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It’s Still Healthy to Go Local

May 1, 2022   Return


Malaysian food is the best! We frequently appreciate that when we are abroad, missing our roti canai or nasi lemak. The craving is particularly bad when we are on a healthy diet.

Most people may perceive eating healthy as boring. A reason for this is that we are so used to seeing healthy recipes incorporating Western dishes that can be too bland for our feisty taste buds. Furthermore, living healthy is frequently likened to endless restrictions. There are a lot of no-nos – cannot eat this, cannot eat that – which can be discouraging.

We are advised to “cut down on salt, sugar and oily food” – which means saying goodbye to some of the best-tasting foods out there!  However, we do not need to suffer. We can still enjoy your beloved local food. Just do some adjustments and we will have healthier varieties of those tempting delights.

Nasi Lemak


Arguably the biggest guilty pleasure of all, the name itself reveals its unhealthy fat content.

  • Use basmati rice instead of regular white rice, as it has less starch content – hence, healthier.
  • Use diluted coconut milk for the rice. Better still, replace with skim or low-fat milk instead.
  • Halve the oil you usually use to make the sambal.
  • Serve with steamed egg instead of fried egg.
  • Microwave instead of deep frying the ikan bilis.

Curry and Rendang Dishes


These are so hard to resist, but fortunately, there are ways we can make them healthier.

  • Many recipes for oil-free curry and rendang are available online. Try some and see which one you like best!
  • Use lean meat (such as chicken breast instead of thigh), with the skin and visible fat removed beforehand.
  • For curries, use either diluted coconut oil or replace with skim or low-fat milk. For rendang, use only 2-3 tablespoons of coconut paste (kerisik) to achieve that delicious rendang flavour without loading the dish with too much fat content.
  • For potatoes, use sweet potatoes as they have less starch content.

Other Malaysian delicacies to savour (with some modifications, of course):

Chicken briyani

Use low fat yogurt as the marinade. It offers similar tasty flavours minus the fat. This recipe is awesome as it comprises of a number of natural flavourings such as cinnamon, cumin, cloves and fennel seeds.


Actually a rather healthy food, as it is a high in fibre and yet low in fat and cholesterol. The trouble lies in what we consume it with. If we eat it with  dhal gravy, then we are good, as dhal is rich in protein. However, if it is curry, make sure it is a healthier version(see above). Or just go with dhal!

Tom yam

A must-have if you are enjoying Thai food, it may be fattening due to the inclusion of chicken skin in preparing the broth. Just eliminate the skin and maximize the quantity of vegetables such as cauliflowers, tomatoes and celeries for taste.

Ayam masak merah

The original recipe requiresthe chicken to be fried. However, we may modify the cooking method by baking the chicken. Hence, we can still enjoy the crispiness but with less oil.

Traditional kuih

For instance, kuih bingka jagung, pengat pisang – they are all loaded with sugar. For healthier versions, prepare your own and cut down on the sugar. If you find it more convenient to buy them from stalls, recognize which one sells kuih that are less sweet and go for that.


If you like lontong but realize how sinful the coconut milk is, do not worry. Use diluted coconut milk for only half of the required quantity while replacing the other half with skim or low-fat milk.

Curry noodles

Use skim or low-fat milk to replace the coconut milk. In addition, make sure that only leanest meat minus the skin is added.

Stir-fried dishes

For instance, chicken in lemon sauce, beef in dried chillies, mixed vegetables in oyster sauce, etc. They are all fried but what you can do is minimize the quantity of oil used for frying. Use lean meat and eliminate the skin of chicken whenever possible.


Absolutely a healthy meal particularly for dieters as there are loads of vegetables including cucumber and bean sprouts, and you could top up more. Be careful of the peanut gravy, however, as it can be loaded with too much sugar! When preparing your own gravy, use less sugar. Also, cut down on fried tofu and fried dough fritters – a few are fine, but not too many as deep fried food is never good for health..

Fish recipes

If you love fish but do not like to eat steamed fish, opt for baking or grilling instead. Baked or grilled fish uses less oil. On the other hand, if we love fish curry, add in the low-fat milk  at the last moment to prevent any lumps from forming in the gravy.

In conclusion, there is no hard rule as to what type of food is healthy. A few adjustments and modifications to otherwise unhealthy recipes will allow us to enjoy them without the guilt. So, let’s head over to the kitchen and have fun experimenting! The mouth-watering results will no doubt be worth the effort.

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