Kitchen Tips

9 Must-have Utensils for Malaysian Cooking – and How to Use Them

For an authentic Malaysian cooking experience at home, stock your kitchen with these nine must-have Malaysian utensils, ideal for stir-fries, curries and smoky grills.


No Malaysian kitchen is complete without a wok, a must-have for char kway teow, where the rice noodles take on the charry heat of the wok.

Wok shovel (chan)

To get those ingredients moving around the wok, you’ll want to reach for a flat-based shovel, or chan, a non-negotiable utensil for signature Malaysian dishes such as nasi goreng, rice tossed with chicken, egg, spices and shrimp paste.


You can’t fake the flavour that comes from flames. In Malaysia, authentic satay chicken skewers are grilled over charcoal flames, but you can make do here by firing up your barbecue. If cooking outdoors isn’t an option, heat a chargrill pan until it’s piping-hot to ensure you get those lovely scorched bits on your satay.


Image courtesy: Pixabay

Mortar and pestle

Sure, you could use a food processor to grind your spices, but then you’d be missing out on half the fun. For a mouthwatering beef rendang, pound lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, garlic and shallots into a paste. The effort will be rewarded with a richly flavoured rendang – and surely you’ll have burnt off enough calories to go back for seconds!


Image courtesy: Pixabay

Clay pot (belanga)

Malaysian cooks coax out the flavours of their soups and stews by simmering them in clay pots, or belanga. These earthenware pots add depth and tenderness to dishes such as this pork belly stewed in bak kut teh, an aromatic blend of herbs and spices.



A steamer basket allows for gentle cooking of a range of dishes, from juicy pork ribs to delicate desserts, such as this steamed custard in a pumpkin shell.

Simply stack the bamboo steam baskets on top of a saucepan or wok of summering water.

Tips for Cooking with a Bamboo Steamer

Image Courtesy: Peter Baer used under the Creative Commons Licence

Banana or coconut leaves

Tropical leaves aren’t only use to flavour dishes like the cake above, they also double as a natural cooking utensil. Wrap otak-otak (spiced fish paste) or ketupat (rice cakes) in the robust leaves, then steam or grill the parcels for an aromatic infusion.

Ketupat recipe


You’re going to need a sturdy kitchen cleaver to cut through the fish bones if you’re game to try this Peranakan fish head curry, which is traditionally served in a belanga (see above).


Invest in a good-quality grater so you can shave fresh coconut to use in curries or creative breakfasts like this putu mayam, string hoppers with brown sugar and coconut.

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