Most Malaysians are foodies, and living in a melting pot like Malaysia means there’s always a new dish to try. You might have already tried most of the local cuisines, but did you know that each Malaysian state actually has their own signature food dishes?
Every state has more than one popular dish, of course, and we can’t list them all here. But based on our findings, here’s the top dish(es) in each Malaysian state.
Disclaimer: We’ve only listed the 13 states and not the 3 Federal Territories.
1. Kelantan: Nasi Kerabu
Ask your Kelantanese friends what dish reminds them of Kelantan the most, and they’ll most definitely tell you it’s nasi kerabu. It’s a dish that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
With blue-coloured rice grains as the centre of the dish, this is one very eye-catching meal. In order to get that colour, the rice is mixed with the butterfly pea flower, a natural colourant. Together with the rice, the dish is served with either fried fish or chicken, egg and some vegetable salad. You’ll also find some crispy keropok on your plate to complete the meal.
Average price: RM5-RM10
2. Sarawak: Sarawak Laksa
According to The Star, the late chef Anthony Bourdain once described Sarawak Laksa as “breakfast of the gods” and “one of the foods served in heaven”. This laksa comes with a tasty soup, noodles, and seafood. You get the picture. So if you haven’t tried it before, you’ve been missing out on something incredibly delicious!
Don’t worry if you’re not in Sarawak at the moment. You can still get this dish in other states in Malaysia. However, we can’t guarantee that it would taste as good as it does in its home state.
Average price: RM6-RM10
3. Terengganu: Nasi Dagang
Nasi Dagang exists in other states besides Terengganu, especially the northern states. But Terengganu’s nasi dagang surely has a reputation that can’t be denied.
It’s made of rice steamed in coconut milk and it’s usually served with fish curry. Just like with Nasi Kerabu, this dish also comes with salad and some keropok.
Average price: RM4-RM8
4. Penang: Char Kuey Teow
Penang is said to have the best food in all of Malaysia, and it’s most famous for its Nasi Kandar, as we all know. But another thing people often flock to Penang for is their char kuey teow.
Go to any food court and you’re sure to find char kuey teow there, with prices usually starting at RM4.
Average price: RM4-RM8
5. Sabah: Tuaran Mee
Tuaran Mee hails from the district of Tuaran in Sabah, and it’s also known as the “gold noodle” of Sabah. True to its moniker, it’s made of yellow egg noodles. The noodles are fried and are served with meat, vegetables and Sabah Hakka spring roll.
It’s said that Tuaran Mee can be found in most coffee shops in Sabah.
Average price: RM5-RM8
6. Perak: Hor Fun
Hor Fun is a popular dish all over Malaysia, but it’s often said that Ipoh Hor Fun is unrivalled. With flat white noodles soaked in a delicious soup, coupled with chicken, prawns and vegetables, Hor Fun is a staple in Perak.
Average price: RM5-RM8
7. Pahang: Gulai Tempoyak Ikan Patin
Known as one of Pahang’s most loved dishes, for this gulai, some Patin fish (a type of shark) is cooked in a thick curry. It’s cooked with bunga kantan, known as torch ginger in English, and it’s usually spicy.
The gulai is served with rice or other main dishes.
Average price: Usually not sold separately. RM13-15 for the paste to make the gulai.
8. Melaka: Chicken Rice Ball
What’s better than chicken rice? A chicken rice ball! In Melaka, you will find the rice rolled into bite-sized balls served together with the chicken on another platter. It can be found in many shops all over Melaka.
Average price: RM0.30 per ball
9. Negeri Sembilan: Masak Lemak Cili Api
Like the name suggests, this is a fiery dish, so it’s perfect for you if you enjoy spicy food. It’s said to be packed with a burst of flavours, from sweet to sour to bitter. The combination is a treat to your tongue’s senses.
Usually, chicken or beef is added to the gravy.
Average price: RM10-15 for the paste to make the dish.
10. Selangor: Sambal Taun/Tahun
Google ‘top food in Selangor’ and satay is sure to be on that list. It’s not surprising to hear that people flock to Kajang for the mouth-watering satay (pre-pandemic, of course).
But we came across a pretty historic dish known as Sambal Tahun. It’s a Javanese dish made mainly of cow’s skin. It comes with other ingredients as well such as shredded coconut, prawns and chillies. Lots and lots of chillies. So, it’s pretty spicy.
Average price: RM20 for 2 people.
11. Kedah: Nasi Ulam
Nasi Ulam is cooked with a variety of herbs and spices, and it’s served with egg and one meat. Similar to Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Dagang, it also comes with some greens and crunchy keropok.
Average price: RM5-RM12
12. Perlis: Ikan Bakar
Search up ‘ikan bakar Perlis’ and you’ll find hundreds of articles on where to get this fried fish in Perlis. It might be pretty common, but most reviews say that ikan bakar in Perlis is easily the best.
Average price: RM5-RM40 (depending on type of fish)
13. Johor: Kacang Pool
We were going to cover the infamous Laksa Johor here, but we’ve decided to tell you about another staple Johorean dish: kacang pool. Kacang pool is usually served as breakfast together with bread and an egg.
Interestingly, it’s not peanut gravy as you may think it is. It’s actually minced meat in a thick sauce to be used as a dip for the bread.
Average price: RM5 per bowl
This article might have made you hungry, and while you might not be able to travel to other states to enjoy all this food now, why not try getting some durian instead?