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13 Underrated Malaysian Food You Should Try Other Than Nasi Lemak

13 Underrated Malaysian Food You Should Try Other Than Nasi Lemak

Most of these are Malaysian food that you won’t get anywhere else or they just don’t taste the same elsewhere.

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Malaysians are proud of their food and will gladly travel far to try out different popular dishes in other states.

Tourists visiting Malaysia also fell in love with the food here such as nasi lemak, bak kut teh, banana leaf rice, and many more delicious dishes.

READ MORE: “So Expensive!” – Tourist Buying Viral Jelly Balls For RM8 A Stick Stunned Netizens

However, some believe it’s time for the tourism ministry to promote “lesser-known” food in Malaysia to tourists. Even some Malaysians have yet to explore all the food available in the country.

Here’s a list of some of the “lesser-known” Malaysian food that tourists (and locals) should try:

1. Ramly burger

Ramly has ventured into opening its fast food chain and offers other dishes other than burgers. Image: TRP File

The company Ramly Processing Sdn Bhd which manufactures the ingredients for the popular Ramly burger was founded by Ramly bin Mokni in 1984. He started as a butcher and sold burgers with his wife at street food stalls before he had an idea to start a local halal Western fast food chain.

He perfected the Ramly burger which many locals love today. Ramly Burger’s defining characteristic is having the patty wrapped in an omelette and topped with condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, chilli sauce, or Worcestershire sauce. The condiments vary in different stalls and street vendors.

READ MORE: Ramly Has Their Own Fast Food Chain And The Food Looks Great

Ramly quickly became a household name and it’s so popular that burgers that don’t use Ramly patties are sometimes still referred to as Ramly burgers.

Some Ramly burger patties such as beef patties are banned in Singapore because the meat source is not in Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore’s approved list. However, burger sellers in Singapore still use the Ramly burger wrapper.

READ MORE: What? Our Beloved Ramly Burger Is Banned in Singapore?

2. Ulam with sambal belacan

Ulam is a traditional salad made from the fresh leaves of vegetables and fruits such as Vietnamese coriander (daun kesum), winged bean (kacang botol), King’s salad (ulam raja/Cosmos caudatus), petai, maraba/Chinese ginger (cekur), pegaga, daun kaduk, turmeric leaves (daun kunyit), and butterfly pea flower (bunga telang).

Ulam can be eaten raw or dipped in sauces such as sambal belacan for an extra spice kick. Sambal belacan is a Malay-style sambal made by pounding fresh chillies, toasted shrimp paste (belacan), sugar, and lime juice in a stone mortar. Tomatoes and sweet-sour mangoes are optional ingredients. Ulam with sambal belacan pairs well with a rice dish too.

3. Laksa Sarawak

There are different versions of laksa in other Malaysian states. If you’ve tried all the laksa variants in the peninsular, it’s time to try the OG Laksa Sarawak in Sarawak. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once dubbed laksa Sarawak the “Breakfast of the gods.”

READ MORE: Lana Condor, Ross Butler Pictured At Batu Caves And Eating Laksa Excite Malaysian Fans

Laksa Sarawak differs from the other laksa because the broth is simply different with unique flavours. The broth is made from chicken or shrimp broth, sambal belacan, coconut milk, tamarind, lemongrass, herbs, and spices.

The toppings include sliced omelette, chicken strips, peeled prawns, chopped coriander leaves, and beansprouts. These are all served with rice vermicelli or handmade yellow noodles.  

4. Ais krim potong

For those unfamiliar with this classic dessert, ais krim potong is literally a rectangular block of ice cream or ice lolly on a stick. It comes in interesting local flavours such as red bean, cendol, sweet corn, nangka (jackfruit), yam, calamansi lime, coconut, durian, pandan, and coconut. Of course, there’s the good, old chocolate flavour too.

5. Budu

Budu is a fermented anchovy sauce made by mixing anchovies with salt and left to ferment. It’s a popular traditional condiment in Kelantan and Terengganu and has been declared a Malaysian heritage food.

Budu is often paired with fish, rice, and vegetables. However, it’s not recommended for people with gout as anchovies have high uric acid content.

In 2021, a polytechnic student in Kota Bharu made a powdered form of budu for easier storage and transport. The level of dedication to the dish is remarkable.

6. Tempoyak

If you’ve tried durian, it’s time to take it to the next level: the tempoyak. Tempoyak is a popular fermented durian dish in Pahang and Perak but can be also found in other states. It’s made by crushing durian flesh and mixing it with some salt or sugar and left to ferment in a room temperature environment.

Tempoyak is not usually eaten on its own but is paired as a condiment for cooking, flavouring dishes such as gulai tempoyak ikan patin, sambal tempoyak, belacan tempoyak, and tanghoon glass noodles.

7. Keropok lekor

Keropok lekor is a favourite snack among children and adults. It’s a traditional Malay fish cracker snack from Terengganu. Keropok lekor is made by grinding fish or vegetables into a paste and mixing it with sago flour before deep-frying it.

There are three types of keropok lekor: lekor (long and chewy), steamed, and keping (thin and crispy).

The fried snack is often eaten with special homemade chilli sauce but modern iterations have included mayonnaise and cheese sauce.

8. Midin (paku merah) and pucuk paku

The differences between midin and pucuk paku. Image: Feats of Feasts

Midin, also known as paku merah, and pucuk paku has a defining characteristic where the end of the shoot curls into a spiral pattern. However, the midin has a tighter curl as compared to pucuk paku.

Midin and pucuk paku are actually from the same plant but just harvested from different part of the same plant. The midin is the older shoot while pucuk paku is the younger version.

Both are popular vegetables in Sarawak and are often stir-fried, used to make ulam, or added to dishes such as porridge. When fried, the midin still holds the spiral shape while the spiral shape in pucuk paku loosens.

9. Serbuk asam jambu

The flavours of sliced guavas can be enhanced by dipping the fruit in serbuk asam jambu also known as serbuk asamboi. Serbuk asam jambu is made from dried prunes, salt, and sugar. The saltiness of the powder with cold guava, apple, or pineapple provides a delicious cool snack that’s perfect in hot weather. It’s also a common snack for school children.

10. Sagun kelapa (sometimes spelled sagon)

Sagun kelapa is another favourite childhood snack. It’s made from mixing rice flour, shaved coconut, and sugar, and heated without oil on low heat. The powdery mix is often placed in a plastic tube and eaten on its own.

11. Kuching Siobee

Kuching’s Siobee is apparently different from the usual siumai/shumai. The Siobee is said to be crunchier, have denser fillings, and can be a little sweet. Siobee is made of minced pork, prawns, water chestnuts, and seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices. The ingredients are then wrapped in a thin wheat flour dough. Siobee can be eaten on its own and enhanced with a dipping sauce that’s usually a blend of soy cause, chilli, and lime.

12. Minyak engkabang

Minyak engkabang has been dubbed Sarawak butter due to its buttery and bready smell. It’s made from the fruit called engkabang also known as tengkawang hantelok, kawang, and jantong.

First, the fruit is dried or smoked before being pounded for its oil. The oil is then poured into a bamboo shoot to solidify to form butter. Since the butter is made from plants, it’s safe for those allergic to dairy products. The oil can also be used for cooking and medicinal purposes.

The engkabang fruit ripens every four to five years so it’s a rare treat to taste it.

13. Sang nyuk main

Sang nyuk mian is a popular Sabahan pork noodle dish and can be served dry or soup versions. For the soup version, the broth is made by simmering a blend of pork bones, herbs, and spices for hours to extract all the flavours. It’s then served with noodles, pork slices, liver, or kidney and topped with fried shallots, scallions, and crispy pork lard.

For the dry version, the noodles are tossed in a flavourful mix of soy sauce and pork lard with similar toppings. For a fiery kick, some will add spicy chilli sauce to the heartwarming dish.

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