Malaysian Indian cuisine

Indian rojak in Malaysia.

Malaysian Indian cuisine, or the cooking of the ethnic Indian communities in Malaysia consists of adaptations of authentic dishes from India, as well as original creations inspired by the diverse food culture of Malaysia. Because the vast majority of Malaysia's Indian community are of South Indian descent, and are mostly ethnic Tamils who are descendants of immigrants from a historical region which consists of the modern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka's Northern Province, much of Malaysian Indian cuisine is predominantly South Indian inspired in character and taste. A typical Malaysian Indian dish is likely to be redolent with curry leaves, whole and powdered spice, and contains fresh coconut in various forms. Ghee is still widely used for cooking, although vegetable oils and refined palm oils are now commonplace in home kitchens. Before a meal it is customary to wash hands as cutlery is often not used while eating, with the exception of a serving spoon for each respective dish.

Chettinad cuisine, the cuisine of the Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu, is very popular and available at specialist restaurants. The traditional cookery of the Chettiar community is distinct from the predominantly vegetarian fare of Tamil cuisine as it is heavily based on robustly spiced meat preparations. Coconut milk is sparingly used in favour of liberal quantities of onions and tomatoes to flavour and thicken curries.[1]

Mamak culture

Mamak (Indian Muslims) dishes have developed a distinctly Malaysian style. Available throughout the country, the omnipresent Mamak stalls or restaurants are particularly popular among the locals as they offer a wide range of food and some outlets are open 24 hours a day. A type of Indian Muslim meal served buffet-style at specialist Mamak eateries is called nasi kandar (analogous to the Indonesian nasi padang, where you pay for what you have actually eaten), white rice or briyani rice served with other dishes of curry either with chicken, fish, beef, or mutton, and usually accompanied with pickled vegetable, papadum and papadumdumdum.

People of all races, religions and ages frequent mamak stalls to gossip or catch a late-night football game while enjoying a cup of hot teh tarik. No other eatery has quite as much cultural significance in Malaysia, save for the kopitiam.

Life in Malaysia

List of dishes found in Malaysian Indian cuisine

Desserts and Sweets

Drinks and beverages


There is a large variety of bite-sized savoury snacks popular not only with the Indian community, but the wider Malaysian population as well. Street vendors selling kacang putih, a collective term for snacks made of flour, nuts or legumes and many types of spices roasted or fried to golden yellow are still a common sight in parts of Malaysia.


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