Breakfast is often referred to as the most important meal of the day. It kickstarts your metabolism, provides essential nutrients, and gives you the energy you need to face the day ahead. In Malaysia, breakfast is not just about sustenance; it’s a culinary adventure that reflects the country’s rich multicultural heritage. Malaysians are fortunate to enjoy a diverse array of breakfast options, ranging from savory to sweet, and from spicy to mild. In this idbackpacker.com article, we’ll explore 20 delicious and authentic Malaysian breakfasts that you absolutely must try during your stay in this gastronomic paradise.
1. Nasi Lemak
Nasi lemak is a beloved breakfast dish enjoyed by people of all races in Malaysia. This fragrant rice dish is cooked with coconut milk, giving it a rich and creamy texture. It’s typically served with a variety of accompaniments, including fried anchovies, spicy sambal (shrimp paste), boiled or fried egg, cucumber slices, and peanuts. The combination of flavors and textures in nasi lemak creates a harmonious and satisfying meal that’s both filling and flavorful. The price of a plate of nasi lemak can range from as low as RM2 to as high as RM20, depending on where you choose to enjoy it. For a truly authentic experience, try the famous nasi lemak at Village Park in Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya.
2. Nasi Kerabu
Nasi kerabu is a unique Malay rice dish known for its striking blue-colored rice, which gets its hue from the petals of certain flowers used in the cooking process. This vibrant dish is particularly popular for breakfast among Kelantanese Malaysians. The rice is typically accompanied by a colorful array of ulam (traditional local salad), crackers, fish or fried chicken, pickles, and hard-boiled salted egg. The combination of fresh ingredients, aromatic herbs, and spicy sambal creates a symphony of flavors that will delight your taste buds. To savor an authentic nasi kerabu experience, visit Kesom Café in Petaling Jaya or Kak Ma Nasi Kerabu in Kota Bahru, Kelantan.
3. Classic Combination (Kaya Toast Half-Boiled Egg Coffee)
For a classic Malaysian breakfast that’s beloved by people from all walks of life, try the delightful combination of kaya toast, half-boiled eggs, and coffee or tea. Kaya toast consists of toasted bread slices generously spread with kaya, a sweet and fragrant jam made from coconut milk and eggs, often flavored with pandan leaves. This comforting breakfast is typically paired with a cup of hot coffee or tea and, sometimes, soft-boiled eggs. You can find this classic combination at traditional kopitiams (coffee shops) throughout Malaysia. Some iconic places to enjoy this meal include Yut Kee Kopitiam, a historic establishment in Kuala Lumpur established in 1928, and Transfer Road Roti Bakar in Penang.
No Malaysian breakfast list would be complete without tosai, a South Indian crepe-like delicacy. Despite its substantial appearance, tosai is surprisingly light and easy to digest. It’s usually served with a side of yogurt or a variety of flavorful curries. The edges of the tosai are often charred to a delightful crispiness, while the center remains soft and slightly tart from fermentation. One of the best places to sample authentic tosai is Chat Masala Restaurant in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, known for its authentic Indian cuisine.
5. Roti Canai
Roti canai, often simply referred to as roti, is a type of flatbread that reflects Malaysia’s Indian culinary influence. It’s a versatile dish that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Roti canai is typically served with dal (lentil-based soup) or kari ikan (fish curry) and is best eaten with your hands. In local parlance, you can order variations of roti canai, from roti kosong (plain) to filled options with ingredients like eggs, bananas, chicken, lamb, tuna, and more. It’s commonly accompanied by chicken curry, fish curry, dhal (lentil curry), or a combination of curries based on your preference. Watching the skillful preparation of roti canai, where the dough is skillfully flung into the air like a pizza crust, is a visual treat in itself.
6. Dim Sum
If you prefer bite-sized snacks for breakfast, dim sum is a delightful option that caters to both your savory and sweet cravings. Dim sum refers to a variety of small, steamed or fried dishes that are typically served with Chinese tea. These delectable offerings are served in bamboo steamer baskets and provide an array of flavors and textures. Some popular dim sum choices include Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), Har Gow (shrimp dumplings), Siu Mai (steamed dumplings with pork and prawns), and Loh Bak Gao (steamed turnip cake). You can savor these bite-sized treats at renowned dim sum restaurants like Foo Hing Dim Sum in Puchong, Jin Xuan Hong Kong Restaurant, and Dragon-i Restaurant. For those seeking halal dim sum options, Malaysia offers a variety of choices, with Dolly Dim Sum being a popular brand in town.
7. Yong Tau Foo
Yong Tau Foo is a Hakka dish that combines fish, meat, vegetables, and tofu. Traditionally, tofu cubes are stuffed with a mixture of fish and pork paste, then either deep-fried or braised. Over time, vendors began stuffing various vegetables like bitter gourd, lady’s fingers, chilies, and brinjals. In addition to stuffed ingredients, a typical Yong Tau Foo spread includes fish and meatballs, as well as fried tofu skin. This dish can be enjoyed dry with chili and sweet sauces or served in a clear soup. Side dishes like chee cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) and rice are optional but add to the overall enjoyment of the meal. You can find notable Yong Tau Foo stalls at places like Foong Foong Restaurant in Ampang and Yong Tau Foo at Puchong Batu 14, located in front of a Chinese vernacular school.
8. Bah Kut Teh
Bah Kut Teh, which translates to “meat bone tea,” is a hearty breakfast option that Malaysians favor for its nutrition and hearty flavors. This dish involves slow-cooking various cuts of pork in a complex broth infused with a blend of herbs and spices. Bah Kut Teh comes in various forms, ranging from robust and intense to light and soupy. It can be served in a humble bowl with just pork or in a claypot with a medley of ingredients. The city of Klang is renowned as the epicenter of Bah Kut Teh, boasting over a hundred Bah Kut Teh restaurants. Among the standout establishments is Under The Bridge Bah Kut Teh, a restaurant in Klang dating back to 1979, with a recipe that has over 70 years of history.
9. Noodle Soup
Noodle soup is a beloved Malaysian breakfast option that caters to noodle enthusiasts. There’s a wide variety of noodle soups to choose from, each offering its unique blend of flavors and ingredients. Some popular choices include curry noodles, soto (a traditional Indonesian soup), wonton noodles, fish soup noodles, shredded chicken noodles, and asam laksa. Whether you prefer the robust flavors of curry or the tangy richness of asam laksa, noodle soup is a nutritious and satisfying way to start your day. When prepared correctly, the soup provides a comforting and nourishing experience.
10. Laksa Perlis
While many may not be familiar with the culinary offerings of Perlis, Laksa Perlis is a hidden gem worth discovering. At first glance, it may resemble the Malay laksa found in other northern states like Kedah and Penang. However, Perlis has its unique twist on laksa that sets it apart. To savor traditional Perlis laksa, visit Laksa Kak Su on Jalan Siakap 1, Kuala Perlis. This dish features thick homemade rice noodles bathed in a flavorful fish-based gravy. It’s garnished with “ulam,” a combination of julienned cucumber, onion, chilies, and daun selom (a type of local herb). What makes Laksa Perlis truly unique is its accompaniment of pulut udang or kuih spera, which adds a savory grated coconut filling to the dish, resulting in a thicker and more delicious gravy.
Porridge, often known as rice congee, is a beloved Chinese hawker food in Malaysia that has also found its place in Malay cuisine. While it may appear bland at first glance, porridge is valued for its simplicity, health benefits, and ease of digestion. Compared to other stir-fried dishes, porridge is less oily and gentle on the stomach. It serves as a versatile base for various side dishes, such as smooth chicken, seafood, or even a combination of both. To enhance the flavor of porridge, diners can sprinkle white pepper, soy sauce, or sesame oil on top. Some notable places to savor delicious porridge include Hon Kee Famous Porridge in Chinatown (Petaling Street), Restaurant Teochew Lao Er in Kuala Lumpur, and Sitka Restaurant in Damansara Heights.
12. Stir-Fried Noodles (Char Kuey Teow, Mee Goreng, etc.)
Stir-fried noodles, such as Char Kuey Teow and Mee Goreng, are perennial Malaysian favorites. These dishes are equally suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and can be readily found at street vendors throughout the country. Mee Goreng, which translates to fried noodles, is a flavorful breakfast choice. The noodles are stir-fried at high temperatures to create a fragrant and aromatic dish. Meanwhile, Char Kuey Teow, consisting of flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, cockles, Chinese lap cheong (sausage), and bean sprouts, has won the hearts of diners worldwide. A trip to Penang would not be complete without trying the iconic Char Kuey Teow. You haven’t truly experienced Penang until you’ve tasted this dish.
Lontong is an Asian dish typically served with nasi impit, compressed rice that’s been cut into cubes. The dish features rice cubes immersed in a flavorful coconut milk and turmeric-based broth, along with an assortment of vegetables and condiments like fried tempeh, fried tofu, and boiled eggs. The addition of sambal adds a delightful kick to the dish. One noteworthy addition to lontong is the fried beef lung, sliced thinly and fried to a crisp, providing a unique and crunchy texture even when submerged in the broth. To enjoy a bowl of delicious lontong, head to Chawan in Bangsar, where locals gather in the morning to kick-start their day with this flavorful dish.
14. Teh Tarik, Milo, Cham, Hoi Nam Cha, etc.
No trip to Malaysia would be complete without sampling some of the country’s iconic beverages. Start your day with a cup of Teh Tarik, which translates to “pulled tea.” This tea derives its name from the method of pouring it from cup to cup to create a frothy surface. It pairs perfectly with any breakfast meal and offers a comforting dose of caffeine.
In addition to Teh Tarik, Malaysians love their morning coffee, known as “kopi” in the local Malay language. For a delightful twist, try “cham,” which is a mixture of coffee and tea, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. Additionally, Milo, a malt chocolate drink adored by Malaysian children, is a delightful beverage option. Many people enjoy dipping cream crackers or biscuits into a warm cup of Milo for an extra treat. By savoring these local beverages, you’ll feel like you’ve truly experienced the essence of Malaysian culture.
15. Soto Noodles Sabah
On a rainy morning or when you crave a warm and comforting breakfast, consider indulging in soto noodles in Sabah. This delightful noodle soup warms the heart and soul, making it especially enjoyable in the morning. Soto is typically a beef soup served with rice vermicelli (mihun), and it’s a common sight in Malay and Muslim restaurants throughout Malaysia. Nowadays, soto comes in various flavors, including chicken and seafood varieties. However, finding an exceptional bowl of soto can be a challenge. Some places in Sabah known for their delicious soto noodles include Happy Muslim Restaurant in Kota Kinabalu and Kedai Kopi Yuan Yuan in Tawau.
16. Chee Cheong Fun
Chee Cheong Fun, or steamed rice noodle rolls, is a delightful breakfast option that offers a balance of sweet and savory flavors. In Penang, the rice rolls are typically cut into short cylinders and served with an array of condiments such as thnee cheo (sweet dark-red sauce), hae ko (black prawn paste sauce), chili sauce, oil, and sesame seeds. Some people prefer their Chee Cheong Fun lightly tossed in curry sauce for an extra layer of flavor. While Penangites each have their favorite Chee Cheong Fun spot, you can’t go wrong with the stall outside Seow Fong Lye Cafe on Macalister Lane. Be prepared for a short wait as the skilled vendors prepare this delectable dish.
17. Yau Char Kwai
Yau Char Kwai, also known as Chinese crullers or fried dough fritters, holds a special place in the hearts of Malaysians. The name translates to “oil-fried devil” in accordance with Chinese culture. These deep-fried snacks have been a breakfast staple in Malaysia for generations. They are commonly enjoyed with rice congee or dipped into soy milk. The long, golden-brown snack can also be paired with bak kut teh, a hearty herbal soup, or a cup of brewed coffee. For a simple yet satisfying breakfast, you can also munch on these crispy delights by themselves.
18. Nasi Dagang
Nasi dagang is one of the most popular breakfast dishes in Terengganu, a state on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This dish combines fragrant white rice with white glutinous rice, resulting in a delightful texture and flavor contrast. Nasi dagang is typically served with a flavorful curry made with ikan tongkol, a type of tuna commonly fished off the coast, as well as simple side dishes like acar timun (cucumber pickles) and a hard-boiled egg. Some top spots to savor this dish include Mak Ngah’s stall in Kampung Bukit, Kuala Terengganu, and Kak Pah’s stall at the Batu Buruk food court.
19. Fish Noodles
While many of the breakfast dishes mentioned earlier are famous in Peninsular Malaysia, it’s worth exploring the common breakfast choices of Sabahans, such as fish noodles. At Jong Fa Pai restaurant in Kota Kinabalu, you can savor fish noodles featuring meaty chunks of fish in a flavorful fish-based broth, which can be clear or creamy with the addition of milk. The dish is often accompanied by tofu, preserved vegetables, and tomatoes. For a halal version, you can find ngiu chap, meaning “mixed cow” in Hakka dialect, which includes various parts of the cow, such as beef balls, tripe, tongue, tendons, and even liver and other innards.
20. Sarawak Laksa
For Sarawakians, Sarawak laksa is the ultimate breakfast treat. The late Anthony Bourdain, who featured Sarawak laksa in his TV shows, once referred to it as the “Breakfast of the Gods.” Unlike many other types of laksa found in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak laksa features rice vermicelli served with shredded omelet, cooked prawns, strips of chicken, and a fragrant broth. The dish is typically accompanied by sambal and lime for a burst of flavor. Sarawak laksa is beloved by all Sarawakians and is a favorite among families and friends, regardless of the time of day. Highly recommended restaurants that serve authentic Sarawak laksa include Mom’s Laksa (halal), Choon Hui Cafe, and Chong Choon Cafe in Kuching.
With these 20 delectable Malaysian breakfast options, you’ll embark on a culinary journey that reflects the country’s diverse cultures and flavors. Each dish offers a unique and memorable dining experience, making breakfast in Malaysia a true gastronomic adventure. Whether you’re craving the fragrant richness of nasi lemak, the comfort of kaya toast and eggs, or the bold flavors of laksa, Malaysian breakfasts have something to satisfy every palate. So, as you plan your visit to this food lover’s paradise, be sure to include these breakfast delights on your must-try list.