Malaysia is a melting pot of cuisines and cultures, with influences from traditional Malay, Indian, and Chinese heritage. This is one of the reasons why Malaysia is one of our favorite food destinations. We are not huge sweets eaters, so when it comes to Malay snacks, we focus a lot on the savory street food available throughout the contract. These are the best Malaysian snacks you should track down during your visit to this tasty country.
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Sweet And Savory Snacks In Malaysia
Malaysia is, without doubt, one of the popular snack havens in the whole of southeast Asia, or even the continent at large. Located on the Malay Peninsula, Malaysia is the only country that has three of the major cultures in Asia; Chinese, Indian, and Malay, with some other ethnic groups.
This made it possible for the availability of different snacks noticeable on street corners and mamaks (street stalls) all over the country.
Malaysians are willing to go the extra length when it comes to quality foods and snacks. They love food so much that the normal daily three-square meals are not enough, they opt for snacks throughout the day. That is why either rain or sun, you will always spot these mouth-watering sweet delights being sold in decades-old shops and restaurants or around the roadside in push-able carts by vendors.
Some if not all of these sweet munchies might look unfamiliar to you, but trust me, they are all popular Malaysian snacks that can be tried at any time of the day and will have you craving for more.
To help you further know more about snacks that can help you satisfy your mid-day cravings, here is the list of 10 traditional Malaysian snacks you might need to try when traveling in Malaysia, in no particular order.
Learn more about Malaysian cuisine:
What Snacks To Eat In Malaysia
Roti Canai is a dish that originates from India but has become a favorite name among popular Malaysian breakfast and snacks. Roti means bread, while canai means to roll in Malay.
A mixture of flour, eggs, water, and fat (ghee – traditional Indian butter) is used to make the dough, which is then folded repeatedly until it gives a layered texture that will be pan-fried to give a crisp outer and soft interior.
Usually served with different sweet and savory curry, sambal, or dal fillings, this snack can be enjoyed anytime. It can be dished on the side or torn into chunks and mixed with a dash of curry. Be on the lookout for this popular and delicious Malay snack by street stall or restaurants. This is one of our favorite Malay snacks.
Although satay’s origin can be traced to Indonesia, it is considered by some as the native dish of Thailand, but now it is a household name for almost every Malaysian.
Origin aside, having chunks of roasted meat on a stick is a special snack you must try out. Grillers in Malaysia have special variations to choose from, like beef, chicken, lamb, and pork (the latter not available in Muslim venues and areas).
Satay can also be served with freshly diced cucumbers, onions, and spicy peanut sauce, which might vary in region and vendors, but all complement the meat to give it a perfect delicacy. Best enjoyed in the evening, a famous place to get this meaty snack is Kajang (30 mins train ride from Kuala Lumpur), where vendors can easily be spotted turning meat on a charcoal fire.
Rojak (mixture in Malay), can be a big snack for light eaters, but most Malaysians see it as a snack between meals.
Rojak is an assortment of vegetables, fruits, potatoes, boiled eggs, prawns, sweet, ground peanuts, and spicy chili sauce. Rojak gives a combination of sweet, sour, and spicy sensations, making it a perfect afternoon dish or snack for any traveler in Malaysia.
You can find rojak at neighborhood street stalls, and often near a cendol stall, as the two are best enjoyed together.
Otak otak is a mixture of fish paste (mackerel is a common fish used) and various spices wrapped in banana leaf or Nipa palm. It is grilled and turns out drier and with a more pleasant fish scent, forming a fish cake.
Otak otak is usually served grilled or steaming hot and is mostly enjoyed with peanut sauce as a snack or with rice as a dish. It is predominantly sold in the evening markets and at stalls. The whiff of banana leaf grilled with fish paste and other spices will be picked up by your nose when trying to locate a vendor in these locations, especially those night markets.
Lovers of banana bread would want to try this snack when roaming the streets of Nirwana. Roti pisang (Banana bread) is a traditional Malaysian street snack that employs bananas as its main ingredient.
The unleavened dough is pulled and stretched till it becomes thin, after which a combination of eggs, sugar, and sliced bananas is added. The mixture is then pan-fried until it becomes golden on the outer layer before slicing it into bite pieces sprinkled with a dust of sugar and some condensed milk.
Roti is a perfect Malay snack that can be enjoyed as breakfast or as a snack in the afternoon. Vendors of roti pisang can be easily spotted on street corners or in restaurants throughout the country.
If you love spring rolls, then this should be your go-to snack. Popiah is Malaysia’s very own spring roll.
Ingredients used for the filling includes beans sprouts, tofu, egg, fried shallots, and finely grated jicama tossed in a spicy soy-based and sweet sauce. This is all wrapped in soft skin, specially made from wheat flour.
The fillings for the roll may differ based on vendors, with other popular variations including cabbage, prawns, carrots, and chicken. Popiah is a night-time snack and can be easily spotted in Chinese-dominated street stalls.
Pie tee (top hat) is a Malaysian dish that consists of a thin cup-like crispy pastry filled with shredded vegetables, carrots, egg, bamboo shoots, prawns, and spicy Chinese turnips.
The shells are formed using a pie tee mold immersed in batter and then into hot oil, producing a pleasing crispy shell. This snack is popular among Peranakan Chinese vendors and can be served as an appetizer any time of the day when dabbled with a spicy sauce drizzling from the top.
There is a higher chance of you eating roti jala (net bread) at gatherings and special events such as weddings and birthdays, but that does not mean you will not spot a street vendor selling this snack on street corners as you move around. Roti jala is mostly popular during Malaysian feasts and also during the Eid holidays.
To make roti jala, flour is mixed with salt, turmeric, coconut milk, and egg. The mixture is poured into a roti jala cup and then skillfully applied in a zigzag direction on a preheated oiled pan to give the net-shaped bread (creating its signature net design.
The net design is inspired by nets of Malaysian fishermen. Perfectly made roti jala is delicate, tender, and not crispy or brown. Chicken or beef curry are used in serving this snack when rolled up as crepes. This special Malaysian snack can be eaten at any time of the day.
Karipap is a currey pugg. This is a snack that originates from maritime Southeast Asia due to various influences of the British Cornish pasty, the Portuguese empanada, and the Indian samosa.
The karipap is a pastry snack with a filling. The filling is generally potato curry that has been slow-cooked till it becomes thick and dry. The pastry is later deep-fried or baked. Other variations to the recipe and fillings range from sardines to boiled egg or beef.
This snack is a famous breakfast and afternoon snack and can be easily spotted with vendors at street stalls and restaurants.
Kuih is a small-sized sweet snack that originates from China. It is a general term for snacks like cookies, cakes, biscuits, pudding, dumplings, or pastries, and is mostly prepared using glutinous rice.
They are a series of meals or snacks that can be eaten at any time of the day including dessert. Mostly savory and sweet, especially the ones made in the northern parts of Malaysia (Kedah, Perak, and Kelantan), this snack screams variety.
Kuih is an important part of Malaysian culture and festivals, especially the Hari Raya celebration. Depending on the vendor, they are produced with different tastes, flavors, colors, and textures. Kuih are often steamed rather than baked. Vendors of this snack are most noticeable with their colorful stalls and already made variants of colored Malay-styled pastry that you can choose from and try out.