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Before we started our world tour, one of the things that got me most excited about our travel was going to Southeast Asia and eating street food. I already love Thai food – and there are a lot of similarities in Malaysian food – but I wanted to try proper local food, not just the Americanized versions. Thanks to the Langkawi night market, I’ve really gotten to explore Malaysian food.
It’s a wonderful (and cheap) way to sample the native food and imports from around Asia that have helped shape the landscape of Malaysian food. Plus, it’s a cultural experience. We weave our way through the crowds; smelling roasted corn, eyeing the multicolored displays of food, and hearing the vendors shout “Anggur! Anggur!” to sell their grapes.
I am far from an expert in Malaysian food, so I may have gotten a few things wrong here. If I did, let me know!
Different Market Every Night
The Langkawi night markets are at a different location for each night of the week, except Wednesday and Saturday, which are both in Kuah. We attended the Tuesday night market in Kedawang once, and then the Wednesday night market in Kuah thrice.
Good Words to Know
- ayam: chicken
- coklat: chocolate
- ikan: fish
- biji: each/piece
- terima kasih: thank you
What to Bring
- bottled water
- be prepared to carry your trash out, trash cans are scarce
Karipap: Malay Style Curry Puffs
These flaky, savory pastries are filled with usually either chicken and potato or just potato mixed with ground curry.
Char Kuey Teow
With wide rice noodles and a charred, smoky flavor, this dish is very similar to my favorite Thai dish, Pad See Ew.
Googling dorayaki comes up with something completely different from these sweet corn cakes. They were delicious, and the guys at the booth were nice enough to laugh politely at me and then give me another one when I dropped one of mine on the ground.
This is David’s favorite item. Blended mango with (I’m guessing here) sweetened condensed milk, ice, and a whipped cream on top. They also have coconut shakes and fresh mango juice.
Apom Balik: Crispy Stuffed Pancake
This pancake is unlike any other “pancake” I’ve had. Instead of being soft, it’s a thin cup-shaped pancake, crispy all the way around. It’s got a small layer of creamed corn and crushed peanuts inside and is folded in half.
Sate or Ayam Bakar
Ayam bakar is baked chicken on a stick, which you can get several cuts: dada (breast), sayap (wings), hati (heart), kulit (skin), pedal (leg), and peha (quarter). Sate (or satay) comes in a variety too.
Murtabak: Roti Packet
Murtabak is a very thin roti packet, usually with chicken or beef inside, although you can get a dessert murtabak with Nutella and bananas inside. The roti is soft and greasy, not flaky or fluffy, and the meat inside is spiced.
Pulut Udang Panggang: Sticky Rice with Dried Shrimp
This dish is dried shrimp with a spicy sauce wrapped in sticky rice and a banana leaf. The stall was grilling them right in the wrapper.
Malaysian Doner Kebab Burrito
There’s a large doner kebab being shaved, and then the meat is piled with vegetables and sauces onto a Mission tortilla. They are displayed like this but are folded up and wrapped in paper to sell. This is David’s favorite for dinner since I won’t let him have only a mango shake for a complete meal.
With salt and butter. Delicious!
Apam lenggang are rolled up Malaysian crepes. We saw them either plain or with cheese.
Recipe for Apam Lenggang.
Yong Tau Foo
I don’t know much about this Hakka Chinese dish, but the booths were really amazing. The displays are tray after tray of basically protein balls – tofu mixed with either meat or fish. They are in all kinds of shapes and colors (even cartoons). You are given a colander to pick out what you want and then they cook it right for you there. I think they are frying it, and then it’s served with a broth and some veggies to make a soup.
I first saw these in Adelaide. Takoyaki is a Japanese ball of dough stuffed, and at this booth, they were stuffed with chicken, prawn, squid, or crab. They are made in a special grill and flipped and formed with two stick utensils. It’s pretty amazing to watch takoyaki being formed.
Literally translating to “cake flowers”, I think this dessert is very similar to egg waffles from Hong Kong. You can get them plain or with chocolate banana.
Pulut means sticky rice, and this can be served either sweet or savory at the market. The sweet option is with coconut milk and either mango (like Thailand’s Khao Neeo Mamuang) or durian fruit. The savory is often with fried chicken and sambal.
Coconut rice, sambal, a fried egg, and some roasted nuts make up this very popular Malaysian dish. Finding it at the street market though is a bit intimidating. I wanted to try it prior to visiting Malaysia but wasn’t expecting to see it folded up into a newspaper packet. Eating the Malaysian street food is often complicated enough, how do you unwrap something like this and eat it without making a giant mess?
Read more about Nasi Lemak.
Another street food item we started seeing in Australia (first at the Hobart Salamanca Market), this is a spiral potato put on a stick with batter and fried. It’s originally from Korea, and we had ours with mayonnaise and sweet chili sauce.
There are several booths that sell varieties of juices, common things like coconut or orange juice to weirder ones, like grass jelly, milo, and green tea.
Oh lord, this cake is so freaking good. David and I both agree that this was by far the best dessert we had from all the trips. It’s a very dense, rich cake.
We didn’t try one of these, but there’s a lot of similar dishes that look like they might be cheesecake or layer cake desserts.
There’s always fish at the market and even some more unusual items from the sea!
The langsat fruit is a bit similar to lychees or rambutan, but the flesh is segmented. The seeds can be bitter if it is overripe but otherwise it a mildly sweet fruit.
Mangos are available at RM 6 per kilo (65 cents per pound). Our first week of going to night markets we bought big glorious mangos. However, the next two weeks we didn’t see them and instead we bought smaller mangos.
Persimmons are one of my most favorite fruits in the world, but they are not that common in the states and expensive when I find them. The beautiful red persimmons at the night market were 5 RM ($1.20 USD) for three. They are sold underripe, but still edible. When underripe they are crispier, but when they ripen they get softer and juicier. The flavor is like brown sugar. If they get overripe, throw them in the freezer for a very delicious cold treat.
Golden pomegranates are smaller than the POM Wonderful red pomegranates you’ll find in the stores in the US, but they taste the same. Another favorite fruit of mine, I also bought them at 5 RM ($1.20 USD) for three.
I also bought papayas, cucumbers, lettuce, and red onions. I didn’t shop for vegetables at the night market much but there are plenty of choices.