Malaysia’s food retail industry is brimming with options – from hypermarkets and convenience stores to traditional “Mom and Pop” shops, the diversity of shopping opportunities caters to literally every need.
Locals living in major cities are treated to a wide range of larger supermarkets and department stores while small business owners provide essential services to the rest of the population.
Traditional food outlets, those tiny Mom and Pop shops, still make up the biggest number of food retailers in Malaysia. They look like bustling wet markets and open-fronted grocery stores dotted across towns, cities, and villages alike – these small family businesses are cornerstones in the country’s retail landscape.
They offer convenience for everyday essentials at pocket-friendly prices; it’s no wonder they remain popular among price conscious Malaysians today.
Many Malaysian customers prefer to visit these traditional grocery stores in their immediate neighbourhoods for food. Generally, these tiny grocery stores stock mostly local and Asian items with just a few of the most popular imported products.
Things you should know before going shopping in Malaysia
If you’re heading out into the Malaysian countryside, it pays to be prepared. ATMs may not always be easy to come by outside the bustling cities, so make sure you have plenty of the local currency: Malaysia’s Ringgit.
Plastic bags usually cost RM1 ($0.23 USD) so you may want to bring your own bags.
Another difference with Malaysian supermarkets, as opposed to western ones, is the in-store dining facilities that are often available so you can enjoy a meal while browsing or purchase ready meals when you’re short on time.
With a Muslim population of over 60%, most supermarkets are halal. Foreign meat, as well eggs and dairy goods all must meet halal certification requirements.
What does a weekly grocery shopping trip look like in Malaysia?
Although it’s possible to buy everything you need at a Malaysian supermarket, many locals prefer to buy their fresh fruit and vegetables at a morning market. But you can’t get dry goods there. You’ll have to get them at a supermarket. And not all supermarkets have a good meat section, so you may have to go to a butcher or frozen meat store.
Unless you’re shopping at a high-end, all-in-one grocery store, shopping in Malaysia is a time-consuming job. It will be a much less stressful experience if you are not in a rush (especially if you are bringing children along).
Most people have several parts to their grocery shop.
A morning wet market
You can get your fresh produce here (vegetables, eggs, chicken, fish, curry, etc). It is often a pleasant shopping experience because you get out and about in your local community and get to know local vendors and support their business at the same time.
Here you’ll find a range of meats, like beef, lamb, pork, duck and fish. Lee’s Fandbee is an option if you live in Kuala Lumpur, otherwise you’ll have to see what is in your neighbourhood.
A neighborhood fruit stand
You’ll see these everywhere. And if you get to know your particular fruit vendor, then often they will pick out the best and freshest fruit for you (and, if you’re interested, they are often happy to share the names of the exotic fruits and where they are sourced).
A local supermarket
Last stop is the local supermarket where you can get most of your staples like rice, beans, flour, tissues, sauce, pasta, milk, etc.
In Malaysia, most supermarkets are located in shopping malls which can be inconvenient if you just want to run in to grab a few things.
If you are on a budget, you may have to go to a few stores. Some chains are cheaper than others, but they don’t all stock the same items.
Where can I go to shop on a budget?
For shoppers on a budget, Giant is a popular option (and also one of the largest hypermarket chains in Malaysia). It has become a highly trusted name and go-to store for Malaysians seeking the best in value-for-money.
If you are looking to save money, NSK Trade Option is even cheaper than Giant with its wholesale prices. You can get fresh meat, fish and vegetables here, as well as packaged and dry goods. This huge supermarket attracts crowds so it’s best to go in off-peak times. It has over 20 locations nationwide.
AEON Big is another huge grocery chain in Malaysia. In 2012 AEON bought both Carrefour and Jusco and renamed them to AEON Big. In these hypermarkets you can get everything from fresh produce to electronics under one roof.
Pasaraya CS sells general merchandise and groceries at affordable prices. In fact, they will often sell their produce at 10% less than hypermarkets like Giant and AEON Big. They have free parking and 9 locations, mostly in the Klang Valley area.
Lotus’s (formerly Tesco Malaysia) has 64 stores throughout the country. Their stores are huge and they aim to be a one stop service for their customers. They were also one of the first stores to offer online grocery service in Malaysia.
Mydin is the largest wholesale hypermarket in Malaysia. It operates a chain of stores all throughout the country and is known for selling local and overseas products at affordable prices. In addition to groceries, you can get stationary, hardware tools and clothes. In 2022, it opened it 67th store.
In Malaysia, tiny 7-eleven stores are everywhere. As the largest 24/7 convenience store chain around, it’s become a popular spot for getting basics or a late-night snack. You’ll often see kids and teenagers come in for chips, ice-cream, candies, ready-made meals and magazines.
What if I am after premium or imported goods?
If you’re in a hurry and don’t feel like going to multiple stores, then you should check out Cold Storage. It’s probably the most popular option for upper middle class to wealthy shoppers in Malaysia.
It offers a wide selection of local as well as internationally sourced products. They have 17 locations across the Klang Valley.
Jaya Grocer are a chain of upscale supermarkets with a good selection of organic products and alcoholic beverages. They are more expensive than Giant and Cold Storage but the staff there can tell you where the products are grown, so you know you are getting quality produce. They even have a kitchen instore where a chef will cook your meat for you after you buy it (steak, prawns, etc) and you can eat it in the dining area. It has 40 stores on the Malaysian Peninsular, mostly scattered through the Klang Valley.
Mercato is another high-end supermarket with imported groceries and high-quality produce. You won’t save money here but if you are an expat craving cheese, chocolate or speciality meats, then you should defiantly visit one of its 8 locations.
The Village Grocer
The Village Grocer was initially launched as a small family-run sundry shop in the 1950s and now boasts 7 outlets across the Klang Valley. Not only will they supply you with imported goods from around the world – but they also stock an impressive array of organic food options, including gluten-free items. And some of their stores even have an oyster bar where you can also enjoy a glass of bubbles after your shop.
Big Ben’s Independent Grocer
Big Ben’s Independent Grocer sells a mixture of local and imported products. They are known for fresh fruit and vegetables, roasted coffee, fresh flowers, organic foods and wines. They even have restaurants where you can dine.
At Big Ben’s, the colourful array of fresh produce under florescent lights is a beautiful sight for aspiring chefs. It is on the expensive side, but it’s worth it if you are looking for quality imported ingredients. Unfortunately, 4 out of the 5 stores are located in Kular Lumpar, so if you don’t live in KL it isn’t very accessible.
Where can I buy pork and alcohol in Malaysia?
Just because Malaysia is a Muslim country doesn’t mean it is difficult to source pork or alcohol. In fact, most supermarkets will have a non-halal section where you will often see pork and alcohol side by side.
What about buying dairy in Malaysia?
Dairy is cheap in Malaysia, but not cheese. Most cheese is imported which makes it more expensive. Thankfully many supermarkets now have a good variety of cheese, so you can enjoy as much as your budget allows.
What options are there in Malaysia for online shopping and delivery?
Online shopping is popular in Malaysia, especially after the pandemic when more people started shopping online. If you don’t have a car and aren’t up to lugging your grocery bags on public transport, then it might be a good option for you (as long as you’re not fussy and don’t mind others picking your fruit and vegetables for you).
In the digital age, online supermarket shopping is becoming more convenient than ever before. Many Malaysian supermarkets now have e-commerce marketplaces and offer online services to their customers for added convenience.
For those living in the Klang Valley (like Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Puchong, Mont Kiara, Sri Hartamas, Bangsar and Kuala Lumpur City Centre), you can get your groceries delivered to you within 90 minutes flat with Bawiq.
They offer a wide selection of groceries with weekly and monthly deals.
Order online: https://www.bawiq.com/
Delivery Charges: The delivery fee is RM4.50 ($1.01 USD). Instant delivery is a higher rate of RM9.50 ($2.14 USD).
With HappyFresh, you can pick from a wide range of shops– including big names like Sam’s Garcia, Aeon, Tesco, Giant and a range of specialty stores such as bakeries and pet shops. Personal shoppers will handpick your groceries from a range of locations and organise it to be delivered to you.
Order online: https://www.happyfresh.my/
Delivery Charges: delivery starts at RM3 ($0.67USD), depending on your location.
Did we mention Lotus’s was one of the first supermarkets to offer online delivery services? You’ll see they are proud of it, and so they should be. You can order up to three weeks ahead of time and easily choose a convenient delivery slot. However, you’ll need to act fast because slots get taken quickly.
Order online: https://corp.lotuss.com.my/
Delivery Charges: The maximum you’ll be charged in RM10 ($2.25), depending on your delivery slot
Redtick is a delivery service that works with farmers to bring farm-fresh produce straight to your door. Simply check their website for postcodes in the central Klang Valley area – including Ampang, Subang, Petaling Jaya and Seri Kembangan – before you order as they don’t deliver everywhere. They stock fresh and dry food items, and also baby care products, office supplies and stationery.
Order online: https://shop.redtick.com/
Delivery Charges: They charge between 10-15RM ($2.25- $3.15USD) per delivery.
As we mentioned before, Jaya Grocer is a trusted chain of premium supermarkets in the Klang Valley. They also have an online store with delivery so if you are looking for imported brands and rare ingredients delivered to your doorstep then this might be a good option for you.
Order online: https://www.jayagrocer.com/
Delivery Charges: Start at RM8 (1.78USD) for each delivery
Bigbox Asia offers an uncomplicated online shopping experience. Its user interface provides effortless access to a range of products and imported brands, while its organic section offers select items like quinoa and almond milk among many others. It also has discounts if you buy in bulk.
Order online: https://bigboxasia.com/my/
Delivery Charges: Free if you spend over RM 100 ($22.30USD)
Who offers grocery delivery nationwide?
You might have noticed that many online delivery services operate in the Klang Valley, but what is the KLang Valley? It is a sprawling metro region in Malaysia that encompasses Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. It also includes nearby cities and towns of the Selangor state – collectively forming Greater Kuala Lumpur.
Most delivery services operate in the Klang Valley, but there are some that deliver nationwide, like Potboy Groceries. Malaysian born and bred, Potboy stocks a range of convenient everyday items – from rice to frozen foods (with one exception: no fresh produce unfortunately).
Order online: https://potboy.com.my/
Delivery Charges: Free
What goes on a Malaysian grocery list?
Now that you know where to shop, what goes on your shopping list?
If you’re keen to immerse yourself into local culture, then cooking some local dishes is a fun way to do that. A Curry Laska is a great place to start, a famous noodle soup. Malaysian Rendang is another delectable Malaysian dish. This scrumptious meal is made from an aromatic blend of lemongrass, coconut, cinnamon and cardamom, meat and coconut milk.
If you need inspiration, try a cookbook like The Malaysian Kitchen, by Christina Arokiasamy, born in Kuala Lumpur and a specialist in spices. You’ll find classic Malaysian dishes as well as original ones like stir-fried spaghetti with kale.
Or you could try – My Rendang Isn’t Crispy: And Other Favourite Malaysian Dishes by Zaleha Kadir Olpin who was a contestant on MasterChef UK in Season 14. Also born in Malaysia, Zaleha runs a cooking school to share the favours of Malaysian cooking with budding chefs. She shares her family’s recipes, most of them passed down from her grandmother.
As good as home-cooked meals are, be sure to experience the zesty, multi-ethnic flavors of Malaysian cuisine with a trip to its bustling street food stalls. From curries and southern Chinese dishes to pan-Indian specialties – you can find mouth-watering dishes prepared by local vendors without fuss or frills served warm on plastic plates.
All in all, Malaysia has no shortage of options for buying groceries. From larger supermarkets and department stores to traditional local shops, the country’s food retail industry provides plenty of choice for customers. Not only do these outlets offer convenience and pocket-friendly prices, but they are also part of a vibrant culture that has been established in Malaysia.
With so many different places to choose from, take advantage of what Malaysia has to offer and explore the vast range of quality groceries available. You won’t be disappointed!
I’m an educator and writer living abroad. I love languages, experiencing different cultures and going on adventures with my family.