5 Foot Way’s Malaysian Food Glossary

Nasi Lemak is considered Malaysia’s national dish. A basic nasi lemak is typically eaten for breakfast and consists of rice steamed in coconut milk with a spicy sambal and pieces of cucumber. A fancier version includes crispy anchovies, roasted peanuts and hard boiled egg. For lunch or dinner, often a dry curry or fried chicken or fish is added to make it a full meal. 

Our version comes with our pineapple & cucumber salad, mixed with herbs, chilli & onion.

Rendang is a coconut curry with a variety of spices, usually cooked for several hours until it becomes thick and rich. It is traditionally a meat curry, most often with beef or chicken, but recently vegetarian versions are also made using tempeh / tofu or jackfruit. Originating from Indonesia, there are now many different versions of this curry in Malaysia, as many Malays migrated from the Indonesian islands to Malaysia. It is usually served with hot rice and is often seen at banquets.

Fried Chicken There are many kinds of fried chicken in Malaysia. The population is made up primarily of three races – Malays, Chinese and Indians – all of whom have a myriad of fried chicken recipes. Our version is a spicy dry fried chicken popular in Indian restaurants. We eat it with our fingers by the seaside!

Konlo Mee This is one our personal favourites. This Chinese noodle dish is very popular on Peninsula Malaysia. Fine egg noodles are braised in a rich mushroom based soy gravy and served with char siu pork, choi sum and pork & wonton dumplings in a clear broth. Pickled green chillies add a little bite to the dish.

Nyonya Chicken Curry Another favourite from the Peranakan culture – this rich fiery coconut-milk based curry is flavoured with lemongrass & galangal – and comes with potatoes!

Pulut kunyit – glutinous rice soaked with turmeric (kunyit) and steamed in coconut milk with white pepper & pandan leaves. We use Sarawak pepper because it is fruity and full of flavour. Traditionally served with Nyonya chicken curry.

Curry puffs are little pastry parcels with a curried filling – either potato, chicken or beef. Usually eaten as a tea time snack, curry puffs are very popular with school children after school finishes. You often see the curry puff truck parked under a tree with hordes of children, and cars parked nearby, as everyone mops up the curry puffs, fried banana fritters and other afternoon treats.

 We use spiral curry puff pastry, which originates from the Peranakan or Nyonya culture – which is a separate culture arising from the intermarriage of Malays and Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia. Ours are filled with curried potato and sweet potato, with herbs and spices for added flavour.

Char Koay Teow – a stir-fried flat rice noodle dish with egg, Chinese chives and beansprouts, the Malaysian equivalent of the ubiquitous pad thai. Smoky flavour comes from being fried in a very hot wok, and it is commonly made with prawns, blood cockles and Chinese sausage. Unfortunately, blood cockles are not available in the UK so our version doesn’t have them. Sometimes it is cooked with lard for extra tastiness. Chilli for spiciness is optional but recommended.

Bak Chang (also known as Zongzi) originates from China. It is a glutinous rice dumpling filled with a variety of ingredients – either just mung bean, mushrooms and peanuts for a basic version. Or you can go deluxe and have braised pork, salted egg yolk, chestnuts and dried shrimp, like our version. 

The dumpling is wrapped in bamboo leaves, and then cooked for several hours. To eat, cut the string, unwrap the dumpling and serve with some chilli oil and a spoonful of sugar. Dip little pieces of the dumpling in these for the ultimate experience. They are often eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival, as legend has it that in order to save a great scholar from being eaten by a monster in a river, the people threw these dumplings into the water to distract the monster.

Kaya is a Nyonya coconut jam, flavoured with pandan leaves – an aromatic leaf used in many desserts and dishes in Malaysia. It is a popular accompaniment with toast for breakfast, or makes a good filling for doughnuts and buns. Some of our customers just eat it by the spoonful…

Nyonya Acar is a spicy vegetable pickle of Nyonya origin. An acar is a vegetable pickle and this one is traditionally made with cucumber, carrot, fine beans, cabbage and cauliflower; the vegetables are blanched and dried, then marinated in a spicy handmade paste. It is a good accompaniment for cold meats or with rice and noodle dishes.

Ayam percik is roasted or grilled spiced chicken that originates from Kelantan state in the east of Peninsula Malaysia. The chicken is marinated for up to 48 hours until it is tender and full of flavor, then cooked on hot charcoal and served with a rich spicy gravy. It is often eaten around the end of Ramadan or for special occasions.

Vegetarian Sambhar Dhal Much of Malaysia’s Indian food originates from South India or Sri Lanka, and this coconutty lentil dhal is found everywhere. It is particularly good with roti canai, a flaky flatbread eaten for breakfast all over Malaysia.

Potsticker Dumplings Originating from China, these handmade dumplings became widely popular in Malaysia in the 1980s due to a Shanghainese restaurant chain in the Klang Valley around Kuala Lumpur. We make the most popular pork and chive version, as well as our own vegetarian tofu, and lamb & cumin fillings.

Yam kuih or Woo Tau Ko is from a group of breakfast or teatime snacks known as kuih (literally ‘cake’) which are found in markets and shops all over Malaysia. There are many varieties of kuih – some sweet, some savoury. This one is made of steamed yam, rice, tapioca flours and wheat starch; with fried dried shrimp, onions, chilies; served with a spicy chilli sauce. Springy, and soft at the same time – a lovely snack at any time.

Lamb curry – our version of lamb curry is a South Indian curry with plenty of gravy. It is full of typical Malaysian aromatics, herbs and spices such as lemongrass, onions, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, tamarind, fennel & cinnamon; as well as toasted coconut and coconut milk. One of my favourite curries it goes well with flatbreads or steamed rice.

Salt fish & chicken fried rice A very popular Chinese dish – the well-known egg fried rice with the addition of crisp pieces of salted fish and shredded chicken. Salt fish is used extensively and in many different ways in Malaysian cuisine and adds a lovely umami depth to the rice.

Aubergine, Tomato & Chickpea Lemak Lemak literally means fatty or rich but usually refers to a dish that is cooked with coconut milk or in a coconut gravy. This vegan lemak curry is our own invention, made with hand ground spices & herbs.

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