Malaysia is a fascinating country with so much interesting food. And a lot of what’s available is vegetarian.
Whether you’re in the bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur, the sandy beaches of Penang or the lush rainforests of Borneo, you’ll never be short of a good veg feed.
Malaysia’s multicultural background is proudly displayed in its cuisine. There is an abundance of Malay and Nonya, Chinese and Indian food available, so there’s always something to excite your tastebuds.
Food is an important part of daily life in Malaysia. Aside from common meals like nasi lemak and char kwey teow, these are some vegetarian dishes that are popular with visitors and locals alike.
1. Roti canai
Roti canai (pronounced row-tee chen-eye) is a simple and common breakfast dish consisting of handmade soft and flaky flatbread served with curry. The best way to eat this is tear up the roti and dip in to the accompanying dhal or curry.
Popiah (pronounced pop-yah) is a handy snack to grab when you don’t have time to sit down for a meal. The fresh spring rolls are filled with red bean paste, turnip cooked with sugar, bean curd, shredded lettuce, finely grated carrot and cucumber, bean sprouts, cooked egg and chilli paste wrapped up in a soft, thin crepe. The translucent popiah skin is made with rice flour or wheat flour and water, combined to create a sticky dough that is expertly slapped onto a hotplate, leaving an ultra thin layer of crepe that is cooked very quickly.
Laksa is a hugely popular noodle soup. It’s hot and spicy, and made with coconut milk or sour tamarind (assam). It contains chilli, vegetables, rice noodles and green vegetables. I’m not sure how the locals manage eating these hot, filling bowls in the Malaysian humidity but they are certainly worth trying. For a vegetarian version ask for one made without fish paste.
Steamboat is the best kind of interactive eating. A large pot of water with your choice of stock is delivered to the table on a small gas stove. You then cook the meal at your leisure. Fresh ingredients (including lots of green vegetables) are provided and you add them to the boiling pot to cook. It’s fast food at it’s finest as each batch cooks in minutes. It’s a great meal for a group as everyone can have a turn at cooking and serving.
5. Kaya toast
Kaya is a sweet coconut jam made with coconut milk, sugar and eggs. Thick slices of white bread are toasted and buttered then topped with lashings of kaya. This is mostly enjoyed at breakfast with coffee or tea.
6. Bee hoon
Bee hoon is a simple stir fried rice noodle dish. Usually it contains crispy tofu strips, green vegetables and two types of chilli sauce. This cheap street food dish is affectionately known as ‘economy’ bee hoon because it’s so affordable.
7. Ice cendol
Ice cendol (pronounced chen-doll) is a bowl of shaved ice. It’s topped with coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, sweet corn kernels, red beans and jelly noodles. It’s the perfect dessert to enjoy in the Malaysian heat. The ice melts quickly so you need to eat fast!
Read more of my Malaysian trip here. Have you ever been?
I’d love to hear about your favourite vegetarian Malaysian eats!
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