10 Best Malaysian Souvenirs that You Must Not Miss
Deemed as one of the best shopping havens in Southeast Asia, Malaysia sure has a slew of humongous, ultra-modern shopping malls selling all sorts of goods by various luxury brands.
But what if you want to bring home some authentic Malaysian souvenirs to remind you of your trip to this beautiful country? Well, you’re in luck, because Malaysia also has many types of unique souvenirs to offer, from something you can eat to something you’ll want to display on your mantelpiece.
Here are 25 best Malaysian souvenirs you must buy:
Originating in Indonesia, batik has become a very popular form of art in Malaysia. It is a special method of drawing on fabric (usually silk) using melted wax. Once the wax has set, the patterns will be filled in with color, using natural dyes made of plant leaves and flowers.
Batik products can come in the form of ready-made garments, scarves, hats, bags, handkerchiefs, paintings, hair accessories, notebook covers, cushion covers, tablecloths, bookmarks, and almost anything you can think of. You can also buy a few yards of batik fabric to bring home and turn into your own creation.
If you’re interested in learning to draw batik, there are a few batik workshops in Kuala Lumpur, as well as factories in Penang, Kelantan, and Terengganu.
You can find batik products in practically any textile store in Malaysia, but they are especially popular in the east coast of the peninsula. Price starts from RM5, depending on product type.
2. Pewter Products
Malaysia is one of the top 10 tin producers in the world. So, it’s not surprising that pewter — which is made of tin, antimony, and copper — is a popular product here. There’s a large selection of pewter goods you can purchase, from something purely decorative to something practical like letter openers, cigarette cases, and kitchenware.
Considering the material and the workmanship that often goes into it, a pewter product is usually not cheap. A letter opener, for example, can cost up to RM100. However, there are sometimes items on sale that are not made of pure pewter, and are therefore considerably cheaper.
You can buy authentic pewter products at Royal Selangor stores and KL Pewter in Ampang. Royal Selangor also offers pewter-making workshops.
3. Natural Handicrafts
Malaysian handicrafts are known for their intricacy and creative use of natural materials that are readily available all over the country. You can find cute purses, handwoven baskets, mats, kitchen utensils, and even a whole set of furniture made of materials like wood, bamboo, rattan, coconut shells, mengkuang, and pandan leaves.
These local handmade crafts can be found at any souvenir shop in the country. Prices can be as low as RM5, depending on the type and size of the product.
Songket is a type of textile with interwoven gold or silver threads. It is a legacy of the trade relations between China and Malaysia in the 12th century.
Due to the crazy amount of time and skill required to produce this brocade, it is usually quite expensive, with a meter of the fabric typically costing around RM50. It’s therefore reserved for weddings and special occasions. Besides, the thick material makes it quite impractical to be worn on a daily basis in Malaysian weather.
Since it is usually used in wedding costumes, songket is commonly found in bridal boutiques and textile shops specializing in bridal wear. Check out the ones on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur.
5. Wau Bulan (Traditional Kite)
Popular in the state of Kelantan, wau is a traditional kite often played for leisure or competitively in the many wau-flying competitions in the east coast. There are several types and shapes of wau, but the most iconic is the wau bulan (moon kite), as pictured above. It’s even featured in the logo of the national flag carrier, Malaysian Airlines.
A real wau may be too big and flimsy to make it safely through a long-haul flight, but there are miniature versions, selling for RM20 and above that you can bring home as a souvenir.
6. Cameron Tea
It may be hard to imagine that a country as hot as Malaysia could produce its own tea, but we do. Cameron Highlands, which has a slightly colder climate, is practically covered with tea plantations.
The most famous local tea brand is BOH tea. It offers various interesting flavors like tangerine, mango, and lychee, apart from the more typical ones such as chamomile, peppermint, and jasmine. A pack of 20 teabags should cost around RM10 – 15, and you can find it in any supermarket or grocery store.
If you’re more into the popular ‘teh tarik‘, there’s 3-in-1 instant tea powder you can buy.
7. White Coffee
As a true Malaysian, I may have traveled all the way to one of the biggest coffee producers in Africa to visit their factory; I may have tried the world’s most expensive coffee in Indonesia, but I still think that Malaysian white coffee remains unbeatable.
Commonly known as Ipoh white coffee, its specialty lies in the unique roasting technique, which includes margarine. The result is a creamy and nutty profile that’s easy to get addicted to, especially when paired with kaya toast. A packet with 15 – 20 sachets of instant coffee should cost around RM15 and is available at any supermarket.
8. Sarawak Layer Cake
Not just a treat for your taste buds, this moist and dense layer cake is also a true sight to behold.
Each cake has a unique set of patterns and colors, and each layer has to be broiled for approximately 3-5 minutes before another layer is added, and the process is repeated until you complete the three-inch-thick cake. It was even rated on the Great British Bake Off as “one of the most difficult” culinary creations ever!
I think this tedious process more than justifies the price, which can go up to RM250 for a 2kg cake.
Traditionally flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and star anise, the modern versions have switched to sweeter ingredients like pandan, palm sugar, chocolate, raisins, and fruits.
The layer cake is most popular in the Bornean state of Sarawak, but it can also be found at some bakeries and independent bakers in Kuala Lumpur.
9. Sabah Pearls
Found off the shores of Sabah in East Malaysia, these natural pearls usually come in cream, pink, white, or bluish-grey hues. They are said to be cheaper in Malaysia than anywhere else in the world.
A loose pearl can cost anywhere from RM10 to RM50, depending on quality, size, and color. The price of ready-made jewelry also depends on size, the number of pearls, the metal used, and making charges. You can find the pearls in Sabah or at any Borneo Pearl branch around the country. Just make sure you buy original ones!
10. Pua Kumbu
Native to East Malaysia, pua kumbu is a woven textile made of dyed cotton threads. Pua means “blanket, while kumbu means “to wrap”. What makes this fabric special is that the weavers receive inspiration for the designs through their dreams or other surreal experiences.
Pua kumbu is thus considered to be a sacred ceremonial cloth and is often used for spiritual purposes by the indigenous Iban tribe. However, today, most people use it as a bed cover or blanket.
The price of pua kumbu varies from around RM70 to a few hundred ringgit per piece, depending on size, quality, and design. You can buy it at a much cheaper price in Sarawak.
11. Spices & Pastes
Most people who visit Malaysia fall in love with the food (if you don’t, you better get your taste buds checked). But the scrumptious dishes aren’t easy to replicate at home, especially if you don’t have easy access to the smorgasbord of exotic herbs and spices that each recipe requires.
The good news is, you can buy these spices in Malaysia and bring them home. They’re either sold separately or premixed for a specific dish of your choice. Some come in precooked paste form, complete with blended garlic, ginger, onion, chili, and fresh herbs. All you have to do is add boiling water, and your preferred vegetables and meats.
Each packet can cost as low as RM1 and up to RM20, depending on the product. You can find them at any grocery store, supermarket, or produce market.
12. Keris (Traditional Dagger)
A keris is an asymmetrical dagger with either a straight or wavy blade. Both a weapon and a spiritual object, it is often considered to have its own ‘soul’ and magical powers, with some blades possessing good luck and others possessing bad. There’s a special ritual that the owner has to perform every once in a while to keep the spirit of the keris pure.
Keris are often used as display items, talismans, weapons, an accessory for ceremonial costumes, and an indicator of social status. They’re usually handed down to younger generations as a valuable heirloom
The older and rarer they are, the pricier the keris can be. But you might score some great bargains at flea markets.
13. Traditional Dresses
Malaysia, with its many different cultures, boasts various types of traditional dresses, including baju kurung, baju kebaya, sari, lehenga, cheongsam, and samfu. They come in an assortment of colors, fabrics, designs, and sizes.
You can find good ones at designer boutiques or cheaper ones at department stores. Prices vary from RM30 to a few hundred ringgit. There are usually a lot of discounts right before a festival. Or if you have time, you can also buy fabric and have a dress custom-made for you.
Dodol is a unique sticky toffee candy with either one of two flavors: pandan or durian. Pandan is a type of fragrant leaf that is often used to add aroma and color to Malay dishes, while durian is the popular but polarizing fruit in Southeast Asia that resembles a jackfruit.
It takes a whole village to prepare dodol the traditional way. The ingredients need to be constantly stirred in a giant wok for many hours. So, people have to take turns doing it. While dodol is traditionally only eaten during Eid, now it is available throughout the year and even sold as souvenirs.
You can buy a box of dodol for around RM15 – RM30 at small confectioners all over the country and dodol shops like Pak Lang Dodol in Central Market.
15. Durian Flavored Snacks
If you have traveled in Southeast Asia for a while, you must have seen, heard of, smelled, or tasted this controversial delicacy. The sinister looking fruit with its spiky exterior and an aroma that would subdue all other smells within a 10-metre radius would either make you addicted to it for life or throw up your entire lunch and dinner. (I’m only half kidding).
If you find the real durian fruit too vile for your liking but don’t want to give up on it just yet, you might want to give durian-flavored products a try. They are available as candies, cakes, chocolates, ice creams, pastries, and even coffees! These durian-flavored snacks mostly have a much milder and pleasanter taste that even durian haters would find palatable.
Available at most supermarkets, confectioneries, and souvenir shops, from as low as RM5.
16. Nutmeg Oil
Popular in Penang, nutmeg is not only sold as food but also as a medicinal oil to treat headaches, stomachaches, itchiness, and muscle/joint pains. The oil, which is prepared from the seed extracts, is also commonly used on pregnant women to help strengthen and tone their uterine muscles.
A 20ml bottle of nutmeg oil should cost around RM8 – RM12, and can be found in most pharmacies across the country.
17. Gamat (Sea Cucumber)
Another great souvenir for those who are into alternative medicine is gamat oil. This black-color oil is extracted from sea cucumbers — a self-healing marine creature that is capable of regrowing its own organs. Apart from oil, which is to be applied topically to heal wounds, gamat is also available in drinkable form to cure toothaches and expedite wound recovery.
Gamat products are a specialty in Langkawi, but can also be found anywhere in the country. A small bottle costs less than RM5.
18. Natural Body Care Products
Although maybe not as well-known as Balinese or Thai, Malaysia does have its own traditional massage and beauty treatments that can be traced from as far back as a thousand years ago.
Replicate these relaxing spa treatments at home by bringing back some traditional body-care products made of natural ingredients like coconut oil, turmeric, hibiscus, rice, and many more.
Prices depend on product type and brand.
19. Instant Noodles
Probably not the healthiest souvenir you can buy for yourself, but instant noodles can be a real savior on lazy days. They’re quick, tasty, and filling! Malaysian instant noodles are more than springy ramen with boring flavors — they come in many different types of noodles and local flavors like asam laksa, curry laksa, lontong, soy sesame, and more.
A packet of instant noodles can cost less than RM5, but it’s usually sold in packs of 4 or 6, available at any supermarket, convenience store, or grocery store.
20. Labu Sayong
Labu sayong is a special souvenir originating from the state of Perak, north of Kuala Lumpur. Said to have healing properties, these gourd-shaped clay jars are traditionally used to keep water cool in hot weather, although in modern days, they are mostly only used as decoration.
Labu sayong come in various designs and sizes and usually range from RM5 to RM50 apiece.
21. Traditional Games
To get a glimpse of what it’s like to grow up Malaysian (before the digital age), you may want to purchase some traditional games like batu seremban (five stones), gasing (spinning top), takraw (rattan ball), and the most popular — congkak, a mancala game involving two players, two rows of pits, and marbles.
The modern congkak board is designed to be portable and can be folded into half. A set may cost around RM40 – RM60, complete with instructions for players.
Apart from being a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is famous for its asam laksa and char kuey teow, the island of Penang is also known for pickles. Yes, you will find a variety of pickled fruits, including mangoes, papayas, guavas, nutmegs, cherries, plums, snake fruits, jicama, amras, and even garlic! They’re steeped in apple cider vinegar and honey, giving it a perfect balance of sweet and sour taste.
A small packet costs less than RM5, but you can also find bigger ones that have been vacuum-sealed to ease travel.
23. Cucuk Sanggul (Hairpins)
Although rarely seen in today’s fashion trends, cucuk sanggul (traditional hairpins) are a staple for Malay brides or dancers who do not wear the hijab. The traditional kind is usually made of silver or gold and features elaborate designs inspired by mythological creatures from the Malay folklore.
They usually cost more than RM100, and may be harder to find in typical souvenir shops, but you can try bridal boutiques or antique shops.
24. Kerongsang (Brooches)
A traditional kebaya top doesn’t come with any button or zipper, so brooches are used to fasten the two sides together. Kebaya brooches usually come in sets of threes and attached to one another via gold/silver chains.
However, brooches are also sold in single pieces to adorn blouses, coats, shirts, handbags, or to secure the hijab. Prices vary greatly based on quality and design, but can be as low as RM5.
25. Seafood Products
Seafood products abound in coastal areas and on beach islands. You can expect to find fresh seafood or processed ones like dried fish, sauces, pastes, and crackers. The most famous ones are keropok lekor (fish cracker snack) in Terengganu, budu (fish sauce) in Kelantan, cencaluk (fermented shrimp sauce) in Malacca, and dried fish in Pangkor.
Where to buy these Malaysian souvenirs?
Some of the items mentioned above are regional, but with some research and a little bit of luck, they can still be found in other states. The one-stop place for any kind of souvenir in Kuala Lumpur is the Central Market (Pasar Seni station), where you can find handicrafts, clothes, antiques, jewelry, and food. Prices are reasonable but not too cheap, and they’re mostly good quality products.
Items like tea, coffee, and instant noodles are easier to find (and cheaper) in supermarkets than in souvenir shops. Chinatown is good for cheap souvenir T-shirts, keyrings, and psst… counterfeit handbags — as long as you’re good at haggling.
When to get them
Holiday periods (Christmas, Eid, Chinese New Year, Diwali) usually offer a lot of discounts and promotions, but some unscrupulous sellers might take this opportunity to hike up prices for high-demand items. Do note that some products like seafood and fruits may be seasonal.
How to avoid scams
Generally, prices are fixed in shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets. In places like Central Market and Chinatown, cheap items (below RM10) are usually fixed. You’ll come across as a cheapskate if you try to haggle for those, unless you’re buying in big quantities, in which case you should definitely try asking for a discount.
For expensive items, expect to haggle hard. Keep in mind that as a tourist, just like in most other places in Asia, you will be quoted higher prices than the locals. Look around at several options to have an idea of the price range before making any purchase. Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true.
When shopping in crowded areas like Chinatown, beware of pickpockets.
Also read: Is Malaysia safe for solo travelers?
What are some of your favorite Malaysian souvenirs from the list above? Do you have anything more to add? Comment below.