From a Pei Pa Kao flavoured ice cream to a sambal concoction like you’ve never tasted, here are 6 must-try dishes in Malaysia with a unique twist
Given our nation’s obsession with food, it’s no surprise that Malaysians continue to find new and unexpected ways to enjoy their favourite local dishes. Notable mentions include a nasi lemak birthday cake, chendol ice cream and the list goes on. Various restaurants and artisanal food brands have jumped on the bandwagon too, reinventing beloved local staples like sambal and kaya in wildly adventurous ways. Curious? Read on to discover some of the most wildly weird and wonderful flavour combos.
1. Kaya gets a modern update
The traditional coconut jam is seeing a revival outside old-school coffee shops. In Petaling Jaya, you can try Provisions’ famous sous vide version, which pairs perfectly with a latte. Over in Penang, Yin’s Sourdough Bakery & Cafe has developed a vegan, egg-free kaya that owes its creaminess to Pumpkin.
2. The Milo Dinosaur gets reinvented
Bakery Cake Jalan Tiung started off by supplying other cafes around the Klang Valley before realising they could be doing their own thing. Their rotating line-up of cakes and pastries is equal parts classic (think: Victoria sponges, carrot cakes and jam tarts) and inventive (mango panna cotta cheesecake, anyone?) But what’s really getting fans excited is the bakery’s special cream puffs, especially the Milotabursaurus, its take on the kopitiam beverage favourite, Milo Dinosaur. The puffs are filled with Milo patisserie cream, paste and nuggets for a truly chocolatey malty affair.
3. Sabah’s own craft beverages
Yes, even ginger beer is getting its own Bornean spin. At Uinah Sabah, a local premium craft beverage manufacturer, the taste of Sabah gets distilled down to a distinctive, fiery ginger beer. It’s hand-brewed in the state, using sustainably grown ginger from the villages of Tambunan. Tambunan’s ginger is said to be the spiciest across all of Borneo, and is what lends the drink its depth and flavour. (Incidentally, “Uinah” is local Sabahan slang for “Wow!”) Try it for yourself; it’s available across various restaurants and supermarket retailers in Sabah.
4. A cough syrup flavoured ice cream
Pei Pa Kao, a Chinese herbal cough syrup remedy, is somewhat of a staple in most Malaysian households – and certainly not the first flavour profile that comes to mind when it comes to ice cream. Nonetheless, Merry Me, an online store based in Penang and KL, has released a Pei Pa Kao flavoured ice cream. Known for their adventurous scoops, some of their other quirky menu options include salted egg Oreo, tao sar piah and kaya toast.
5. A unique take on sambal
It’s clear that figs are having a moment, and now fig sambal has joined the party. The sweet, spicy sauce sold at Mutiara Figs is made from fresh, plump figs grown in Shah Alam and comes in three piquant varieties: sambal bilis, which has a satisfying crunch thanks to the savoury anchovies; the fiery and tangy sambal hijau; and the sweet sambal merah.
6. Nasi lemak sushi
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without a reinvention of Malaysia’s iconic dish, the nasi lemak. At Ruyi & Lyn, a modern Chinese restaurant in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, the nasi lemak sushi features mini-sized eggs, peanuts, sambal, anchovies which are all served on coconut milk rice and wrapped in thinly sliced cucumbers.
Additional reporting by Sarah Khan