A one-dimensional bread that that springs into life
Savoury and versatile, this Indian-style flatbread reflects the country’s multicultural influences. Prepared with salt and butter, it’s tossed like a pancake and often known as ‘flying bread’ as a result. Perfect for breakfast, soaking up dhal lentils, or a spicy curry, you’ll be given a whole one at restaurants, or tasty slices great for grabbing and munching.
Local tip: The bread is often cut up and served with a curry sauce. Ask for ‘roti canai banjir’ in restaurants if you fancy sampling this.
A sweet national dish with a tropical taste
Infused with pandan leaves, a fragrant mound of coconut-milk-soaked rice forms part of a daily culinary routine – gobbled up by locals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Classic combinations include meat, seafood or vegetables, which sit alongside a fusion of ginger, nuts, cucumber and anchovies.
Skewers speared with tasty meat combinations
Known the world over, these succulent kebab-like portions come with a range of options including beef, chicken, venison, rabbit and tripe. Roasted over charcoal, they’re presented with cucumber and raw onions, alongside fluffy white rice cakes.
Local tip: Grab a stick and dunk it into the creamy peanut sauce — with a helping of around seven sticks, you’ll keep going back for more.
Squidgy and sweet, a cool drink that’s a real summertime treat
Mung bean flour and vibrantly hued pandan-leaf syrup combine in a glass to form gummy ‘worms’ that are synonymous with this colourful concoction. Coconut milk, palm sugar syrup and shaved ice top these to add a smooth contrast to the gooey confection found at the bottom of the glass.
Local tip: Toppings vary depending on the stall you visit but you’ll often see jackfruit, nypa fruit or red beans.
Meat perfectly matched with the cool and the spicy
Coconut cream and milk are the key ingredients of this luscious and delectable sauce, perked up by a blend of chilli, ginger, turmeric, shallots and garlic. A whole chicken is cooked and slathered in the relish, with lemongrass adding a citrus tone to the union of flavours.
Local tip: A helping of steaming white rice soaks up the lip-smacking sauce.
Slowly cooked beef that’s readily available
A spicy paste mingles with creamy coconut milk and is absorbed into generous chunks of tender beef. Time is of the essence — the more the meat is left to simmer, the more the colour and flavour cling to it. The recipe can be heavier on the spices for a ‘dry’ version, or coconut-milk-infused to make a gravy-like dressing.
Local tip: As a side, you’ll come across two types of rice cake: ketupat — parcels wrapped in palm leaves — or longtong, which is sliced into neat starchy slithers.
Pastry parcels packing in Oriental flavours
Wan tan mee
These generously proportioned dumplings fuse a balance of sweet pork with salty soy sauce. Quick and filling, they sit on top of egg-fried noodles with slices of more pork and a dash of greenery in the form of Chinese kale, kai lan.
Local tip: You’ll track this down at Chinese ‘coffee shop’ stalls. They’ll serve the platter in its more common form, or drenched in a soup.
Rice accompanied by a spiced-up side of your choice
With Indian roots, this curry-like combo has long been a food-stall staple. Always containing fragrant rice, it’s paired with your selection of sautéed vegetables, fried chicken, or more daring ingredients like beef spleen, fried squid, or fish roe in a spicy gravy. Meaning ‘to flood’, banjir curry sauces are added to saturate the dish in flavour.
Local tip: If you prefer your curry dry, request it without ‘banjir’ when you’re ordering.
A meat broth that drinks in the flavour
Bak kut teh
A more unusual take on a brew, these juicy pork ribs sit stewing in a broth of cinnamon, star anise, pepper, garlic and gai choy cabbage. Perfect for the occasional rainy day, you’ll see residents of the city washing this down with more commonplace black tea.
Vegetable mixes bursting at the seams with flavour
Yong tau foo
In every colour of the rainbow, these squidgy scraps of brightly hued vegetables are filled with soft white tofu. You’ll also come across other varieties of this treat, where the bean curd itself is filled with fish paste, or minced meat.
One plate just isn’t enough in this feast of flavour
Banana leaf rice
Indulgent but oh-so delicious, this is more of an experience than simply a dish. Restaurants generally favour their own take but the platter generally comprises a large banana leaf, which makes the food more fragrant. On top you’ll see locals devour a curry, and a selection of vegetables including cucumber, spinach and beans, spicy rasam soup, dried chillies, tairu yoghurt and papadums.
Local tip: Locals eat this using their right hand only. When you’re done, fold the leaf towards you – folding it away indicates that the meal was sub-par.
Get a big energy boost from a small portion of noodles
Amongst a mesh of thick soy-soaked egg noodles braised and then fried, this dish conceals slithers of pork, beef or seafood. Pops of colour liven it up in the form of Chinese cabbage slices and chopped chunks of spring onion. Balance the smoky aroma of the mix with a refreshing cold drink.
Soy-soaked noodles braised and then fried