Lontong – Famous Malaysian Cuisine

Any foodie knows that a bowl of steamed rice is simply a support act to a meal. Yet transform that rice into compressed logs and you have lontong – not just a tasty dish but a food culture.

The origins of lontong are claimed by both Malaysia and Indonesia, though the cooks of Penang and Johor patriotically support the former. It begins with rice cakes, made by wrapping white rice grains tightly in a banana leaf to form a cylindrical shape, then boiling for at least three hours until the rice swells and is compressed. Modern methods use metal tubes instead of leaves, but rice cakes cooked this way lack the faint greenish tinge and herbaceous note that banana leaves bring.

Then comes the fun part: the accompaniments! Lontong to some is a light breakfast dish, with the rice cakes sliced and served with sambal belacan, a chilli paste made from shrimp paste, fried tofu, anchovies, peanuts, hard-boiled eggs, and crunchy cucumber slices or cabbage wedges.

It becomes a more substantial meal when lontong comes with a curry of either vegetable, fish or meat. Again, sambal and hard-boiled eggs usually figure in the mix. In Penang, this combination, known as rumah lontong, is often served at special occasions like weddings or festivals.

Then there’s lontong sayur lodeh, or lontong Johor, with the rice cakes cooked with vegetables in a fragrant, turmeric-tinged coconut milk soup – often with crisp bean curd skins, sambal and hard-boiled egg on top. This coconut soup may also appear as a side dish with the other lontong variations.

Whichever lontong meal you try, be sure to ask for the sambal belacan to be served on the side if you can’t handle spice heat. It’s best to order lontong “family style,” as the serving is usually generous and easily shared. Begin by topping the cakes with as much sambal as you like, then mix the other accompaniments together and eat up!

Shop name:
Rumah Lontong
No. 5, Astaka Lorong Kulit, 10460 George Town,


Famous Malaysian cuisine is a 50-video series produced by Masters of Malaysian cuisine(MOMC) in partnership with Tourism Malaysia.

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