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The non-Malaysian’s guide to economy rice

Economy rice is a Malaysian favourite when it comes to lunch. It is a type of food stall usually found in hawker centres or food courts across the country.

Recently, a Malaysian even went viral for his Instagram account dedicated only to this rice dish.

Also known as nasi campur or mixed rice, chap fan or chap chye ping, economy rice is quick to have, affordable and reminds us of mom’s cooking.

Here is your guideline if you are a foreigner visiting Malaysia for the first time and wondering what this ‘economy rice’ is:
1.It might look like a buffet, but it is not a buffet.

The first thought if you see an economy rice stall for the first time is “Oh look, it is a buffet!”

No, it is not. I have too often seen foreign tourists take too many dishes and be surprised at the exorbitant price afterwards.

There are four factors contributing to the cost of your nasi campur; the number of dishes you take, the types of dishes (meat costs more than vegetables), the portion amount per dish and your location.

Most of the time your economy rice in a fully air-conditioned shopping mall costs more than the one at an open-air coffeeshop. Additionally, some states in Malaysia offer cheaper nasi campur than others. For example, generally the price of a plate of nasi campur in Kota Kinabalu is more expensive than in Kuching.

2.In Malaysia, there are Chinese, Indian, Malay, vegetarian and Dayak types of economy rice.

Here in Malaysia, thanks to our multi-cultural society we are blessed with so much good food. So you can choose the different kinds of nasi campur from Chinese to vegetarian.

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For Chinese economy rice stalls, the most common dishes are sweet and sour pork, braised tofu, stir-fried Chinese vegetables, and deep fried food.

Meanwhile, Malay and Indian stalls will typically serve up curry dishes, and more spicy fare.

Specifically in Sarawak, you can even find Dayak cuisine among the economy rice.

The concept of picking your own dishes is similar to Nasi Padang or Nasi Campur in Indonesia. Singapore and Thailand also have the same concept.

A nasi campur stall in Kalimantan
3.Some Malaysian economy rice stalls only open during lunch hour.

Lunch time is the favourite meal of the day to have economy rice. Since most of them cater to office workers, they only open during lunch hour from 12pm to 2pm.

With that in mind, some of the best and affordable stalls are located near office areas.

But how to choose which economy rice stall to go to? First of all, make sure it is clean. Plus, the better quality nasi campur stalls have warmers beneath the food. Then you can ensure your food is served hot.

4.Come with a group of friends if you want to taste more dishes

An economy rice stall can consist up to 30 different type of dishes including meat, vegetables, eggs and tofu. You can select any combination of these dishes together with a bowl of steamed white rice.

Here is a trick; if you want to taste more dishes, bring a group of friends. Each and every one takes a different kind of dish so that everyone can have a taste.

Bon Appetit!

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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