In Malaysia, the golden word of the Malaysian society is ‘makan’, which means ‘eat’ in Malay. Indeed, food is Malaysia’s favourite, if not national pastime. This is due to the wide and diverse variety of cuisines available, a reflection of the country’s multicultural society. This national love of food makes it Malaysia’s most powerful uniting factor, which is why despite the recent race politics rocking the country the Malay will still unhesitatingly enjoy roti canai, the Indian his steaming hot plate of char kuay teow and the Chinese ordering nasi lemak without thinking twice.
Malaysia’s cuisine does not only consists of Malay, Chinese, Indian and the lesser-known Dayak, but Nyonya food as well. Nyonya food is a fusion of Chinese and Malay recipes and styles of cooking as the community itself is a result of intermarriages between the Chinese and Malays in olden times. Local cuisines can be widely found in hawker stalls (sometimes called mamak for those serving Indian food), kopitiams (coffee shops) and restaurants as well; although the more popular places for enjoying local food would be at the former two. In fact, it is not uncommon to see people of varied financial and social status eating next to each other under the din of coffee shop chatter or clouded by sweet-smelling smoke and steam arising from the hawkers’ humble woks.
Of course, as Malaysia moves alongside other nations of this world, foreign cuisine makes its way to the country and into the welcoming stomachs of eager Malaysians. In fact, foreign cuisine is enjoyed as much as local cuisine is and both exist harmoniously on the menu. Examples of common foreign cuisine available in this country are Western and other Asian varieties, such as Japanese, Thai, Middle Eastern and others. Popular franchises such as KFC, McDonald, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are also easily found and softens the impact of cultural shock. However it is also not uncommon to see these fast-food outlets offering local twists to their menu.
Malaysia has an active food scene, with new eating hang-outs popping up every now and then. This topic aims to introduce Malaysia’s inimitable food scene – from what’s good to eat, to where as well as various good food blogs – which while eagerly embracing foreign tastes also takes fierce pride in its local gastronomic heritage.
Nasi lemak basically means ‘rice in cream’, as the rice is first soaked in coconut cream and then steamed. This gives the rice its distinctive light, creamy flavour. Sometimes pandan (screwpine) leaves will be added as the rice steams to give it some fragrance.
Nasi lemak usually comes with accompaniments such as a slice or two of hard-boiled egg, sambal ikan bilis (spicy anchovy condiment), cucumbers slices and salted fish. It is traditionally served on banana leaf or oil-absorbing brown paper, but nowadays you can find it in a polysterene lunchbox or simply wrapped in plastic. You may also have it served on a plate.
Means ‘trader’s rice’ in Malay. Also known as Nasi Dagae in the Kelantanese dialect. It is a popular dish of the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, especially in Kelantan and Terengganu. Consists of reddish-brown rice cooked in coconut milk and accompaniments like kerisik (toasted grated coconut), acar (pickled vegetables, pronounced ‘achar’), hard-boiled egg and fish curry.
Yes, the rice is blue! A concise description from flickr:
This rice dish is a regional specialty from Kelantan and the rice is tinted blue from petals of flowers called bunga telang (clitoria).
The blue rice is then served with a combination of fresh aromatic herbs, or known as ulam, hence the other name for this rice dish – Nasi Ulam. The Ulam here consists of local mint, basil, lemongrass, kaffir lime/ turmeric leaves, bunga kantan (torch ginger flower buds) etc and is served with raw vegetables (bean sprouts, long beans etc), salted egg, kerisik (grated coconut), tumis (pounded chilli paste) and a good serving of ground black pepper.
Nasi Paprik (also known as Nasi Goreng Paprik)
While Nasi Paprik is considered part of the Malay cuisine in Malaysia, it is actually Thai in origin. It is also known as Nasi Pad Prik, with Pad Prik being a Thai phrase (I looked up somewhere and it said pad = stir-fried, prik = chilli). It is rice fried in chilli or tomato sauce with a topping of stir-fried chicken and vegetables. This picture features sambal belacan (shrimp paste condiment) in the background.
Nasi Goreng Kampung
Means ‘Village-Style Fried Rice’. A simple but delicious consisting of rice fried with anchovies, shallots and vegetables. There are several versions, but the fried anchovies and shallots are what makes it a nasi goreng kampung. This dish can also be fried with soy sauce, which would give it a dark colour.
Ketupat is basically rice wrapped in woven palm leaf. Uncooked rice is first filled into the woven pouch and then boiled. The grains will then expand and the rice becomes compressed. Usually served during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a Muslim festival also known as Eid ul-Fitr in other countries. It is eaten with curry or rendang, or served as an accompaniment to satay. To eat the ketupat, simply slice the pouch into half.
Traditional ketupat is usually plain, but nowadays other varieties are made by adding spices, corn, etc.
One of the popular dishes in Malay cuisine that is also a common household dish due to the simplicity of its nature. Consists of kangkung (water spinach) stir-fried in belacan (shrimp paste). Chilli is commonly added in the wok as well for extra oomph, although one can opt out of it. Kangkung can be quite a challenge to chew due to its stringy (and some say rubbery) characteristic for the uninitiated, but once you get over that this simple dish is a delight to eat.
Spicy barbequed chicken and easily found in roadside stalls in Kelantan. The chicken is marinated with salt, sugar, chilli powder and turmeric powder. The spice paste on the other hand is made of candlenuts, garlic, dried chillies, red chillies, ginger and shallots. The paste is then fried with tamarind (for the sourness) and lemon grass (for flavour and fragrance), after which water, coconut milk, sugar and salt are added to make a spicy gravy. The chicken is then barbequed over ‘a low charcoal fire or under a grill, basting frequently with the gravy, until the chicken is cooked’ (norlia.com).
A dish brought to Malaysia by Minangkabau settlers, it is a popular serving at Malay feasts and festivals. It takes around 3 hours to cook, during which it boils until it is almost dry, moist only with the thick gravy that is left behind. The meat is also tenderised during this period and absorbs the spicy condiments, which makes this dish such a burst of flavours. It is in a nutshell, a spicy beef stew cooked in coconut milk.
Serunding is basically the dry, floss version of rendang and has a long shelf life. I LOVE serunding. One can munch on it as a snack or eat it with a steaming hot plate of rice.
Fish barbequed/grilled with turmeric, chilli or a spicy sauce.
A specialty of Terengganu and other east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia. A recipe borne out of the largely fishing communities there. It is basically shredded fish and batter deep-fried, and usually eaten as a snack with chilli sauce.
Originally post in AsiaFinest Forum: