The inspiration behind this article celebrating cheap Malaysian food is a Japanese TV show I randomly watched on Netflix once, called Japanese Style Originator. In Episode 13, the two-hour show went through FIFTY ‘simple yet delicious Japanese ingredients and side dishes that perfectly complement the flavour of rice’.
Reader. By the end of the episode, I was a transformed woman. I must admit I was blown away by this simple but powerful concept: appreciating the flavour of an ingredient despite its price. The show made me realise that I’ve been taking some ingredients for granted, just because it is cheap and easily available in Malaysia.
(Side note: I also noticed that there is also a growing movement to re-appreciating local food from South East Asians. People made really good arguments that the only reason why we think salmon, blueberries and the like is healthIER is because of Western influence, when in fact our local ingredients are not only cheaper but BETTER, nutritionally speaking.
As an example, see the below Ikan Kembung vs Ikan Salmon comparison)
So with that, allow me to do my own non-exhaustive list of cheap Malaysian ingredients and flavours that are DELICIOUS eaten with steaming hot white rice. I don’t know about you, but I am going to savour the taste, the texture, the mouthfeel of each bite. It makes me happy to know that eating healthy is absolutely possible on a RM3 or so per meal budget.
Price estimate: RM0.50-RM1 per serving
*Fried, Boiled, Soup, Steamed, Raw, etc
- Long Beans
- Bitter gourd
Price estimate: RM1-RM2 per serving
- Egg (Boiled! Mata kerbau! Dadar! Bistik-style!)
- Hard tofu
- Soft tofu
- Egg tofu
- Braised peanut
- Catfish aka ikan keli (small)
- Ikan kembung (small)
- Ikan cencaru (small)
- Ikan tongkol (small)
- A single portion of chicken
Category: Pure flavour
Price estimate: RM0.10-RM0.50 per serving; add to vegetables and/or protein
- Sambal (Belacan, Ikan bilis, Petai, Tempoyak, Mangga, etc)
- Kuah (Kari, Gulai, Asam Pedas, Dhal, etc)
What other ingredients/sides would you add to this list of cheap Malaysian food?
What other things do you that is not only healthy, but also very much wallet-friendly? Let me know in the comments – with your help, I want to make the list even longer and more comprehensive, while re-appreciating the plentiful produce available on Malaysian soil!
Protip: Make your cost-per-meal even cheaper. Read my The Comprehensive Guide to Save Money on Groceries in Malaysia article. I also love browsing Rasa.my for Malaysian recipe ideas.