06 Jun 18 Must Try Malaysian Drinks To Order & Experience Like A Local
Malaysia is renowned for its melting pot of culture and cuisine, which has been influenced by its diverse cultural groups. What is less well-known, is the variety and uniqueness of local Malaysian drinks.
From the OG Teh Tarik and Kopi O, and from Calamansi Plum Juice to the alcoholic Tuak, there is enough variety in Malaysian drinks to quench your thirst and tingle your taste buds.
Here are 18 Malaysian drinks to try on your upcoming adventure.
Coffee-Based Malaysian Drinks
Malaysian coffee, otherwise referred to as kopi, is a dark-roasted coffee served with condensed milk. This signature drink in Malaysia is brewed with Robusta beans, which are renowned for their higher caffeine content.
Kopi is an acquired taste, featuring a strong flavour while aromatic enough to stimulate your senses. The flavour of the coffee comes down to how the coffee beans are treated. Say, some are double roasted and elevated with extra sugar, salt, and margarine; alternatively, it can be fast roasted or slow roasted, too.
The result is a thick, creamy, and sweet cup of coffee. The distinctive smoky flavour of the coffee beans become the spotlight of the show in the final product, and the high caffeine content gives it a bit of a kick.
Coffee was first introduced by Dutch traders to Malaysia in the late 1600s. However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that kopi began to gain immense popularity.
In the 1920s, a novel way of brewing coffee was introduced to Malaysia by Hainanese immigrants from China. The process involved meticulously roasting the coffee beans over an open fire, in order to give the coffee a unique smoky flavour.
Being one of the coveted traditional Malaysian drinks amongst locals of all backgrounds, kopi remains a staple beverage in the country to date. You can easily find Kopi at virtually any coffee shop, food stall, or restaurant, and it’s always served piping hot, iced, or “pulled”.
There are many choices as to how you can enjoy your coffee, be it black, white, sugar-free, with sugar, or with condensed milk, and so on and so forth.
Here are a few examples when ordering kopi in a local Malaysian coffee shop:
- Kopi: The default cup of kopi is prepared with sweetened condensed milk
- Kopi C: With both unsweetened evaporated milk and sugar
- Kopi Kosong: Unsweetened black coffee
- Kopi C Kosong: With evaporated milk but without sugar
- Kopi O: Without milk, with sugar
- Kopi O Kosong: Without milk and sugar
- Kopi Da Bao/ ikat tepi: Coffee to-go
2. Kopi Cham (Coffee with Tea)
Kopi Cham or “yuen yeung” basically means “coffee with tea”. This drink gives the best of both worlds. So next time when you can’t choose between the two, order this instead!
The bitterness of the coffee and the subtle fragrance of the tea contributes to the unique flavour of kopi cham. Enjoy a hot mug for a relaxing break or a chilly warm-up. Or, serve it chilled for some sweet summer refreshment.
Tea-Based Malaysian Drinks
3. Teh Tarik (Pulled Tea)
Malaysians are extremely passionate about their tea, and Teh Tarik is no exception. It means “pulled tea” in English, this popular drink in Malaysia is prepared by pulling brewed tea back and forth between two containers until it’s frothy and rich in flavour.
Originating from the Indian tea culture, this “tea-pulling method” was brought to Malaysia by Indian immigrants in the 1950s, and is quickly adapted by locals. Malaysia is now known for its unique take on this beloved beverage.
When made properly, Teh Tarik features a silky smooth texture and a slight sweetness that comes from the addition of condensed milk. The flavour of the tea itself is rich and robust, with notes of cardamom and clove. This national drink of Malaysia can be found at any local coffee shop or restaurant, and is a must-try for anyone visiting the country.
Pairing your Teh Tarik with any Indian and Malay cuisine like roti canai and nasi lemak is the way to go.
4. Chinese Tea
The Chinese population, on the other hand, prefers to enjoy their drinks more traditionally by boiling leaves in a pot and serving in small cups. Some Chinese eateries serve it in huge glasses and enjoy it together with meals.
There are various different flavours and types available in Chinese tea shops, the most common being Pu’er tea, Oolong tea, green tea, Tie Guan Yin, and Chrysanthemum tea.
You’ll find the tea-drinking culture amongst Chinese in Malaysia to be slightlydifferent from Malays and Indians as they often drink it for the sake of their health benefits and prefer doing so without the addition of sugar.
5. Masala Tea
Chai Masala or also known as Masala Tea, is a tea beverage that originates from India. It’s a blend of black tea, milk, and a mixture of aromatic herbs and fragrant spices including Ceylon cinnamon, black cardamom, and more. The herbs and spices are what gives this beverage such an aromatic smell and taste.
The term chai originated from the Hindi word, chai, which was derived from the Chinese word for tea, cha.
A cosy comforting mug of goodness, you can easily find this delicious cuppa in any Indian or Indian Muslim eateries.
Fruity Malaysian Drinks
6. Air Mata Kucing
Translates to “cat’s tears”, Air Mata Kucing is another signature drink in Malaysia made from longan, monk fruit, sugar, and water.The drink is said to have originated from the state of Kelantan and is often served during festivals and special occasions.
The longan fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals, making it an excellent choice for a refreshing beverage on a hot day. Monkfruit, on the other hand, functions as a low-calorie sweetener that provides a guilt-free way to indulge in the sweetness of Air Mata Kucing. Sugar and water round out the ingredients list, and the end result is a delicious and healthy drink that can be enjoyed by all.
7. Sirap Selasih (Rose Syrup with Holy Basil Seeds)
Sirap Selasih is among the best Malaysian drinks that can tame down the heat. Made with rose syrup and holy basil seeds, the syrup is prepared by adding boiling water into sugar until it thickens, then adding rose essence and food colouring.
The holy basil seeds are added just before serving, giving the drink a slightly chewy texture (like how you would a bubble tea/boba). Sirap Selasih is usually served iced, making it a thirst-quenching treat.
The sweet, floral flavour of the rose syrup is complemented by the earthy taste of the basil seeds, making for a refreshing and unique beverage to keep your cool in hot weather.
8. Calamansi Plum Juice with Salted Dried Plum
Locally referred to as “kat chai suen mui”, calamansi plum juice accompanied by salted dried plum is one of the staple traditional Malaysian drinks you need to try.
Salted dried plum (asam boi in Malay) is a snack imported from China, and is made by drying plum with powdered sugar and salt, and then flavoured with herbs and liquorice. It’s commonly consumed to cleanse the palate after a heavy, savoury meal, or to alleviate nausea, especially from pregnancy and motion sickness.
The drink itself is freshly squeezed, featuring an interesting tanginess from calamansi lime and the sour plum. We recommend ordering this juice on a hot day and especially if you’re about to savour a heavy or spicy meal. The refreshing drink will help cool you down and boost your appetite. Plus, it’s also enriched with vitamin C. So swap your Coke with this instead!
9. Barley Juice
Barley juice is a popular drink in Malaysia made from barley and water. The exact recipe for barley juice varies depending on the region, but it typically includes sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Some people prefer adding ginger, pandan leaves, or other spices to enhance the flavour. But it’s really up to you however you want to prepare it.
White barley juice is traditionally made with fresh barley, many modern recipes require barley powder or extract, making it easier to prepare the drink and giving it a more consistent flavour.
This drink can be served warm or cold. It’s said to have a cooling effect on the body and is often used as a home remedy for fever.
10. Longan Juice
Longan Juice is a signature drink in Malaysia to opt for when you have nothing specific in mind. The drink is made from the fruit of the longan tree, which features white, meaty flesh that’s sweet and juicy.
Longan juice is prepared by blending the flesh of the fruit with water and sugar. The final product is refreshing and satisfyingly sweet. It’s often served over ice or mixed with other fruit juices to create a refreshing summertime drink.
11. Lychee Juice
Lychee juice is another popular drink in Malaysia, made from the tropical fruit of the lychee tree. The lychee is a small, red fruit with a delicate, sweet flavour, delicious to be eaten on its own.
Lychee juice is usually made by blending fresh lychees with water and sugar. It can also be served with lychee pulp, which is available in cans or bottles.
Often served chilled or over ice, lychee juice is another refreshing and flavourful summer drink perfect for hot and humid weather.
12. Leng Chee Kang
Another healthy dessert drink made popular in Malaysia by the Chinese community, Leng Chee Kang is said to have a cooling effect on the body, and can be served warm or cold (particularly favoured during hot and humid days).
The fundamentals for this dessert drink may differ from region to region yet the primary ingredients used are lotus seeds, longans, dried persimmons, and malva nuts. Other variants of Leng Chee Kang may contain nuts, grains, quail eggs, collagen, grass jelly, and basil seeds.
You can find this amazing traditional dessert drink in many Chinese food stalls, restaurants, and night markets.
Alcoholic Malaysian Drinks
If you’ve been travelling in Malaysia for a while or have done sufficient research about it, you would know that Malaysia isn’t really the best place to satisfy your alcoholic cravings.
To be precise, alcohol is extremely expensive here compared to neighbouring countries (other than Singapore), and it’s even more expensive than Europe.
Being a predominantly Muslim nation, we’re not known for locally produced alcoholic beverages, but we actually do produce a special rice wine called ‘tuak’—originally invested by some of the native tribes in Sarawak on the island of Borneo.
Tuak is prepared using four basic ingredients: cooked glutinous rice, ragi (a traditional starter base containing bacterial enzymes and yeast), water, and sugar (optional). Some tuak producers may include honey to give it a mead-like flavour.
Unfortunately, there are very few places near Kuala Lumpur that serve this drink. You may head over to The Hungry Tapir in Chinatown or Merdekarya in Petaling Jaya to try it out.
14. Lihing—Rice Wine
If you’re looking for rare traditional Malaysian drinks, check out Lihing, a beverage made from rice wine and various herbs and spices. The most common ingredients in Lihing are rice, cooked glutinous rice, yeast, water, and sugar.
Lihing is typically served in small glasses or bowls, and is often used as a digestif or nightcap. The drink boasts a strong, unique flavour that many described as earthy, woody, or musky.
Besides, Lihing is said to carry ample healthy benefits, including aiding digestion, reducing stress, and boosting immunity.
Other Unique Malaysian Drinks to Try
15. Milo Dinosaur
Another popular drink in Malaysia, Milo Dinosaur is a Milo milkshake made by blending Milo powder with milk, sugar, and ice, with optional chocolate syrup or condensed milk depending on your desired richness or sweetness.
Nobody seems to have an accurate take on where Milo Dinosaur obtains its name from and the drink is often served at parties and gatherings, making it a popular drink among the little ones.
When Milo Dinosaur is most commonly found in Malaysia, it has now made its way to other Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and indonesia.
16. Air Bandung
We found this popular drink in Malaysia to be both refreshing and sweet, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up while sightseeing.
Air Bandung is made with rose syrup and evaporated milk. This drink is usually very sweet, but it can also be adjusted to the liking of those who prefer a less sugary drink. The rose syrup gives the drink a light pink colour and a floral flavour, while the evaporated milk adds a creamy texture and rich flavour.
Air Bandung is typically served over ice, making it a refreshing treat on hot and humid days. It’s also pretty common to see Air Bandung served with shaved ice or ice cream, making it tastier!
Cincau or grass jelly is a sweet dessert made of a plant called Mesona Chinensis, which belongs to the mint family. To prepare, the leaves and stalks of this plant are dried and boiled with a small amount of starch or rice flour. After cooling down, the liquid will firm into a jelly-like consistency.
Originating from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southern China, cincau is often used as topping for Malaysian desserts, or incorporated to other beverages such as soy milk, iced milk tea, and air bandung.
18. Soy milk
From home-made soy milk to commercially available soy milk, I must say soy milk is a beverage that holds close to Malaysians’ hearts. It’s one drink that will always be available at any eatery in Malaysia.
This plant-based drink is produced by soaking and grinding soybeans, boiling the mixture, and filtering out remaining particulates.
The drink is also becoming a trend these days, with the prevalence of aesthetic beverage shops and healthy lifestyles. So milk is also a great substitute for dairy milk, especially for individuals who are vegan or are lactose intolerant.
Frequently Asked Questions About Malaysian Drinks
What is the most popular drink in Malaysia?
Teh Tarik is the most popular drink in the nation, hence dubbed the national drink of Malaysia. The tea is consumed universally in the country and is what unites the Malay, Chinese, Indian, and other minority cultures.
Is drinking alcohol allowed in Malaysia?
Though Malaysia law forbids Muslims from consuming alcoholic beverages, the rest of the population is free to do so. Any vendors, restaurants, and retailers need a licence to serve or sell tap/draft beers, liquor, and spirits in the country.
What is Malaysia’s National Drink?
The national drink of Malaysia is Teh Tarik or “pulled tea”— a type of tea made from a strong brew of black tea blended with condensed milk, and is then pulled to create a rich, creamy, and frothy texture. You can easily find this beverage in every Indian, Indian Muslim, and Malay food outlet across the country.
What is the most popular alcohol drink in Malaysia?
Lihing is Malaysia’s most popular alcoholic drink. This Malaysian version of rice wine originated from Sabah, and is made with glutinous rice that’s fermented with natural yeast and is then rested for a minimum of three months. Though the final taste profile and alcohol content may vary significantly, the drink is a staple on every social occasion in Sabah, and is typically served in plastic or bamboo cups.
What’s the legal drinking age in Malaysia?
The legal drinking age (purchasing) in Malaysia is 21 years old and above.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Malaysia?
Yes and no. While tap water is safe for drinking in most parts of Malaysia, primarily urban, it’s still a standard practice to boil the water first just to be on the safe side.
Sipping on drinks and beverages in Malaysia is the best way to enjoy the country’s diverse fruits and flavours.
From Kopi to Teh Tarik, grass jelly drink to calamansi plum juice with salted dried plum, the variety and uniqueness of these delicious drinks are hands down second-to-none.
They aren’t only thirst-quenching, but also offer ample health benefits, including boosting your immunity, reducing your stress, and promoting good digestion.
So next time you’re in Malaysia, be sure to try one of these unique and flavourful drinks!