The cuisine of Malaysia is a delicious hybrid of Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, Thai, Middle Eastern and native Malay flavors. Chef Zak Pelaccio, who’s spreading the word about Malaysian food around the globe, shares his pantry essentials.

By Zak Pelaccio
Updated March 31, 2015

Plus: An American Chef’s Malaysian Love Story


A pungent seasoning made by grinding small shrimp into a paste that is fermented, dried and pressed into cakes. Belacan is often toasted before being used.


Black Vinegar

A dark, complex, aged Chinese vinegar made from a variety of grains. Its closest Western cousin would be balsamic vinegar.


Gula Jawa

A palm sugar that’s made from the sap of various palm trees. Dark-brown sugar or muscovado sugar can be used in its place.


Kecap Manis

A thick, slightly sweet Indonesian seasoning, sometimes called sweet soy sauce, that’s flavored with garlic and/or star anise.


Shaoxing Wine

An aged Chinese rice wine often used in cooking. Dry sherry can be substituted.


Belacan, gula Jawa and kecap manis can be ordered from

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