If the Germans are proud of their engineering, the Americans their rights, and the Japanese their efficiency and cleanliness – the Malaysians are most proud of their food.
In Malaysia, food are available 24 hours a day (yes, even at 3 am!), almost everywhere. and very affordable. There are plenty of different cuisine to choose from: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya, and more.
That is because Malaysians are made up of different ethnic groups. Yet each race still speak different language, wear different clothes, believe in different religion, and cook different food. And we celebrate our differences.
Kuala Lumpur is a peninsular surrounded by sea. Hence, we have abundance of seafood which we preserved and become our staple ingredients e.g belacan (shrimp paste) and ikan bilis (anchovies). On top of hat, our tropical weather, fertile low and highland, allow us to plant crops like chillies, durian, coconut, petai (stinky beans) and tamarind.
What does all that lead to? Amazing array of delicious food with different flavours!
1. Nasi Lemak Nasi Lemak is Malaysia's defacto National dish.If you travel in Malaysia Airlines (MAS), you will be served this food. It is made from coconut rice, spicy sambal sauce, accompanied with eggs, peanuts, fried anchovies, and cucumber. Many Malaysians like to top it up with an extra side dish like fried chicken or beef/chicken rendang.
Bingka Ubi, a local Malaysian dessert made from ingredients like coconut milk and tapioca
Kuih (singular) and Kuih-muih (plural) are Malaysian cakes. While western dessert are made from wheat flour and milk, Malaysian cakes are made from rice flour and coconut milk. I have a cookbook that list 80 variety of them! But I suggest that you can try a few of the most popular ones like the photo above. If I must name the top 3 kuih to try, I would suggest: Bingka Ubi, Ondeh-ondeh, and Rempah Udang.
Kaya Coconut Jam Toast, Soft-boiled Eggs, And Coffee
One very special breakfast that is unique to Malaysia is a combo of: Kaya-butter toast bread + soft-boiled eggs + local coffee. Our 'Kaya' jam is made from coconut milk and eggs. The jam and butter is then slather over a light bread (which you can't get from the supermarket). We break our eggs into plates, season with soy sauce and pepper, then slurp it in! Finally, our coffee is toasted with butter and sweetened with condensed milk.
Cendol is a type of dessert made shaved ice, green rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. I chose to include this dessert because you have to try Malaysian palm sugar and fresh coconut milk combo – it's amazing. Secondly, if you're adventurous, some cendol stall allows you to top it up with durian. It's a delicious way to try this pungent fruit!
Curry Laksa is listed in Lonely Planet's Ultimate Eatlist book lists as the second best food experience in the world. But that is not the only reason why this noodle is in the list. The soup is made from spices and coconut milk; while the ingredients includes egg noodles, fried tofu, cockles, long beans, and a side of chili sauce. It's a complicated dish that's why it's so delicious
Char Koay Teow
This is arguable Malaysia's most famous noodle. From my experience as a Malaysian and cooking instructor, both locals and tourist rate this as their top favourite noodle. Char Koay Teow literally means 'Fried Flat-Rice Noodle'. The noodle is fried on a wok on intense high heat with prawns, fish cakes, chives, eggs, beansprouts, and topped with lard and cockles.
Bak Kut Teh
Bak Kuh Teh means 'Meat Bone Broth'. This dish is unique of Malaysia. While many Chinese-Malaysian food can be traced back to China, this is truly made in Malaysia. It's a pot of herbal soup with pork, garlic, and fried tofu. It's served with rice and a soy sauce-garlic condiment. It's best topped with sliced youtiau (chinese fried dough).
Chili Pan Mee
Pan Mee too is unique to Malaysia. There are two variety: dry and broth. I suggest trying the dry noodles where sauced noodle is topped with minced pork, poached egg, fried anchovies, and chili flakes.
Roti Canai With Curry
While roti canai is also available in India, Malaysian gives it a very unique tweak. We have a variety of roti (bread) made with milo, margarine, cheese, garlic etc. I suggest trying regular, egg, and planta (margerin with sugar). The bread is then dipped in a few types of curries!
Remember to look at how the bread is made – the cook professionally flip the bread in the air!
Satay With Peanut Sauce
All kinds of meat – chicken, beef, or even rabbit – are marinated in spices and grilled on charcoal. It's then dip in sweet peanut sauce served with chop cucumber and onion. While meat skewers are also available in other countries, Malaysian makes some of the best.
I suggest getting them at places where it is made with charcoal. Satay taste best when barbecued as it gives a delicious smoked flavour.
More food adventures
This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are a lot more Malaysian food to explore. But if you have limited time or space in your stomach, this is is a good start.
If you are interested to learn more about Malaysian food and culture – why not join a cooking class at a local's home where you get to learn how to make the most popular food in Malaysia!
Learn Malaysian food culture through a cooking class held in a local family homewww.newmalaysiankitchen.com
No.2, Jalan 11, Taman Lensen,Cheras, 56000, KL