I like Malaysian food, probably because of the diversity of the cuisine throughout the country. With influences from India and China, mixed into traditional Malay dishes, it is not difficult to come up with a list of the top 10 foods to eat in Langkawi. In fact, my original list had 13 items, but 13 is bad luck, right?
The most obvious choices for where to eat in Langkawi are of course the large hotel properties, or the beach front restaurants along Pantai Cendang, the main beach area of Langkawi. But, looking beyond the obvious, we were able to find pretty good foods to eat in Langkawi, all over the island.
The Top 10 Foods to Eat in Langkawi
1. Nasi Campur
Nasi Campur is a staple all over Malaysia as well as Indonesia, and we ate a lot of it when living in Bali. Nasi is rice, and campur is mix in Malay. The dish is literally a mix of stuff with rice. In this case, at Seashells Restaurant in Pantai Cendang, it was served on a humongous plate, with chicken, tofu, vegetable soup and more. It was easily the largest nasi campur I have ever experienced!
Nasi campur would not be complete without sambal, the spicy chili sauce served on the side. Although there are many different varieties of sambal, the bright red one is my favorite. This is sambal belecan and is made with a fish paste. Unlike some of the other types of sambal, this one is actually not too fishy. It can pack a punch though. I actually learned how to make sambal during a cooking class with Chef Shuk in Langkawi. Chef Shuk also taught me about the process of making sambal for a future mother-in-law, as a test of the cooking skills of a potential future bride. Good thing my mother-in-law never tested me on my cooking skills.
Laksa comes in many different varieties, whether you eat it in peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, or Langkawi. In Singapore, it is common to find this fish or shrimp based curry soup with spaghetti style noodles. The Langkawi variety offers a thick, fresh noodle, that was clearly made by hand. The broth was spicy and pungent, with a hard boiled egg nestled on the top. The best place to go for Laksa is the road opposite the Langkawi airport. Grab a plastic table with a view of the water on one side and the planes landing on the other.
We were told it is nearly impossible to run a successful sate restaurant in Malaysia because people don’t need to go to a restaurant for sate. Sate is everywhere! Yes, you will find it on restaurant menus, but the best is at the local market. Or, even better, the sate comes to you, with roving sate stalls that offer grilled chicken or beef on a stick, with peanut sauce and pressed rice.
5. Beef Rendang
One of our favorite dishes from our time living in Bali, we ate beef rendang almost weekly at our local nasi padang. It is often made from a lesser cut of meat and can take up to 8 hours for the curry sauce to soak into the beef, until the beef is almost dry with no sauce. Once all that curry sauce is soaked in, the beef is a lot more tender.
6. Ikan Bakar
Another dish that is easy to find all over Langkawi, ikan bakar is grilled fish. Street side restaurants will advertise ikan bakar on large signs in the front, or just follow the streams of smoke that rise from the grill. Often times a smaller fish, like a mackerel, is used, and the fish is served whole, with a bbq sauce slathered across, and a sambal served alongside.
We were lucky enough to go squid scooping, or fishing for squid one night while on the island, but this is a very common dish to find, and one of the top foods to eat in Langkawi. The best is squid that is breaded and fried, like fish and chips, and served with a sweet and sour sauce.
Probably not a dish you would associate with the top foods to eat in Langkawi. Mozzarella is definitely not a local speciality, in that many Malays don’t have a taste developed for cheese, and it is not part of the local diet. But, buffalo mozzarella is made right on the island. A visit to the Buffalo Park ends with a cheese tasting, and it is possible to buy many different kinds of buffalo dairy products, including cheese and yogurt, at their little shop.
9. Ice Kacang
Ice Kacang, or ABC Special, is a shaved ice dessert, loaded with sweet fruit syrups, and bright colored jellies. To go hard core local, expect the ice kacang to have peanuts, kernels of corn, and often times kidney beans, nestled among the sweet flavored ice. The best place to find ice kacang is on the road across from the airport. A perfect evening can include laksa and ice kacanag while watching the sunset along the water, an evening meal that can cost less than $3 a person!
Okay, so I am not a fan of durian, the prickly green king of fruits, that when cut open reveals the smelliest fruit on the planet. On a visit to the 3D Art Museum in Langkawi, the manager offered us durian in a new way, frozen deep fried durian. I took a bite of Eric’s, to be polite. Again, I am not a fan, but the Malays love it, and durian is everywhere. If you have never eaten durian before, Langkawi is the perfect place to try it.
So, there is my list of the top 10 foods to eat in Langkawi. Although, I will also offer honorable mentions for amazingly bright and juicy star fruit at MARDI, the agro technology park, a fresh Malaysian salad at Restoran 1, and the fabulous curry we made during our cooking class with Chef Shuk.
We were supported by Naturally Langkawi during our trip, but all opinions are, as always, my own.
For more tips about eating in Malaysia, check out our Southeast Asia Food Guide.