Drinking Alcohol and Liquor in Malaysia

Although Malaysia is recognized as an Islamic country, alcohol is widely available on licensed outlets for the consumption of its non-Muslim citizens and visitors. However, some states (notably Kelantan and Terengganu) do ban alcohol. Alcohol in Malaysia is expensive. Whilst drinking alcohol is not banned in many parts of the country, taxes make it expensive by Malaysian standards. With the exception of tax-free islands (Labuan, Langkawi, Tioman) and duty-free shops (for example in Johor Bahru), prices are comparatively high, with a can of Tiger beer costing RM7 or more even in supermarkets or 7 elevens. However, in East Malaysia, smuggled liquors are widely available.

In East Malaysia, particularly Sarawak, tuak is a common affair for any celebration or festival such as Gawai Dayak and Christmas Day. Tuak is made from fermented rice which sometimes sugar, honey or other various condiments are added. It is normally served lukewarm without ice. Visitors can choose from ‘strong’ flavor of tuak (which is normally being fermented for years), or ‘mild’ flavor (which sometimes just being prepared a week or even a day before). In Sabah, cheap liquors are very widely available at most supermarkets and mini markets in the state. Other alcoholic drinks such as beer and whiskey are also widely available.

A fermented version of coconut milk is also called tuak in Kelantan. The alcohol content in this tuak can easily reach 50% after three days from the time it was extracted.

Some locals also drink toddy. Toddy is made from the sap collected from the cut flower shoot of the coconut tree. The sap that is initially collected is very sweet and non-alcoholic; hence the sap has to be left to ferment for a few hours to become toddy. In Kuala Lumpur, you can get toddy in Brickfields (Jalan Berhala) and Sentul (Jalan Sentul. Klang is also a popular place to get toddy – it is sold even at some Chinese seafood restaurants; notably Coconut Flower Seafood Restaurant at Telok Gong Seafood Village. Toddy apparently goes well with seafood.

Tapai, which consists of cassava that is fermented and eaten as a food (though the liquid in the bottom can also be drunk) is a similar but milder alcoholic item. It is traditional for Muslims to consume it on the East Coast of the Peninsula (Kelantan, Terengganu, etc.) on Hari Raya (Eid), and Islamic legal authorities associated with the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) have expressly given Muslims a dispensation to eat the sweet, somewhat fermented item.

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