s thanksgiving ceremony.
Don’t forget the side dishes; Fried Chicken, Acar, Spicy Tomato Chicken, and Beef Rendang to spice things up.
10 Nasi Tomato (Tomato Rice)
Nasi Tomato (or Tomato Rice) is a flavorful Malaysian rice dish with a complex mix of tomatoes’ sweet and tart tastes.
The rice is cooked with the key ingredient, tomatoes (either tomato sauce or paste), coconut milk, garlic, onion, ginger, and dried spices.
Nasi Tomato is best paired with Ayam Masak Merah (spicy tomato chicken) and Acar (pickled vegetables.). The combination is rich and flavourful.
11 Nasi Tumpang or Nasi Tupe (Kelantan)
Traditionally, this flavorful Kelantanese dish, Nasi Tumpang, comprises rice layered with various dishes, then wrapped inside a cone-shaped banana leaf.
Nasi Tumpang typically has thick curries, eggs, cucumbers, and spicy coconut flakes.
Traditionally, it was a staple food among travelers, or farmers in Kelantan to bring to work.
Nowadays, Nasi Tumpang is enjoyed as a hearty breakfast.
12 Nasi Ulam ‘Herb Rice’ (Kelantan & Nyonya)
Nasi Ulam is a traditional flavorful Malay dish of well-chilled rice steamed rice served various fresh herbs and vegetables.
There are two versions available.
The Nasi Ulam made by the Peranakan ethnic minority or Nyonya has finely chopped raw fresh herbs, shallots, Kerisik (toasted and pounded coconut), Sambal Belacan, Dried Shrimps, and Salted Fish.
For Kelantan eaters, Nasi Ulam is a feast of rice with Crispy Fried Catfish, Sambal, Tempoyak, and mind-blowing ‘Budu’ sauce.
Nowadays, Nasi Ulam is enjoyed throughout Malaysia.
Over to Sabah and Sarawak Unique Malaysian Rice Dishes
In Sabah and Sarawak, two types of rice are served wrapped in leaves.
13 Linopot (Sabah)
Although Linopot is typically served during festive seasons or traditional Sabahan wedding ceremonies, we can now find it in restaurants.
The dish is rice wrapped in a type of leaf called “tarap” and cooked with yam or sweet potato.
14 Nuba ‘Laya (Sarawak)
One of the most interesting leaf-wrapped food in Sarawak, Nuba’ Laya, also known as ‘fragrant Bario Rice,’ is Mashed Rice wrapped in leaves.
The leaves used are called Daun Long in Iban, “isip” or “itip” in Kelabit.
Nuba ‘Laya is Nasi Lenyek, similar to the “mashed potato” served in fast-food restaurants. The only difference is Bario Rice is used instead of potatoes.
Nuba ‘Laya food has been part of the traditional menu of the Lun Bawang, Kelabit, and Kayan communities.
Nuba ‘Laya can especially enjoy other traditional Kelabit foods such as smoked meat, smoked fish, and more.
How many of these Unique Malaysian Rice Dishes have you tried before? Which one is your favorite?
We would love to hear your comment below.