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In Malaysia, we were surprised by the variety of delicious dishes influenced by Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisines.
Little we know, Malaysia also has an amazing culture of unique Malaysian drinks and juices.
At hawker centers which are at the core of the local eating culture, dishes are ordered along with Malaysian drinks.
These popular drinks in Malaysia are really inexpensive. Most local juices cost between 2 MYR and 3.50 Malaysian Ringgit, which is equivalent to $0.50 and $0.80 cents USD.
The exotic names, arresting colors and unusual flavors, will have you looking forward to your meals, just to try one new Malaysian drink.
To help quench your thirst, try these 10 unusual Malaysian drinks to experience like a local.
A Note About Malaysian Alcoholic Drinks
Malaysia is a majority Muslim country and as a result, alcohol is not available at Malay restaurants or at most hawker centers.
However, non-Muslims can drink alcohol in Malaysia as long as they comply with the local rules and regulations. In major Metropolitan hubs like Kuala Lumpur, you can find liquor sold at supermarkets or at some non-Muslim owned restaurants.,
Licensed establishments catering to tourists may have limited alcohol selections though priced at significantly higher prices.
That said, the local Malaysian drinks are fascinating and worth experiencing. Skip the beer and alcohol and instead drink the local flavors.
Here are 10 famous Malaysian drinks you don’t want to miss.
1- Teh Tarik – Pulled Tea – The National Drink of Malaysia
Teh Tarik or Malaysian pulled tea, is said to be the National Drink of Malaysia. The tea is consumed universally in the country and unites the Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures.
This beloved Teh Tarik tea is significant as it represents the fusion of the multi-ethnic and multicultural country.
Teh Tarik can be found at local coffee shops known as Kopitiam or mamak food stalls across the country.
Black tea, sugar and condensed milk are combined and poured through the air between two cups until a rich frothy top is created.
The tea brings together Chinese tea leaves with the Indian style of making chai.
What makes this drink so unique is the way it’s prepared. There is a showmanship and tradition that accompanies the preparation process.
As the tea is poured from one jug to another, the distance between the jugs becomes wider and wider, creating an illusion that the long stream of tea is being “pulled” in mid-air.
This creates a unique frothy top which unites the flavors and makes the tea smooth. It is foamy, creamy, sweet with a little kick.
Teh Tarik is more than just a cup of tea mixed with condensed milk. It is one of the most revered Malaysian drinks in the culture, so much so, that it has birthed an entirely new sport devoted to tea pulling.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: If you want to taste Teh Tarik, the Malaysian national drink, make it at home with this simple recipe. Teh Tarik Recipe – How To Make Delicious Frothy Malaysian Pulled Tea
2- Barley Juice – Popular Malaysian Drink
The first time we saw “Barley” on a juice menu at a local coffee shop, we were surprised and intrigued.
We would never have thought of having barley as a juice and that made us immediately curious to try it.
Served with ice, barley juice is a clear liquid, viscous in texture with added sugar and lime for taste.
The juice came with whole barley pearls mixed into it which were soft, thick and sweetened from the sugar.
We enjoyed the delicious juice which we found quite light and refreshing.
Barley juice quickly became one of our favorite Malaysian drinks. It is widely available at hawker stalls, street food stalls, coffee shops and more.
The barley juice can also be served hot, although we preferred it cold served with ice. In Malaysia, you can also find barley tea as well as barley and lime juice combinations.
Barley is an ancient grain loaded with nutrients. Drinking barley water on a regular basis can help promote weight loss, lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and more.
3- Air Bandung – Rose Syrup Milk Drink
Air Bandung also known as sirap bandung or simply bandung is a famous and popular drink in Malaysia.
In addition to Malaysia, this drink is also well-loved in Singapore and Brunei.
Very simple to make, bandung consists of evaporated milk or condensed milk mixed with rose syrup. This gives it a very distinctive bright pink color.
What we especially liked about air bandung was it’s smooth taste. Despite the fluorescent pink color, it did not taste chemically.
In fact, we found the rose flavor very agreeable with the sweetness of the condensed milk.
In Malaysia, sirap bandung is served at Malay hawker centers or mamak food stalls. In the Malay language, sirap refers to the rose syrup and bandung means combine or pair together.
Thus, the name of this signature pink drink comes from the pairing of rose syrup with evaporated milk.
Allow yourself to be tempted by this popular and striking Malay drink.
4- Nutmeg Juice
When we think of nutmeg, we usually think of the spice and the festive holiday season. Nutmeg juice was another intriguing Malaysian drink we discovered.
The juice is light and fruity and tastes nothing like the spice. It is served with ice and is very refreshing.
Nutmeg trees were cultivated in Penang in the late 18th century by the British, as a way of expanding the spice trade business.
In Penang, nutmeg juice is available everywhere. From coffee shops, to hawker centers and food stalls, you are never far from a refreshing glass of nutmeg juice.
Nutmeg juice is unusual and delightful juice that should not be missed on your travels to Penang.
5- Water Chestnut Juice – Refreshing Malay Drink
Water chestnut drink was one of the most refreshing Malaysian drinks we came across.
This drink is made from raw Chinese water chestnut, which is actually a vegetable. This vegetable has a brown skin on the outside and a white watery crunchy filling on the inside.
Water chestnut is a very popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine. It is known to be very healthy with its low fat, high potassium content, and gluten-free properties.
The drink is light brown in color. We found it very refreshing and slightly sweet.
In Malaysia, you will easily find water chestnut juice at predominantly Chinese hawker centers. It is a perfect light and refreshing drink for the hot Malaysian temperatures.
This is one of the most surprising and delightful Malaysian drinks on this list.
6- Longan Juice – White and Brown Longan Drinks in Malaysia
On our first visit to the Philippines in Southeast Asia, we discovered the longan fruit and it quickly became a favorite.
We loved how easily accessible this fruit was with vendors on the streets selling it everywhere.
An inexpensive fruit that is easy to peel, we enjoyed eating it on the go or having it as a snack between meals.
Before we arrived in Malaysia, we had no idea that Longan could be consumed as a juice.
We discovered it at a hawker center in Penang. And, we were surprised to find it available either as black longan juice or white longan juice.
Black longan juice is made from the dried longan fruit which are dark brown to almost black in color.
On the other hand, the white longan juice comes from the white and juicy flesh of the fruit.
We tried them both and found surprising differences. The black longan juice had more intense flavors and was less refreshing than the white longan juice.
Overall, we preferred the white longan juice. However, we recommend trying them both side by side and making up your own opinion.
7 – Lychee Juice
Lychee is a tropical fruit that reminds me of Christmas. As a young child growing up in Paris, my mom would buy lychee fruits for Christmas. It was an exotic holiday fruit to be enjoyed during the festive season..
Lychee, also spelled litchi or lichi, are native to from China and also across Southeast Asia. Lychee and longan fruits come from the same family and share a similar shape.
During our travels, we found the longan fruit to be more commonly available than lychee.
Already familiar with lychee fruits, we jumped on the opportunity to try the juice when we saw it on a Malaysian drinks menu.
When our drinks arrived, we were surprised to see how clear the drinks were, almost like water.
Lychee juice is very refreshing and light. It is an easy drink Malaysian drink and a great thirst quencher on a hot day.
One nice addition to this juice is having the fruits added to the drink. The lychee fruits float to the bottom and you can end your meal with a taste of the fruit itself.
If you’ve had lychee fruits before and are curious about lychee juice, you can order it from Amazon and try this unique Malaysian drink.
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8 – Ambra Fruit & Sour Plum Juice
Ambra is a tropical food commonly found in Southeast Asia. It goes by many names in the region. In Penang, it is known as Ambra or Buah Kedondong among Malays.
The fruit is oval in shape about the size of a lemon. It is green in color and hard to the touch.
In Malaysia, the fruit is cut into pieces and used in rojak, a distinctive mixed fruit salad famous in Penang.
The juice that is extracted from the ambra fruit is used by locals for treating throat and cough infections.
We tried the Ambra juice mixed with sour plum juice at a local food stall and found it very tasty.
With a citrus flavor, the juice is very easy to drink. It is not too sweet, and when mixed with ice, it is very refreshing.
9 – Air Mata Kucing Juice
Every meal in Malaysia is an opportunity to try a new local fruit juice. With every sip, you find yourself opening up to new flavors and tastes.
Air mata kucing was another delightful discovery we made. While having dinner at Chulia Hawker Center in Penang, Rosemary was intrigued by juice at a local stand called Air Mata Kucing.
Not knowing what it was, though judging from the crowds, she took the opportunity to try this popular Malaysian drink.
Air mata kucing is an iced fruit juice made from winter melon (tong kua), monk fruit (lo han kor), dried longan (long ngan), and sugar.
The juice is not sweet, but refreshing and thirst quenching.
Later on when researching more about the drink, we learned that Mata Kucing is a close relative of the longan fruit.
The fruit is said to have many health benefits. From providing vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and more.
Traditionally, it is also used to treat diabetes, cancer, insomnia and more.
The best part about the juice is that it is very tasty. When you come across this Malaysian drink in Penang, be sure to try it and enjoy all the health benefits.
10 – Dragon Fruit & Lemon Juice
We love dragon fruits and were surprised the first time we saw it on a drinks menu at a local food stand.
Without hesitation, we ordered it and were eager to compare the flavors of the juice versus the fruits.
When the drink arrived, we were startled by it’s bright pink color and dense texture. When combined with the lemon juice the taste was divine.
Like many other Malaysian drinks, it is not sweet and you can taste the natural fruits not masked behind any artificial flavoring.
Dragon fruits are nutritionally dense and the lemon juice is good for vision health.
Don’t miss trying this popular drink in Malaysia and don’t forget to eat the dragon fruit as a fruit.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Malaysian Coffee, sometimes known as white coffee is another traditional Malay drink not to miss, While we, unfortunately, missed trying Malaysian coffee, it is a local specialty to seek out. The white coffee has less caffeine and is described as having an almost buttery taste. Alternatively, you can order white coffee from Amazon and try it at home.
In Malaysia, the drinks culture is part of the everyday local food culture.
At first, you may be surprised that you have to buy a drink when you sit down to eat at a local hawker center.
Once you warm up to the idea, you will find that each drink is a sip into the fascinating Malay culture.
Malaysian drinks like Malay food are uniquely creative. The drinks are made using the abundance of the Southeast Asian exotic fruits, ingredients and vegetables.
The best part is that these popular drinks in Malaysia are nutritionally dense and have many health benefits.
Additionally, the Malay drinks are very refreshing and not artificially sweetened.
Allow yourselves tempted by the unusual names and juices. Sipping on Malaysian drinks will have you literally drink Malaysia.
Have you had any of these unique Malaysian drinks before? In the comments below, please tell us which of these popular drinks in Malaysia you would be tempted to try.
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Claire, ex-engineer, is a digital nomad and content creator at Authentic Food Quest. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, they travel the world in search of the best local food experiences. Their mission is to help you enjoy the best local specialties on your travels or via recipes in your home kitchen. Favorite country for food: Vietnam. Favorite local dish: Hainanese Chicken Rice. Favorite way to keep fit: Cycling. Claire is responsible for the website and the fun food & travel videos on Youtube. She is also co-author of Authentic Food Quest Argentina and Authentic Food Quest Peru, available on Amazon.