5 Malaysian Food Misconceptions Explained

From crispy rendang to takeaway iced lime tea, these are 5 misconceptions about Malaysian food you ought to know to avoid getting roasted!

1. Chicken Rendang is not crispy. Ever.

Crispy rendang is the hottest news served on the internet right now. It all started when a Malaysian-born MasterChef UK contestant, Zaleha Kadir Olpin, was eliminated because her chicken rendang was covered in sauce and “not crispy”.

“I like the rendang flavour, there’s a coconut sweetness. However, the chicken skin isn’t crispy. It can’t be eaten and all the sauce is on the skin so I can’t eat it,” – Gregg Wallace, MasterChef UK judge

Chicken rendang is a dry curry stew slow-cooked in coconut milk and fragrant spices, and what makes it good is the creamy sauce and tender meat. It is never crispy. Which is why Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians are up in arms, taking the internet by storm and criticising judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace for their lack of understanding towards South East Asian cuisine. Even Malaysia’s rival political leaders are on the same side in this “Rendangate”!

Malaysians love our food. No joke.

Look for yummy cooking classes and food tours across Malaysia run by locals.

2. We’re not spelling when we say ABC

ABC is the short form of Air Batu Campur, a beloved local dessert which consists of shaved ice topped with sweet syrups, kidney beans, toasted peanuts and evaporated milk. Colourful and refreshing, you can’t help but have a bowl on hot days.

3. Ikat tepi = Takeaway

When local say ikat tepi, it means we want the drink in a plastic bag, with a string knotted at one end. In other words, it is the Malaysian way of takeaway drinks.

If you hear someone go “teh o ais limau ikat tepi” at a local food stall, it’s an order of takeaway iced lime tea. What it isn’t is “iced tea, lime tied to the side”, which a clueless foreign waiter took it quite literally to be. This photo got plenty of laughs when it went round the internet a few months ago!

Look for yummy cooking classes and food tours across Malaysia run by locals.

4. Porridge is not sweet

In Western countries, porridge refers to oats, a common breakfast dish taken with honey, milk, sugar and fruits for a sweet version, or spices and vegetables for a savoury one.

In Asia, people will give you strange looks if you start pouring honey into your bowl. We boil down our rice into porridge, or what some people know as congee. Add in some meat, cakoi (fried dough), salted egg, spring onions, and voila – a yummy meal for anytime of the day!

5. Malaysian food isn’t just Malay food


Those who are not familiar with Malaysia may think that only Malay food is considered authentic Malaysian cuisine. How wrong they are! If you don’t already know this, Malaysia is a multicultural country whose cuisines are influenced by various cooking styles and techniques: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Peranakan, Borneon, mamak, you name it.

While nasi lemak is our national dish, leave some room for Char Kuey Teow, Roti Canai, Satay, Bak Kut Teh, Pongteh Chicken, Kuih, Mee Goreng and so on. All these dishes are Malaysian, and we stand by them.

Just as we stand by chicken rendang.

Understanding the culture helps you appreciate a country and open your eyes to new experiences. On LokaLocal, we connect you to people who know best about Malaysia, to make your trip meaningful and impactful. Join delicious cooking classes and food tours across Malaysia run by locals, and get a taste of our diverse food scene. 


1 Comment

  1. The porridge one was the most unexpected for me the first time I went over to Penang. It’s now my preferred version 🙂

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