Singaporeans and Malaysians have long tussled over where dishes like chilli crab, chicken rice and char kway teow originated. Even Malaysia’s former minister of tourism chimed in, claiming ownership of chilli crab, a dish believed to have come from Singapore. This friendly feud stems from the neighbouring countries’ similar food cultures and their long and storied history prior to Singapore’s independence. Despite this, there are some dishes that are no doubt, authentic Malaysian food. Some of these hail from Penang, a city in Northwest Malaysia considered the food capital of the nation, while others originate from the Malay kampungs, or villages, decades earlier. These iconic dishes paint Malaysia’s diverse food landscape; no visit to Malaysia is complete without trying them. In the spirit of Merdeka day, here are five dishes that Malaysians are proud to call their own.
Nasi Lemak Considered Malaysia’s national dish, nasi lemak is the country’s favourite breakfast food. Coconut rice served with fried anchovies, roasted nuts, a fried egg, fried fish, rendang or chicken, slices of cucumber and a generous serving of sambal, the unique combination of sweet, oily and spicy is unmistakable. Lemak, which means “fatty” in Malay, is derived from the rice which cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves. It is popular breakfast food in Malaysia and in Singapore, but the high-fat levels from coconut milk and its fried side items make it any health authorities’ worst enemy. Historians believe it has existed as early as 1909, as mentioned by English colonialist Richard Olaf Winstedt in his writings. It is believed th