Malaysia is a proudly multicultural country and our food is a clear reflection of that. Although rice is the staple food here, noodles are also a popular option. And with the various noodle dishes available, you will be spoiled for choice. This article will show you 10 of the most popular ones that you have to try.
But before we begin, let’s first get acquainted with the types of noodles used:
- Kuey teow: Flat rice noodles, like fettuccine but shorter and softer
- Bee hoon: Thin rice vermicelli
- Mee/Chow mein: Yellow noodles, like spaghetti but softer
- Pan mee: Handmade, (usually flat) strips of egg noodles
- Laksa: Thick and soft white rice noodles
Most of the dishes — like asam laksa and char kuey teow — use specific types of noodles, but for some others — like curry mee and prawn mee, you can choose the type of noodles you prefer.
Sometimes, you might see them with different spellings. Kuey teow, for example, can be spelled koay teow or kuetiau. That’s because they are originally Chinese words and therefore don’t have a fixed anglicized spelling. As long as they sound similar, they’re the same thing.
* Most of these dishes are traditionally served with meat/seafood/pork, but with a little bit of research, it’s possible to find halal/vegetarian/vegan options.
1. Asam Laksa (Penang Laksa)
Almost every region in Malaysia has their own version of laksa, so be careful when ordering — make sure you get the correct one. Out of the many, Penang asam laksa is the most well-known and it’s usually available all over the country. But of course, if you want the real thing, then you have to go to Penang. After all, it has often been dubbed the ‘food capital’ of Malaysia.
Penang Asam laksa is thick noodles in a tangy fish broth, topped with julienned cucumber, pineapple, and onion. Other toppings include cilantro, mint leaves, lime wedges, and egg.
2. Char Kuey Teow
Another dish that originated in Penang, char kuey teow is the Malaysian version of pad thai (I’m gonna get a lot of flak for saying that).
The flat rice noodles are stir-fried with dark soy sauce in a wok, usually on an open charcoal flame (for that special slightly charred taste). It is accompanied by cockles, prawns, chili, eggs, bean sprouts and chives. These toppings are optional, and the noodles are always cooked to order, so feel free to make special requests.
3. Prawn Mee
This dish typically uses two types of noodles in the same bowl: mee and bee hoon. It comes with a richly-flavored dark soup with prawns, fish cakes, pork slices, and bean sprouts, topped with fried shallots and chopped spring onion.
The soup stock is made with dried shrimps, plucked heads of prawns, white pepper, garlic, and other spices. Traditionally, lard is also added to the soup, but is less common now due to health concerns.
4. Curry Mee
Curry mee is made of yellow noodles steeped in curry. But unlike the Indian curry, this broth has a citrusy and creamy flavors. It typically contains coconut milk, prawns, cockles, fried tofu, bird’s eye chillies, chicken pieces, and mint leaves.
5. Hokkien Mee
Hokkien mee is available in both soupy and dry versions. The soupy one, most popular in Penang, is cooked in a meat-based broth, added with shrimp, pork, egg, bean sprouts, water spinach, and topped with fried shallots. Chili paste is served on the side (usually on the Chinese spoon) to spice things up.
The dry version (shown in picture) is more popular in Kuala Lumpur and comes with pork, prawns, squid fish cakes, and cabbage braised in soy sauce. It is topped with pork cubes as garnishing.
6. Dried Chili Pan Mee
This Hakka-style noodle dish is served with minced meat, chopped green onion, fried garlic, fried shallots, fried anchovies, mushrooms, dried chili, and a runny poached egg. When served in a bowl, it looks a little like the Korean rice dish, bibimbap, with the egg in the middle and all the other toppings around it.
Dried chili pan mee tastes its best when everything is mixed together — yes, including the runny egg and all that dried chili. If you can’t handle spicy, shame on you, bro. Try putting just a tiny bit of it and see how much difference it makes.
7. Wonton Mee
Wonton is another name for dumplings. Like Hokkien mee, wonton mee is also available in dry and soupy versions. In the dry one, the egg noodles are tossed with soy sauce, bok choy, minced pork, and slices of roasted pork. The wonton is served on the side in a bowl of meat broth.
For the soupy version, the noodle and pork are mixed together with the wonton in the bowl of soup.
8. Mi Bandung
If you’re in Muar, a city in the southern part of Malaysia (not very far from Singapore), you must try the noodle dish that they are famous for: mi bandung Muar.
Traditionally, it consisted only of yellow noodles in a sweet-and-spicy soup made of a mixture of chili, onion, spices, shrimp paste, dried shrimps, and eggs. The later versions are improved by the addition of prawns, meat, fish cakes, and vegetables.
It can be found throughout Malaysia, but just like the asam laksa, if you want to taste the authentic one, it’s best to go to its place of origin.
9. Mi Goreng Mamak
Mi goreng literally means fried noodles. As any fried noodles can be called mi goreng, you will likely come across many different versions. Each food vendor probably has their own secret recipe.
In a typical plate of mi goreng, you will find chicken, eggs, fish cakes, bean sprouts, and other vegetables. But mi goreng mamak is special because it also contains potatoes and tofu. You can find it in any one of those 24-hour mamak (Indian Muslim) restaurants.
10. Laksa Sarawak
Originating in Sarawak, a state in East Malaysia, this dish consists of noodles (usually bee hoon) served in an aromatic spiced coconut-milk soup, topped with shredded chicken, shredded omelet, bean sprouts, prawns, and garnished with coriander. Creamy and spicy.
It was endorsed by the late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain in 2015.
Have you tried any noodle dish in Malaysia? Which one do you like most? Comment below. Or check out the 10 types of fried rice that you have to try in Malaysia.