Bahasa Malay to English Food Glossary

Are you planning a trip to Malaysia or just curious about Malay cuisine? This Bahasa Malay to English food glossary will help you navigate the diverse and flavorful world of Malaysian food. Whether you’re ordering at a local hawker stall or exploring a menu in a Malay restaurant, this glossary will ensure you know exactly what you’re getting.

1. Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak is one of Malaysia’s most iconic dishes. It consists of fragrant coconut rice served with a variety of toppings and condiments. The must-have ingredient is sambal, a spicy chili paste that adds a fiery kick to the dish. Other common accompaniments include fried chicken, anchovies, peanuts, hard-boiled eggs, and cucumber slices.

2. Roti Canai

Roti Canai is a type of flatbread that is widely enjoyed in Malaysia. It is typically served with a side of curry for dipping. The dough is stretched and tossed to create flaky layers before being cooked on a griddle. You can choose from various flavors such as plain, egg, or filled with ingredients like cheese or banana. Roti Canai is best eaten hot and fresh!

3. Satay

Satay is a popular Malay street food that consists of skewered and grilled meat. The meat is marinated in a flavorful blend of spices and then grilled over charcoal. The most common type of satay is made with chicken or beef, but you can also find variations with lamb, pork, or even seafood. Satay is typically served with a peanut sauce and a side of sliced onions and cucumbers.

With this Bahasa Malay to English food glossary in hand, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the vibrant and delicious world of Malaysian cuisine. Don’t be afraid to try new flavors and dishes – you might just discover your new favorite food!

Basic Malay Food Terms

1. Nasi

Nasi refers to rice in Malay cuisine and is a staple in many dishes. It can be steamed, fried, or cooked in coconut milk for added flavor.

2. Sambal

Sambal is a spicy sauce or condiment commonly used in Malay cuisine. It is made from a mixture of chili peppers, shrimp paste, lime juice, and other ingredients.

3. Rendang

Rendang is a popular Malay dish made from slow-cooked meat in a flavorful coconut milk-based sauce. It is rich, aromatic, and often served with rice.

4. Satay

Satay is a popular Malay street food made of skewered and grilled meat, usually chicken or beef. It is served with a peanut sauce and often accompanied by rice cakes.

5. Roti Canai

Roti Canai is a type of layered flatbread commonly found in Malay and Indian cuisine. It is usually served with a side of curry for dipping.

6. Gula Melaka

Gula Melaka is palm sugar that is commonly used as a sweetener in Malay desserts and drinks. It has a rich, caramel-like flavor and is often used in traditional desserts like cendol.

These are just a few basic Malay food terms to acquaint you with the flavors and ingredients commonly found in Malay cuisine. Exploring Malay food is a delicious way to experience the rich culinary heritage of Malaysia.

Popular Malay dishes with English translations

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

Nasi Lemak is one of Malaysia’s national dishes, consisting of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk with pandan leaves. It is usually served with sambal (spicy chili sauce), fried anchovies, peanuts, sliced cucumbers, and hard-boiled eggs. The dish can also be accompanied by various side dishes such as fried chicken, rendang (slow-cooked meat), or sambal squid.

Rendang (Spicy Beef Stew)

Rendang (Spicy Beef Stew)

Rendang is a flavorful and spicy beef stew that originated from the Minangkabau ethnic group in West Sumatra, Indonesia. The dish is prepared by slow-cooking beef in a mixture of spices and coconut milk until the sauce thickens and the meat absorbs the flavors. Rendang is traditionally served with steamed rice and can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a larger meal.

Common Malay Dishes with English Translations
Malay Dish English Translation
Nasi Lemak Coconut Rice
Rendang Spicy Beef Stew
Satay Grilled Skewered Meat
Laksa Spicy Noodle Soup
Roti Canai Flaky Flatbread
  • Satay: Satay is a popular Malay dish of skewered and grilled meat, usually served with a peanut sauce dip. It can be made with various types of meat, such as chicken, beef, or lamb.
  • Laksa: Laksa is a spicy noodle soup that can be found in various forms across Southeast Asia, including Malaysia. It typically consists of rice noodles in a flavorful broth, topped with ingredients such as shrimp, tofu, bean sprouts, and hard-boiled eggs.
  • Roti Canai: Roti Canai is a flaky and crispy flatbread that is commonly eaten for breakfast or as a snack. It is usually served with a side of curry for dipping.

Malay Ingredients and Cooking Techniques


  • Belacan: This is a traditional fermented shrimp paste that adds a distinctive umami flavor to Malay dishes.
  • Serai: Also known as lemongrass, serai is a popular herb used in Malay cooking to add a citrusy aroma and flavor.
  • Kunyit: Kunyit, or turmeric, is a bright yellow spice that is widely used in Malay cuisine for its earthy flavor and vibrant color.
  • Santan: Santan, or coconut milk, is a key ingredient in many Malay curries and desserts, adding richness and creaminess.
  • Cili Padi: Cili padi, or bird’s eye chili, is a small and spicy chili pepper that is commonly used to add heat to Malay dishes.

Cooking Techniques:

Cooking Techniques:

The Malay cuisine employs various cooking techniques to achieve its distinct flavors. Here are some notable techniques:

  1. Stir-frying: Stir-frying is a commonly used cooking technique in Malay cuisine. It involves quickly cooking ingredients in a wok or a frying pan over high heat with a small amount of oil. This technique helps to retain the freshness and texture of the ingredients.
  2. Grilling: Grilling is another popular cooking method in Malay cuisine, especially for seafood and meats. Grilling over charcoal imparts a smoky flavor to the dishes and brings out the natural flavors of the ingredients.
  3. Boiling and Simmering: Boiling and simmering are common techniques used in preparing Malay soups and broths. These techniques help to extract flavors from ingredients such as herbs, spices, and meats, resulting in fragrant and flavorful dishes.
  4. Steaming: Steaming is a gentle cooking technique used for preparing rice, vegetables, and seafood in Malay cuisine. Steaming helps to retain the nutrients and natural flavors of the ingredients while keeping them moist and tender.

These are just a few examples of the many ingredients and cooking techniques used in Malay cuisine. The combination of these ingredients and techniques contributes to the unique and delicious flavors that are characteristic of Malay dishes.

Add a comment