Malaysian Street Food – Delicious Must-Try Hawker Dishes
Malaysian street food is exciting, eclectic, and bursting with myriad flavours.
The first time you arrive in Malaysia, you will find little mobile kitchens set up on the streets.
These pushcarts or stalls are where Malaysians head to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper every day.
On the weekends, entire families or groups of friends will choose to hang out at the Food Courts or Warungs for their fill of delicious cheap meals.
Most of the food has Malay, Chinese, Indian, and even Thai influences.
If you ask a Malaysian, they will tell you their list of what’s best.
If you ask 10 Malaysians, you may get ten different lists.
So, What is the best Malaysian Street Food?
Malaysian Street Food, at best, uses exotic and straightforward ingredients to create a palate-satiating fare.
You can find noodles, pancakes to rice-based dishes, and coconut-infused snacks and cakes jostling for stomach space.
If you want to sample the local street food in Malaysia, you just can’t venture out alone to eat.
The best is to go with a group of friends, order one plate or bowl from each stall and share your meal.
Where to go for the best Malaysian Street Food?
Look out for the famous Jalan Alor Night Market in Kuala Lumpur’s heart – the street food haven.
At night Jalan Alor is a convenient destination that is it’s easily accessible if you’re staying in the city center within the Bukit Bintang area.
You can head there in the early evening to take in the night market atmosphere as the stalls set up and plan what you want to eat.
When all the brightly lit stalls light up at night, it can get a little overwhelming.
After all, you only have that much space in your tummy.
Jalan Alor Night Market
Location: Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur (behind Jalan Bukit Bintang)
Malaysian street food recipes vary in different parts of the country.
Another excellent night time Malaysian Street Food haunt is in Penang.
In George Town, Penang, they spread the street food scene over several areas.
You will need a separate 4D3N trip to cover the food courts just at these famous seafronts.
The famous Esplanade promenade is a waterfront location in the heart of George Town, Penang.
The area covers the field next to Fort Cornwallis, known locally as the Padang, and the seaside promenade along the field’s edge.
Some best kept local Malaysian Street Food delicacies are the Pasembur (Indian Muslim Salad) and fresh seafood, which you can have at a fraction of the price of restaurants or cafes in Penang.
Join the locals and enjoy the sea view and have a drink, and have a quiet night out with a plate of clams, fresh cockles, or balitung (conical snails).
Address: Padang Kota Lama, Penang
Opening Hours: all-day
Gurney Drive Hawker Center
Penang’s iconic Gurney Drive is the busiest hawker center to sample some of the best Malaysian Street Food on the island at night.
They park the street stalls vans, and the dining is a cramped cafeteria-style seating.
It is so popular that you need to go with a few friends to find seats and a table before ordering your food.
Do what the locals do.
Stand behind the table where the patrons are almost finished eating and wait patiently.
Recommended food to try in Penang Assam Laksa, Pasembur, the BBQ roasting station, and Char Koay Kak.
Opening Hours: 18:00 – 24:00
Address: Persiaran Gurney, George Town
Karpal Singh Drive
Penang’s newest seafront promenade is trendy at sunset with joggers, cyclists, and young people who love to hang out with their Boba Milk Tea.
At the Fisherman’s Wharf Food Corner, you can find one of the largest food courts in town with ample parking.
There are plenty of Malaysians Street Food favorites with some international variety – Pizzas, Japanese and Korean dishes, burgers, and Shawarma.
Opening Hours: 7:30 – 24:00
Address: Karpal Singh Drive
New World Park Food City 新世界美食城
One of the cleanest and breeziest food courts in Penang – New World Park gets crowded in the morning and during lunch hour and dinner.
Locals head here for a budget-friendly meal, without queuing to enter restaurants and cafes during the weekends.
There are over 80 Food Choices with a wide variety of street food under one roof.
If you fancy international fare, you can grab a charcoal burger, pesto pasta, and a Vietnamese Pho, too – all these at food court prices.
My favorite is the piping hot, crunchy Cucur Udang (Prawn Fritters) served with an orangey spicy-sweet sauce and chopped peanuts.
New World Park Food City 新世界美食城
Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 1:00 AM
Address: Jalan Burma, George Town, Penang
To narrow it down, here is the Top Malaysian Street Food that you must try when you’re in Malaysia for your next holidays!
Malaysian Street Food – Rice Meals
We find economy Rice Meals in all states in Malaysia.
The meals are a staple for Malaysian office workers or families who want rice and dishes but don’t cook at home.
You can find this type of food in hawker centers, street vendors, or food courts.
Economy Rice Stalls start with anywhere from 10 to 15 troughs of cooked food – meat, seafood, vegetables, eggs, and tofu dishes.
Customers select any combination of these dishes, which are served accompanied by a portion of steamed white rice.
You select the type of rice you want and pick your dishes. The price of your meal depends on your selection of the dishes.
There are different Economy Rice Meals available in Malaysia.
Travel Tips: Most Economy Rice stall charge by the ladle of dishes. So even if you take half a spoon full, they may charge you the total price.
If you’re eating with a friend, take about three dishes each and share. You get to sample 6 dishes this way.
Chinese Economy Rice (Chinese)
At Chinese Economic Rice stalls, you can find various Chinese stir-fried dishes, soups, and even some curries.
Nasi Melayu (Malay)
Nasi Melayu stalls provide a more nutritious serve of greens and proteins from eating a noodle dish.
You will find curries, beef, mutton, chicken, fried fish, vegetables, eggs, bean curd, and fresh raw greens.
The cooked dishes are deep fried, stir-fries, and curries.
You will enjoy the fresh raw herbs, raw vegetables, and sambal belacan dips.
Nasi Kandar (Indian Muslim)
Nasi Kandar is a popular northern Malaysian dish, which originates from Penang.
Tamil Muslim traders from India popularize the rice meal.
It is a straightforward steamed rice meal or mildly flavored and served with various curries and side dishes.
Nasi Biryani (Indian, Malay)
You can order fragrant spiced rice, Nasi Biryani, accompanied by delicious Curry Chicken.
‘Nasi Briyani’ is the love of many Malaysians at Indian or Malay food outlets.
Nasi Lemak – Malaysia’s Favorite Meal (Malay, Chinese)
Nasi Lemak is Malaysia’s iconic national food – a rice dish cooked in fragrant coconut milk topped with fried peanuts, crunchy anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, and doused with that addictive red sweet-spicy sambal.
Head to an outlet serving specialty hot Nasi Lemak with Spicy Fried Chicken for an indulgent, finger-licking meal.
You can usually find nasi lemak served at many Kopitiam, Malay restaurants, and roadside stalls.
Chicken Rice is A popular Malaysian street food lunch meal and is easily found all over Kuala Lumpur.
Chicken Rice is served with a choice of Steamed or Roasted Chicken, drizzled with soy sauce, garlic oil, cucumber slices, and spring onions.
Typically, you can also find roast pork belly, barbecued pork at the stalls.
In some stalls, you may even find braised eggs, tofu, Lor Bak, and a Chai Boey or Choy Keok (Hot and Sour Chinese Mustard Vegetable Stew).
They make duck rice of either Braised or Roasted Duck with Braised Eggs, Tofu, and served with plain white rice and a gravy made from drippings.
Roast Pork Rice
Chinese Crispy Roast Pork Belly and Honey BBQ Pork are great rice meal staples served with plain white rice.
Some stalls sell Chicken Rice but will include the other roast meats as well.
Malaysian Street Food – Roasted Meals
Barbecued Chicken Wings (Chinese)
Malaysian Street Food is not complete without perfectly char-grilled chicken wings and thighs cooked over a smoky charcoal grill.
These fantastic chicken wings marinated with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and honey is a winner with locals and visitors.
The meat was tender and slid off the bone easily.
The skin itself is crispy, sweet, and sticky.
One of the best indulgences for a late-night supper with beers.
If you see a stall with Chicken Wings basting on a long skewer stacked over hot flaming coals – you must order!
One of the best-loved Malaysian Street Food, the satay, is juicy chunks of BBQ meat on sticks.
You can get Chicken, Beef, and Lamb.
For RM12 (approx. US$3), you’ll get ten sticks of satay.
Each chunk of meat is juicy, chewy lean meat and melt-in-your-mouth fats with a sweet, smoky flavor.
They serve satay with raw onions and cucumber and a spicy-sweet peanut sauce.
Some stalls sell this with Ketupat (compress rice cubes)
Ikan Bakar (Malay, Chinese)
In Malaysia, Ikan Bakar usually refers to a medley of seafood from stingray, Seabass, mackerel, squid, cockles, prawns, and more, cooked over an open grill.
Ikan Bakar is a Malaysian Street Food that is a hit with the Malay and Chinese communities.
Both versions have a variety of grilled fish that is delicious.
The only difference is the type of dipping sauces.
Oyster Omelet (Chinese)
Finding a Fried Oyster & Egg stall that cooks this omelet well with the right wok hei and not dripping in oil is making this a great supper meal.
Each bite of juicy plump oyster, creamy with the crispy egg batter, is addictive.
Malaysian Street Food – Noodles in Soup or Gravy
One thing most visitors love the most about Malaysian food is the vast variety of noodles available.
The locals call most noodle dishes “mee.”
Malaysians have it all – from slurpy noodle soups to spicy dry-fried noodles for just a few dollars a bowl.
Kway Teow Th’ng or Kway Teow Soup (Chinese)
Pale but warm, this bowl of silky rice noodles will have you slurping it all down before you realize it.
They drench the noodles in a clear broth made from chicken, pork bone, and duck.
Toppings include fish balls, chicken, duck meat and pork slices, vegetables, spring onions, and fragrant garlic oil.
Penang Hokkien Mee (Chinese)
Not to be confused with the Stir-Fried Hokkien Mee in Klang Valley, they blanch Penang Hokkien Mee noodles in an aromatic and flavorful spicy prawn stock soup.
Essential ingredients include
- Boiled Prawns
- Pork varieties
- Mung Bean Sprouts
- Kangkong (Water spinach)
- hard-boiled egg slices.
Penang Assam Laksa (Malay/Chinese)
In Penang, the humble rice noodle soup dish Laksa is a delightful concoction of flavorful herbs in a fishy broth made sour with Assam Gelugor.
Known for its bright broth filled with flaked boiled mackerel – the dish is fragrant with lemongrass, ginger flower, and Vietnamese mint leaves tantalize your taste buds with every spoonful.
The combination of sour and spicy of the Assam Laksa’s tantalizing flavor includes shrimp paste, onion slivers, julienne cucumber, and pineapple slices.
Wan Tan Mee (Chinese)
Malaysian Wan Tan Mee, a popular noodle dish with springy egg noodles, served dry or soup.
You can get this noodle dish from roadside hawker stalls or in Kopitiam (coffee shops) in most Malaysian cities.
In the dry version, they toss the wonton noodles with a dark soy sauce and topped with boiled wontons or fried wontons, Char Siu, and some green leafy Choy Sum (Mustard Greens).
The noodles taste great with pickled green chilies – an essential condiment to this dish.
Kolo Mee (Chinese/ Sarawak)
Kolo Mee is a Sarawakian Chinese favorite – a traditional Malaysian dish comprises egg noodles tossed in soya sauce and topped with sliced barbecued pork (Char Siu), Minced Pork, and Fried Shallots.
The ingredients that pull all this together is the lashings of lard oil.
Mee Rebus (Malay)
Mee Rebus comprises blanched yellow egg noodles doused in a rich and flavorful spiced gravy thickened with mashed sweet potatoes.
Some varieties include various combinations of shrimps and shallots, and different spices and herbs.
The dish is usually topped with sliced chilies, halved boiled eggs, bean sprouts, or fried shallots, and they typically serve it with sliced limes or thick soy sauce.
Mee Udang and Mee Ketam (Malay)
The noodles and cooking method is almost similar except for the gravy.
They make the gravy from a shrimp shell and has a strong tomatoey soup taste. Similarly, it served with either fresh Prawns (Mee Udang) or Crabs (Mee Ketam).
Lor Mee (Chinese)
The gooey starchy gravy for Lor Mee is made with eggs, cornstarch, and five spices.
They top the blanched noodles with Soy Braised Hard-Boiled Eggs, Pork or Pork Belly Slices, Braised Pig Innards.
The vendors add coriander, minced garlic, black vinegar, or chili paste to the dish for extra flavors.
Laksam is a favorite steamed rolled rice noodles dish served in a creamy coconut milk broth with fish paste seasoned with ginger, shallots, and garlic.
The whole dish is complemented with sliced cucumbers or green beans and is accompanied by spicy sambal for a hearty breakfast.
Pan Mee (Chinese)
Hakka flat noodle dish, the Pan Mee, is made from simple flour-based hand-pulled noodles.
It has an anchovy broth and topped with crispy fried anchovies, ground pork, shiitake mushrooms, and some vegetables.
Occasionally, it also comes in a dry version, usually complemented by soy sauce and a poached egg.
Malaysian Street Food – Stir-Fried Noodles
Char Kway Teow (Chinese)
Malaysian Street Food’s most famous noodle is a plate of greasy stir-fried rice noodles – Char Kway Teow.
The Char Kway Teow is a robust rice noodles dish that makes a complete meal with the addition of an Egg knocked in, Prawns, Blood Cockles, Chinese sausages, Mung Bean Sprouts, and Chives.
To sum it up, Char Kway Teow is the perfect Malaysian comfort food.
The Malay stalls serve up a Kway Teow Goreng Basah, which is a spicy, wetter version.
In Sarawak, Tomato Kueh Tiaw looks a lot like Watan Hor (Hor Fun with Eggy gravy), except the gravy is of red-orange hue from tomato sauce!
The noodles are coated with ample tomato gravy with a delicate balance of tanginess and sweetness.
Economy Fried Bee Hoon
Economy Fried Bee Hoon is a staple Malaysian breakfast that is a simple dish widely enjoyed by locals.
You will find huge woks of delicious Fried Rice Vermicelli, Yellow Noodles, Kway Teow for sale.
Grab yourself a plate or packet of this delicious Economy Fried Bee Hoon and top it with fried eggs, sausages, and whatever takes your hungry fancy.
Mee Goreng Mamak (Indian Muslim)
Mamak style fried noodles – Mee Goreng Mamak is a robust, deeply flavored plate of spicy-sweet noodles with a hint of pleasant charred aroma and cuttlefish, tomatoey taste.
The ingredients are Cuttlefish, delicious Fritters, and Egg.
Malaysian Street Food – Noodles Steamed
Chee Cheong Fun (Chinese)
These thin rice noodle rolls, initially created in China, aren’t hard to find because they’re so popular.
Chee Cheong Fun is typically topped with sweet soy sauce and various types of stuffed vegetables and fried morsels.
In Penang, Chee Cheong Fun is served drizzled with chili sauce, sweet sauce, and Heko, a dark prawn paste, topped with sprinkles of toasted sesame seeds and fried shallots.
The springy rice noodles are coated with enough thick and sticky sauce that coats the roof of your mouth with an incredible after taste.
Malaysian Street Food – Salads
If there’s any food that symbolizes Malaysia, it is the Rojak, which simply means “mix” in Malay.
The spicy-sweet pungent Rojak consists of cut local fruits with vegetables like cucumber and yam bean.
Some stalls add in Cuttlefish, Beancurd Puffs, or even pieces of Youtiao for a crunchy texture.
The entire salad is mixed with a thick sauce topped with peanuts and Belacan powder.
Pasembur (Indian Muslim)
Pasembur or Indian Rojak is a Malaysian salad consisting of cucumber, potatoes, beancurd, turnip, bean sprouts, prawn fritters, spicy fried crab, fried octopus, or other kinds of seafood.
The dish is served with warm sweet and spicy nut sauce.
Pasembur is best enjoyed freshly made – the food will become too soggy if you wait too long.
Malaysian Street Food – Snacks
Cucur Udang (Malay, Indian Muslim)
“Cucur Udang” is every Malaysian’s prawn fritters eaten as teatime snacks or as an appetizer to main meals.
The crispy golden-brown crust on the outside, with softer texture with fresh shrimps, crunchiness of the Mung Bean Sprout, and a slight savory spiciness to it.
Cucur Udang is best eaten dipped with an orangey spicy-sweet sauce and chopped peanuts.
Other Malaysian favorite fritters are
- Cucur Bawang (onion fritters)
- Cucur Ikan Bilis (anchovies fritters)
- Cucur Jagung Manis (sweet corn fritters) and
- Cucur Badak (hippo fritters called thus because of its roundness)
Malaysian Street Food – Boiled Meals
Lok-Lok is a favorite dinner meal with family and friends with luscious sticks of meat and vegetables, ready to be cooked in the hot boiling soup stock.
The best part of a Lok Lok meal is you get to choose what you want to eat from the wide variety of seafood, meat, and even fried snacks.
Lok Lok is a fast, convenient Malaysian street food and a budget-friendly shared meal.
Satay Celup (Steamboat Satay)
Satay Celup is one of Malacca’s signature dishes.
The Steamboat Satay is a dish where the customers cook skewered raw or semi-cooked meat and vegetables by dipping it into a boiling pot of thick, spicy aromatic hot peanut sauce.
Diner determines how well they want their skewered food to be cooked by leaving the skewers inside the pot for as long as they like.
You can find over 80 types of skewered seafood and vegetables, chicken, cockles, abalones, fish balls, cuttlefish, mushrooms, vegetables, quail’s eggs, shrimps, and fried bean curds.
Premium food items include skewered tiger prawns, abalones, and scallops.
Malaysian Street Food – Pancakes and Flatbreads
Everyone loves pancakes, and the Malaysian varieties come in many delicious forms.
Appam is a type of sweet pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk.
Apom Balik (Malay, Chinese)
Apom Balik (Ban Chien Kuih)is a satisfying meal – a perfectly crunchy shell, a soft pancake center, and chockfull of fillings.
The delicious traditional fillings include sugar or brown sugar, sweetened corn, crushed peanuts, and even an egg!
Modern varieties may include anything from corn, chocolate chips, and raisins to grated cheese or condensed milk.
You can have two Apom Balik types – in a thin and crispy variety or as a thick and soft pancake.
Roti Canai (Indian Muslim)
Roti Canai is a flatbread of Indian origin and is a popular breakfast and supper go-to meal in Malaysia.
The Roti Canai is versatile for a savory meal or as a sweet dessert served sweet with condensed milk, bananas, or even ice cream.
For the locals, they love a spicy Roti Canai with dhal, fish, or chicken curry, and sometimes with a sunny side egg, a slice of cheese sprinkled with raw onion slivers.
Murtabak (Indian Muslim)
Murtabak is a pan-fried bread or pancake stuffed with sautéed spiced minced chicken, beef or mutton, onions, and eggs in Malaysia.
There is some variation filled with cheese, and it is an incredibly delicious filling meal.
Some modern adaptation includes the Murtabak Cheese made popular by Pakistani restaurants.
Malaysian Street Food – Burger Suppers
You can find McDonald’s easily in Malaysia, but the locals prefer a local burger called Ramly Burger.
Ramly Burger (Malay)
You can always get a burger from a fast food outlet or cafe in the mall in Malaysia.
The true unsung hero of Malaysian Street Food burgers is the Ramly Burger.
This famous cheap eat is so popular that it has even graced the shores of New York City.
A favorite late-night snack, this Malaysian-style burger can be easily found at food stalls all over Kuala Lumpur.
The best place to find one will find a Ramly Burger on the roadside curb outside a 7-Eleven!
Malaysian Street Food – Sweet Soupy Desserts
Malaysian desserts are made up of sweet cakes, Kuih (both baked and fried), and Soupy Desserts.
Tong Sui (Chinese)
Tong Sui is a soupy sweet dessert served in a bowl. There is an array of delicious options available.
- Red Bean Soup
- Green Bean Soup
- Black-eyed Pea Soup
- Peanut Paste Soup
- Black Glutinous Rice Soup
- Wheat Porridge (Gandum)
Cendol (Chinese, Indian, Indian Muslim)
A popular sweet dessert, the Cendol is the easiest way to escape from the Malaysian heat.
A bowl of the dessert is served with a shaved ice, topped with green jelly-like noodles made from mung-bean flour and screw pines, coconut milk, and palm sugar syrup.
Cendol is one of the best cheap desserts in Malaysia.
Now that you have the list of the best Malaysian Street Food – Delicious Must-Try Hawker Dishes, you need to plan to sample all the mouth-watering meals!