One of the main reason to visit Malaysia is the abundance of street food. The Malaysian street food culture may not be as legendary as its Thai counterparts, but it reflects the multi-ethnic makeup of its population.
Just a bit on the street food. In Malaysia, there are a few different types of outlet structures you can describe as ‘street food’, such as
Pasar (Market) : The typical market. An area specifically selected where a bunch of vendors sells stuff. You can easily find morning, afternoon, night and midnight market in Malaysia which sells food.
Gerai (Stalls) : The stalls in Malaysia aren’t necessarily set up in an area in a group like a hawker center. Sometimes you find only a single stall being set up on the side of the road, for example, the Fried Banana stall (Goreng Pisang) or an actual roadside restaurant (Mamak Stall)
Food Truck/Cart : The food truck concept has been in Malaysia way before it was even a thing. Vendors would cart food items such as Ice Creams, Breads (Mamak Roti) , Lok Lok and Sweet Soft Rice Vermicelli (Putu Mayam). These vendors would drive around housing areas to sell their food. Of course, times have changed and the hipster style food truck is mostly what you will find.
Hawkers Centre : An area set up where a group of hawkers permanently operate, they tend to have a proper sit-down area for patrons.
We visit Malaysia every year to see our family and friends and embark on a culinary exploration of its food. With Malaysian food regularly making into the World’s ‘must try food’ list, here we present 15 reasons why Malaysia indeed has one of the best street food cultures.
Available at All Hours
Find street food in Malaysia at any time of the day. Enjoy Nasi Lemak or Satays first thing in the morning as well as at 1 am after your clubbing session. Various street markets and hawkers stalls also tend to operate 7 days a week. Even if you have a short layover in Malaysia, at an ungodly hour. You will not be disappointed. Someone is out there selling something good for you to eat.
With Malay, Indian and Chinese influence on your plate, you will be spoilt for choices sampling Malaysian street food. When exploring markets, don’t expect to find 5 or 10 food stalls…. expect to find 30, 50, hundreds! The best thing is.. you will want to try them all! Once a year, during the month of Ramadhan (fasting month), they have daily mid-day to night market, selling JUST food. The biggest one is held at a Stadium, yes, you heard right… in a stadium!! Imagine the number of options!
Find it Anywhere
Street food is not just located in Kuala Lumpur or major cities in Malaysia. In fact, you can find them just about anywhere. If there is a spot where a Malaysian can set up a stall, you will find someone selling food there. You can find street food in the suburbs, in the kampung area, even high-end area. Its everywhere and we mean everywhere!
It’s Bloody Cheap
As street food is designed to be affordable, expect to pay between $A0.3 to $A3 for a dish. It is seriously cheap. If you bring $A10 to a market, you can easily feed a family of 4 with entrée, main, desserts and drinks!
Different Food Style
As Malaysia is not a homogeneous society, it blessed us foodies with a wide variety of food style. Which is great. You will find mainly Chinese, Malay and Indian food. But not only that, Malaysian’s love affair with all kinds of food also means that you can find food from other countries being sold here. Thai boat noodles? checked. Japanese Octopus Balls? checked. Lasagne? Checked. Hot Dogs? Checked. Just name it! They have it!
Yummy Fresh Foods
Malaysia is not only heaven for food, they also produce great cooks! You will find that the street food in Malaysia is always so tasty and yummy. The food is also prepared on the spot, which maintains the freshness.
Street food in Malaysia is not always fried and one dimensional (non-healthy). With the diverse food influence, they also offer healthier options such as salads (kerabu), grilled meat, fresh fruit, and vegetables. You will still get to sample exotic flavors sans the worry about expanding your waistline.
They Speak English
Most Malaysians speak English albeit a little limited sometimes. They will be more than happy to answer your query in English and give you a little explanation about the food they sell.
Malaysians are also creative with the ingredients and food combinations. They are always coming up with cool and interesting food combinations. Usually, an east meets west combination such as coconut milkshake, fried banana with cheese, Malaysian style burgers. But the thing is… they always seem to work! We have not found one we don’t like yet so far!
Each servings are not only cheap, they often big enough to share between 2 people. So we often purchase one of everything so we are able to try them all!
Malaysian vendors are quite particular about Food presentation. Not necessarily to the point of discipline like the Japanese, but they make sure that foods are always displayed in an attractive manner.
It is Clean
Most of the stalls here are clean and food are handled accordingly. They may not be Australian – clean, but they are not downright gross like some other places we have been to.
The street food vendors are often very courteous, polite and friendly. Malaysians take pride in serving their food and making sure their customers are happy. They also generally don’t mind you taking photos of them preparing food, which is a big plus.
Caters to Various Dietary Requirements
The multicultural and multi-religion nature of Malaysia means you can find street food of all various dietary requirements. Vegetarian and halal foods are easily found here. However that said, it may be a little difficult to find other not so commonly found in Asia dietary requirements such as Kosher or lactose-free.
More than Just Food
It is not just about the food, it is also about the environment. Most of the markets that sell street food also have stalls selling other merchandise, meaning you get to stroll around, people watch and looking at other interesting things while eating your food. Some markets also have buskers performance for your entertainment.