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25 Healthy, Delicious and CHEAP Malaysian Food + Ingredients to Eat with Rice

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.

Category: Vegetables

Price estimate: RM0.50-RM1 per serving

*Fried, Boiled, Soup, Steamed, Raw, etc

  1. Tauge
  2. Kangkung
  3. Bayam
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sawi
  6. Carrot
  7. Long Beans
  8. Bitter gourd
  9. Cucumber
  10. Eggplant

Category: Protein

Price estimate: RM1-RM2 per serving

  1. Egg (Boiled! Mata kerbau! Dadar! Bistik-style!)
  2. Serunding
  3. Hard tofu
  4. Soft tofu
  5. Egg tofu
  6. Braised peanut
  7. Tempe
  8. Catfish aka ikan keli (small)
  9. Ikan kembung (small)
  10. Ikan cencaru (small)
  11. Ikan tongkol (small)
  12. A single portion of chicken

Category: Pure flavour

Price estimate: RM0.10-RM0.50 per serving; add to vegetables and/or protein

  1. Sambal (Belacan, Ikan bilis, Petai, Tempoyak, Mangga, etc)
  2. Kicap
  3. 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.

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4 Comments

  1. Hi

    Whenever there is an article about food, it will always make me salivate, no matter if I’ve just eaten or not.

    My personal take on eating rice are:

    White warm rice + margerine / butter + raw onion/chilipadi/garlic + ikan bilis garing
    White warm rice + kicap masin + fried eggs + raw chili padi
    White warm rice + ikan masin + sawi / kangkung / bayam
    White warm rice + sambal blacan + tofu + terung

    The first 2 menu is when at home and just one of the lazy days to cook.

    The rest of the menus are when eating from kedai nasi campur.

    My mum used to say I am crazy to consume raw chili padi with rice, but I said, chilipadi is vegetable. Hence, I still get my vitamins, albeit, it explodes in my ear, nose and throat. Cannot live without it.

    1. Oh my! Warm rice with butter! I’ve heard of it but never tried it myself but I imagine that must taste delicious!

      (I thought of adding ikan manin in the list but figured its not particularly healthy even though its hella delicious haha)

      About the cili padi… I’m.. I’m on your mom’s side..

  2. “White warm rice + kicap masin + fried eggs + raw chili padi”
    Minus or with the “raw chili padi, I believe this is the number one quick, easy, & cheap eats of rice eating-Asians.
    For me, I just check the fridge and throw into the pot whatever I can find to come up with a quick meal.
    No ready cooked rice?…no problem, just add instant noodle, potatoes, or whatever you have in the kitchen.

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