This article is based on my experience from friends visiting Malaysia- what are the things they love and repeatedly choose to buy back.
To get souvenirs or foodstuff?
From my personal experience and those of friends who always bought stuff back after their overseas trip, I would say that foodstuff seems to be the more popular choice. ‘The way to a person’s heart is through the stomach’ is quite true…. you can see the eyes of your colleague brighten up when you open your goodie bag and start distributing snack food.
No doubt, some may object, saying that well, once the food gets eaten it is gone. In that case, you may opt to get both…. a small souvenir plus a few small packs of snackfood. Still….. I felt many of the keychains and fridge magnets bought may go unappreciated because with time, they may even forget who gave them the gift.
Without further ado, here are my recommendations of stuff you can buy back from Malaysia to your friends and family.
Food stuff to buy back from Malaysia:
These are the items that some of the visitors I know filled their kilos with:
1.White Coffee 3-in 1
White coffee is extremely popular especially with tourists from China, Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. I have heard from my neighbor when he travelled to China, someone from his group who craved for White Coffee had to pay almost RM50 for a cup of Old Town white coffee sachet which you can get for less than RM1 per sachet.
The more popular brands are Old Town Coffee brand. I am not sure why but many people just seems to love them even though this brand is not my favourite. However if you get knee pain or gastric, you can also try the White Coffee with low acid from Chek Hup and LA Coffee (Kopiko).
2. Instant noodles
Before buying, you may first try out to see what are the flavours that you love. We have many flavours such as chicken (perisa ayam), onion chicken (ayam bawang), curry (curry) both vegetarian and non vegetarian, asam laksa and mee jawa. You may try out the cup version first but when you buy back the ones in package form (shown above). I’d had the experience of trying to buy back in cup form and they are so difficult to pack.
3. Tau sah piah biscuits and other traditional biscuits
This is very famous in northern Malaysia especially in Penang and Perak. In the past if we wanted to get such fresh biscuits, we either have to travel to Penang and Perak or ask help from friends/family who are going there to help us to buy. However, nowadays they are available in many places in Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas.
When buying, do buy those that comes in individual packaging – it is slightly more expensive but it is easier to distribute to your friends and family. The downside is that as these are biscuits, like instant noddles, they may get smashed up if stacked against heavy items.
4. Premix paste (for cooking)
If you love curry and asam laksa, there are premix available to cook these food. Personally I sometimes go on a vegetarian diet and one of the dishes I would always cook is vegetarian curry which I uses the premix to cook. It taste absolutely delicious when cooked with potatoes, ladies fingers, brinjals and mock meat.
You may buy some premixes back to cook your own when you are back in your country. For curry, it is best cooked with coconut milk (santan). You can buy the dried powder form from any convenient stalls.
Note: Please check with the custom rules of your country if there are restriction in bringing in certain food especially liquid form like premixes.
Where to get these items:
If you are buying in smaller quantities, you can buy them from 99Speedmart. They have about 1000 outlets all over Malaysia hence it should not be a problem for you to find one near you. For example if you are staying in Chinatown you can walk to their shop located opposite Kotaraya to buy the items and walk back to your hotel.
The items in Speedmart are more reasonably priced compared to 24 hours convenient stores like KK Supermart and 7 Eleven. The price in hypermarkets may only be cheaper if there is an offer but even then, usually the price does not differ a lot.
However, I have friends who are buying White Coffee in about 20 to 30kgs and usually if I am helping them I would source from Chinese medical hall (shops that are selling groceries as well as Chinese medicine) that could sell the coffee at a cheaper price (they only reduce the price when purchase is done in bulk).