The best Malay dishes in Langkawi benefit from the island’s abundance of fresh seafood and vegetables as well as unique herbs and spices, resulting in combinations you might not find anywhere else in the world. While Langkawi boasts a diverse dining scene, sampling authentic Malay cuisine is a must for any first-time visitor to the island. Best of all, these delicacies are available everywhere and at any budget level, from roadside stalls to luxurious resorts.

    There are plenty of family-owned restaurants, particularly in Pantai Cenang, offering extensive buffet-style lunches from 11 am onwards. After grabbing your plate of steamed rice, you can choose from 20 to 50 types of fish, vegetables, and chicken dishes. Read on for our list of Langkawi’s most popular Malay cuisine.

    1

    Nasi tomato

    Nasi tomato, or tomato rice, is made using a combination of tomato paste, coconut milk and various spices, together with sautéed garlic, onion, and sugar. Available in most Malay restaurants in Langkawi, this sweet-sour rice dish can be paired with a wide range of toppings. 

    Popular options include fried chicken or fish and raw vegetables, though we highly recommend beef rendang (a dry, coconut milk-based curry), chickpea curry, and acar nenas (pineapple and peanut salad).

    2

    Ikan bakar (broiled fish)

    Ikan bakar (broiled fish) is sold everywhere in Malaysia, but Langkawi offers arguably the best ones as it has an abundant supply of fresh seafood. You can find plenty of roadside stalls, night markets, and local restaurants selling these delicacies at affordable prices. 

    The fish is marinated in a blend of sambal, turmeric, chili, belacan (fermented shrimp paste), and galangal before it’s wrapped in a banana leaf and broiled over a charcoal stove. Due to its spicy flavor, a plate of steamed rice goes well with ikan bakar.

    3

    Pajeri nenas (pineapple curry)

    Pajeri nenas is great for vegetarian diners looking to sample traditional Malay-style curry in Langkawi. This sweet-sour pineapple curry is typically served for lunch at local Malay restaurants in Langkawi. 

    The dish contains chunks of sweet pineapple in a coconut-based curry. The best way to enjoy it is with a plate of white rice, okra, cucumber, and eggplants.

    4

    Nasi lemak

    Nasi lemak is one of Malaysia’s signature Malay dishes that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It’s a hearty dish of coconut-flavoured rice, served with hard-boiled egg, fried peanuts, anchovies, and a spicy shrimp-based sauce. 

    You can find this dish everywhere in Langkawi, from five-star resorts and Malay restaurants to night markets and roadside stalls. You can even have your nasi lemak topped with curried meat or fried chicken at additional prices.

    5

    Beef rendang

    Beef rendang is traditionally served together with ketupat (rice dumpling wrapped in coconut leaf) and nasi minyak (ghee rice) during weddings or annual festivities. Today, it’s a popular accompaniment to any sort of rice dish. 

    Beef rendang comprises beef cubes in a slow-cooked curry that’s heavily spiced with ginger, turmeric, kaffir lime, chilies, toasted coconut, and asam keping, which comes from a rainforest tree native to Peninsular Malaysia. You can also find chicken, vegetarian, and seafood rendang at most Malay restaurants in Langkawi.

    6

    Gulai ikan talang masin (salted fish curry)

    Gulai ikan talang masin is an Indian-Muslim seafood delicacy in Langkawi. The dish consists of salted queenfish, pineapple, and vegetables in coconut and lemongrass curry. It’s a staple in almost every Malay household and eatery. 

    Despite its name, it’s not overpoweringly salty, thanks to its abundance of turnip, brinjal, tomato, and beans. As with most Malay stews and curries, gulai ikan talang masin is usually paired with white rice or tomato rice.

    7

    Ayam masak merah (chicken in spiced tomato sauce)

    Ayam masak merah is named after its bright red ensemble of fried chicken braised in tomato sauce. Some local restaurants add corn kernels, peas, and diced carrot into the mix before garnishing it with cilantro and kaffir lime leaves. 

    Unlike most Malay dishes, ayam masak merah has more of a sweet and sour taste, making it a good option for those who can’t handle spicy food. It's best to enjoy this flavorful dish with plain rice and vegetables.

    8

    Assam pedas (Spanish mackerel in spicy stew)

    Assam pedas is a prominent traditional dish in Malaysia and Indonesia. It contains simmering fish and vegetables in a sour-spicy stew that’s made with spices like belacan (fermented shrimp paste), tamarind, and chili. 

    The type of fish used to prepare this dish varies depending on region, though many Langkawi restaurants typically opt for Spanish mackerel, red snapper, or tuna. Assam pedas also contains lots of vegetables such as okra, tomatoes, shredded flashlight ginger buds, and Vietnamese cilantro.

    9

    Nasi goreng kampung

    Nasi goreng kampung is a hearty dish of fragrant fried rice with eggs, water spinach, diced long beans, and onions. Widely known as Malaysian-style comfort food, this recipe stands out from most variations of fried rice due to its inclusion of crispy anchovies, chunks of chicken, fried shallots, and bird’s eye chili. Nasi goreng kampung can be quite spicy, so request the cook to skip the chili if you are sensitive to spice. 

    10

    Satay (skewered meat)

    Satay is a popular Malaysian snack that’s basically pieces of skewered meat marinated overnight before barbecued over a charcoal fire. You can find these at Langkawi night markets and local restaurants, as well as 5-star resorts. 

    The marinade is made with lemongrass, turmeric, cilantro, shallots, garlic chili, and honey, resulting in a slightly sweet yet savory flavor. Satay comes in chicken, beef or lamb, and is typically served with a peanut-based sauce, raw cucumber slices, and cubed rice.

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveler

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