Top 10 Must Try Local Foods in Langkawi Island

Langkawi is an archipelago made up of 99 islands on Malaysia’s west coast. Surrounded by turquoise sea, the interior of the main island is a mixture of picturesque paddy fields and jungle-clad hills. If you’re intent on carting off duty-free alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate, then this is the place to be. Still, nature lovers will find the island just as agreeable as the shoreline is fringed by powder-fine sand and swaying coconut trees.

1. Nasi Campur

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Nasi Campur is a staple throughout Malaysia and Indonesia, and we eat a lot of it when staying in Bali. Nasi is rice, and the campur means mixture in Malay. This dish is a combination of goodies with rice. In this case, at Seashells Beach Restaurants Pantai Cendang, it is presented with a humongous plate, with chicken, tofu , vegetables soup and more. It is easily the biggest Nasi Campur I have ever experienced!

2. Sambal Belacan

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Nasi Campur would not be complete without chili sauce; spicy chili served as a side dish. Although there are many different types of chili, the bright red is my favorite. This belacan sauce is made with fish paste. Unlike other types of sambal, this is actually not too fishy. It can pack a punch though. I actually learned how to make a sauce during cooking classes with Chef Shuk in Langkawi. Chef Shuk also told me that his first attempt in making sambal was to test his cooking skills for his potential future bride. Good thing my mother-in-law of did not do the same .

3. Laksa

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Laksa comes in different varieties, whether you eat in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, or Langkawi. In Singapore, it is common to find these fish or shrimp curry-based soup with spaghetti noodles style. Langkawi’s range offers bold, fresh noodles, which was made clear by hand. The broth was spicy and pungent, with hard boiled eggs on top of it all. The best place to go for Laksa is a road opposite Langkawi airport. Get a plastic table with water views on one side and the plane landed on the other.

4. Sate

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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

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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

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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.

7. Breaded and fried Squid

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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.

8. Mozzarella

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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

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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!

10. Durian

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.

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