Malaysians love eating. That’s not a secret to anyone at all. No matter what and where, if there’s food, that is where we’d be. But sometimes (most of the time) the food that we eat isn’t very healthy. We love fried things, sugary things, fatty things… it just adds more flavour, you know?
But that’s not to say that all Malaysian food is unhealthy. Some of them are actually pretty decent in the “healthy” department. So let’s take a look at what Malaysian food we can gorge on without the fear of gaining more calories than we can afford.
1. Kerepek Sayur
It’s exactly like potato chips but better. It’s only 25kcal. I have no idea what that means, if I’m being honest, but I looked it up and you’re supposed to consume 2,000 to 2,500 kcal a day. So if you sneak in a few of these kerepeks in between meals, you barely even tip your scale. That’s a good thing!
I’ve been having these chips since I was a kid. With rice, with porridge, with soup, with basically anything. They taste so good and I didn’t know they were considered “healthy” until I turned 20. So if you want a substitute for your potato chip addiction, this one’s a good alternative to start with.
You’re going to say that I only put this in because it’s all fruits. You’re right, I did do that. Fruits are great though, and paired with this spicy-sweet peanut sauce? Oh my goodness, what a treat. Not a greater time to write about food than when you’re fasting.
But like any food, you have to remember that when you eat this, take it in moderation. It’s 750kcal, yeah I know, you see that and you go “oh, isn’t that high?” But compared to other appetisers, this is the healthier option if you’re out with friends or family and just want something to nibble on.
Alternatively, if you want something of lesser calories, you can opt for rojak pasembur. It’s supposed to be healthier because it’s piled up to the brim with vegetables like mengkuang, cucumber, bean sprouts and other ingredients like eggs, tofu, and fritters.
3. Kerepek Emping
Another cracker that I absolutely love and have to include in this list is emping, or as we’d like to call it, belinjau. It’s only 75kcal, which makes for a great snack in-between meals or when you’re watching TV. It’s not everyone’s favourite because it’s a little bitter and I’ll admit, I didn’t like it the first time I tried it. But the more I had it, the more I craved it. It’s one of those snacks, you know. Kind of moreish somewhat. The more you eat it, the more you can’t stop.
You can find these beautiful crisps at your local Chow Kit store or supermarket. They’re great to be eaten with some rice, kicap and sambal on the side. But they’re also great to be eaten by themselves. If you want it to be extra healthy, you can air fry them instead of frying them in oil. But I personally don’t like the taste of air-fried emping, so I use sunflower oil instead. You should give it a shot.
4. Nasi Ulam
Ususally, whenever I balik kampung, I’d buy a plate of this at my local warung. I like this one because to me, it tastes a little similar to nasi kerabu. I love nasi kerabu, even more than nasi ulam, actually. But since this is the healthier option, I’ll put this in.
It’s basically nasi kunyit combined with lemongrass, lime leaves and a bunch of other herbs and leaves that I can’t spell or pronounce. It tastes better than it sounds, I promise. If you add a little bit of sambal on the side and maybe some ikan goreng, oh my goodness, sedap gila. It’s tedious to make, I’ve been told. I’m not going to attempt to ever make it. So if you see this near wherever you live (like at a restaurant or a bazaar), try it out for a change instead of ordering nasi kerabu.
Thosai for me is an all-day everyday meal. I’ll have it for a snack, for a meal, anything. I mean, it’s light enough, isn’t it? Especially if it’s paper thosai. I absolutely love thosai! And it’s not that high in calories — only 148kcal. That’s 152kcal less than roti canai. Yeah, it’s fried and all that but it’s supposed to be healthier because it’s made out of a more nutritious option like rice, fenugreek seeds and split black lentils.
They’re all ground up to make a paste before they goreng it and it’s so fine that you kind of don’t believe that it’s made up of more than one ingredient. Anyway, you can enjoy your thosai by itself, or you can have them with some side dishes. If you’re sticking with the healthy route, pair your thosai with some dhaal. I like mine drenched in dhaal and some chutney. Confirm kaw.
6. Yong Tau Foo
Yong Tau Foo is another Malaysian food that I can eat for the rest of my life. It’s 540kcal and filled with a lot of steamed vegetables and if you want, noodles too. I don’t know, this isn’t a snack. Technically, it’s a meal. But it’s meant to be shared and passed around so if people get a few bites of vegetables and fish balls from each bowl, doesn’t that count as snacks? I don’t care, I’m counting it.
It tastes amazing and I could eat it all the time. My order of Yong Tau Foo is always the ladies’ fingers, some fish balls, mushrooms and if I’m extra hungry, I’ll add some mee hoon to it. Otherwise, most of the time it’s just the fish balls and vegetables. Compared to other soupy dishes like curry laksa or sup ekor, this one definitely beats them in the healthy department because of all the steamed things in it. I know what I’m eating for buka puasa today.
7. Kuih Bangkit
Dah nak raya dah ni. Berapa hari je lagi. And I know y’all are just waiting to gorge on some delicious Raya dishes next week (so am I). And everyone knows that the staple of a Raya dish is the appetiser — kuih raya.
I know, I know, who wants to think about that when you’ve been waiting a month to finally eat whatever you want during the day and night? But I’m going to tell you anyway. You can eat kuih raya, of course but in moderation. You know right, your favourite pineapple tart is 82kcal per piece. And you’ll reach (and maybe even go over) your calorie intake of the day if you continue to eat the whole jar (which we both know you will).
So if you’re looking for a kuih raya that’s not as calorie heavy, makan la kuih bangkit. It’s only 23kcal and I don’t know about you, but for me, I’ve always preferred kuih bangkit to any other kuihs on the table. On top of it tasting good and being “healthier”, it’s also a child-like joy that the moment the kuih hits your tongue it just disintegrates in your mouth. It’s definitely a fun food experience.
Feast On Healthy Food For The Holidays
See, not all healthy food is gross. I’m a horribly picky eater, so these “snacks” up there are considered the cream of the crop for me. I know that some of them don’t really count as snacks, they’re like a whole meal. But still, a healthier form of Malaysian food is always welcomed. Especially when you’re trying to cut down on… certain things.
And now, during the holidays, food is absolutely on everyone’s mind and we might sometimes bite off more than we can chew (and suffer the consequences later.) But hey, it’s not too late to start. Maybe while you’re out at the bazaar for one last kopek before Raya comes, you could look for healthier alternatives there too.