Feasting in Malaysia where moderation is key

Malaysia is a unique multiracial country and that uniqueness is reflected in the local cuisine. An adventurous visitor will be entertained by the many flavors the local food has to offer from the various ethnicities of Malaysia. A local like myself can go on all day about the cuisine and why everyone should try Malaysian food at least once in their lifetime.

But there’s one thing that needs to be made clear. When in Malaysia, don’t think about the calories. To put it simply, Malaysian food can be unhealthy, but that does not stop Malaysians from enjoying their favorite dishes.

A good dish makes your heart melt. In a recent chat with friends, I asked them what it was about the local food that they loved. One friend could not have said it better: “The cultural variety makes Malaysian food good, in terms of the diversity in the offered types of cuisine.”

We have the British to thank for bringing in Chinese and Indians. Not to forget the East Malaysian cuisine, which is entirely different.

The food in Malaysia is described by many as glorious. Even when the name of the dish you’re having is screaming fat, all that matters in that moment is the taste. Good is not good enough, does the fragrance make your mouth water, does the dish look so delicious you cannot wait to dig in, and most importantly does it make you have a foodgasm?

Image 1 - Nasi Lemak, it is said to be the national dish of Malaysia. Credits: Macaron Magazine

Image 1 - Nasi Lemak, it is said to be the national dish of Malaysia. Credits: Macaron Magazine

There is so much to love about the Malaysian cuisine. Aside from the taste, the food reflects the many heritages in Malaysia. But unfortunately, the great food comes with great health problems. In 2014, Malaysia was dubbed the fattest country in Southeast Asia, according to Oxfam International. When the national dish is Nasi Lemak, which can be translated to fatty rice (Image 1), there’s no question why. The best cooks around will tell you to be generous with the ingredients (my grandmother will agree). “Needs butter,” they would say. “Add a heaping tablespoon!”

The more the merrier. This is a common mentality among Malaysians: enjoy now, worry later.

When in Malaysia, going on a diet can be difficult with so much good food around. The calories in a single serving of one’s favorite treat can range anywhere from 100 kcal to 600 kcal. Not to mention how cheap it is to buy these local delights, which makes them even more tempting to eat.

Image 2 - Laksa, noodles in a spicy broth. Credits: Macaron Magazine  

Image 2 - Laksa, noodles in a spicy broth. Credits: Macaron Magazine


If there’s one thing Malaysians love to do, it is eating, no matter at what time of day. This is likely a factor that contributes to the growing health issue some Malaysians are facing. For those who may consider visiting Malaysia, one thing that you don’t have to worry about is spending money on food. Good food comes at a good price. Of course, if people wish to pamper their taste buds, they can most definitely do so, there is something for everyone. A big, hot bowl of Laksa (Image 2) costs about 6 MYR (approx. USD$ 1.50). If that is not amazing, I do not know what is.

Malaysian cuisine never fails to tantalize taste buds and the varieties seem endless. However, with great taste comes great responsibility to eat in moderation.

Cover credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV


Vanessa Yong