All types of food from South-East Asia can be found in multiracial
Malaysia. Malay food focuses on the subtleties of taste using a
blend of coconut milk, spices, ginger and peanuts. Sambals made
of a paste of ground chili, onion and tamarind is used as a side
dish. Blachan consists of dried shrimp paste and is used
in many dishes. Ikan bilis are dried anchovies and are eaten with
drinks. Satay is composed of an array of meats
and chicken, barbecued on small skewers with a spicy peanut dipping
sauce and a salad of cucumber, onion and compressed rice cakes.
The best sauces usually take several hours to prepare to reach
its subtle flavours. Gula Malacca is a firm sago pudding
in palm sugar sauce and is served in restaurants.
Chinese cooking which includes Cantonese, Hakka, Peking, Sichuan and
Taiwanese is popular. Indian food with curries
served mild to very hot is also popular. Vegetarian cuisine, Indian breads
and chutneys can be also found. Indonesian fare combines dried
seafood and spiced vegetables using the Japanese method of preparation
with fresh ingredients cooked to keep the natural flavour. Japanese-style
seafood like siakaiu beef is grilled at the table, tempura
is deep-fried seafood and sashimi is raw fish with salad.
Thai and Korean food can be found in many restaurants. Malaysia’s
many exotic fruits include durians, starfruits, guavas, mangos,
mangosteen and pomelos. Western food is served across the country
and includes Italian, US, Spanish and French cuisine. Kuala Lumpur
has many restaurants that rival the high standards of established
Western restaurants in Hong Kong and Singapore. Chopsticks are customary in Chinese
restaurants while Indian and Malay food is eaten
with the fingers. An excellent value for money are the set lunches
that usually offer four courses.
Although Malaysians are mostly Islamic, alcohol is available. The
local beers Tiger and Anchor are popular and recommended
as is the famous Singapore Gin Sling. International beers
are widely available.
Kuala Lumpur features a number of nightclubs and discotheques, most are
attached to the big hotels. Nightclubs usually stay open until 5.00
or 6.00 am and a cover charge is customary, which includes the first
drink. Many of the capital's bars have ‘Happy Hour’,
with two for the price of one, between 5.00 - 8.00 or 9.00 pm. Bintang
Walk is a bustling area and offers a wide range of al fresco bars and coffee shops. Penang also comes alive
at night. The larger hotels have cocktail lounges, dining, dancing
and cultural shows. Night markets are in most towns, including both
Kuala Lumpur and Penang Chinatown. Malay and Chinese movies have
English subtitles and there are also English language films. The
national lottery and Malaysia’s only casino at Genting Highlands
are approved by the government. Visitors should not gamble elsewhere.
Chinese Tai Sai and Keno, roulette, blackjack,
baccarat, and french bull is played at the casino. Dress is usually
formal and clients must be over 21 years of age.
Shopping ranging from elegant department stores to street markets.
Haggling is normal in the markets, unless discounted prices are shown.
Suria KLCC is a shopping centre with fountains, gardens and a beautiful
piazza, housing an excellent array of main couture outlets. Lot
10 and Star Hill are also famous shopping centres. The islands of
Langkawi and Labuan are duty-free zones. Watches, cameras, cosmetics,
perfume, pens and electronic goods are available with duty free throughout
the country. Malaysian specialty goods include silverware, pewter ware,
brass ware, pottery, batik, jewellery and songket. More
information can be obtained from the Malaysian Royal Customs and
Excise about claiming cash back on duty-free goods.
hours: Shops normally keep their own hours, within the range
of 10.00 am - 10.00 pm.
Malaysian festivals celebrating important religious events and
public holidays are held throughout the year and are impressive
spectacles, filled with vibrancy and colour. Each community
comes with its own customs, traditions and festivals, and to name all the
events would take many pages. For more details about the many other
can be obtained from the
Tourism Malaysia (see Contact section).
The following are some highlights of the events taking place in
(Hindu day of atonement), Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang and
||Federal Territory Day,
||Le Tour dé Langkawi
(cycling race), Peninsular Malaysia.
||Chinese New Year, nationwide.
||Carlsberg Malaysian Open
(tennis), Kuala Lumpur.
|Apr 10-May 8
||Malaysia Water Festival
(aquatic events and festivities), Lumut, Perak.
||Kaamatan (Harvest festival
celebrated by the Kadazan-Dusun people), Kinabalu, Sabah.
|May 22-Jun 19
||Colours of Malaysia Festival,
|May 25-Jun 1
||Penang International Floral
||Gawai (Harvest festival
celebrated by the Ibans people), Sibu, Sarawak.
||25th Annual Penang International
Dragon Boat Festival.
||Food & Fruits Fiesta,
Alor Setar, Kedah.
||International Kite Festival,
|Aug 17-Sep 16
||Merdeka Month Celebrations
(including Independence Day Parade), Kuala Lumpur and
||Sarawak Regatta, Kuching.
||International Festival of
the Arts Month.
||Cameron Equator Race,
||Deepavali (Hindu ‘Festival
of Lights’), nationwide.
||Hari Raya Puasa (End
of Ramadan), nationwide.
Social Customs and Conventions
The population is a combination of different cultures and characters.
Generally the racial groups combine, but retain to their own traditions
and lifestyles. Malays form more than half of the total population
and are ruled by the authority of elders and a strong sense of
respect and etiquette. The Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan inhabitants
formerly came to Malaysia to work in the civil service, police
and local government departments, including in the new rubber plantations.
Many are presently among the professional classes. The Dutch, British
and Portuguese influence is very conspicuous in Malaysia, even though the
European inhabitants are currently small. As for greetings are concerned,
the equivalent of ‘hello’ is the Muslim phrase ‘peace
be with you’. Men are called 'Encik' (pronounced Enchik)
with or without the name while women are addressed as 'Puan' if they are married and 'Cik' (pronounced
Che) if they are single. Placing
the hand to the chest is a sign of respect and a relaxed wrist and
gentle touch should be used when shaking hands. Indians and Chinese
normally use Western forms of address. Hospitality is casual, warm and lavish. Eating food by hand should be done with the right
hand only. Tourists should respect religious beliefs and wear appropriate
clothing. Shoes should be removed at the door before entering a house
or temple. Dress is informal, but not too casual. In the cities
smoking has become the subject of government disapproval and fines
are levied in public places, such as cinemas, and libraries.
10% service charge and 5% government tax are
usually included in bills. Taxi drivers do not expect tips.