Malaysian food is not one particular distinction of food but a culinary diversity originating from it's multi-ethnic population of Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Chinese, Nyonya and the Indigenous peoples of Borneo. A brief look into the past and how this multi-ethnic country came to be, is essential in order to comprehend how such a cosmic array of food, has now come to be known all over the world as 'Malaysian Food'. Presented here are some of the various delicious and popular dishes from this rainbow of gastronomic spectrum, with pictures and detailed recipes, from each unique ethnic kitchen.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Dining - Malaysian cuisine is exotic with an exciting range of flovours and culinary styles offerring the uninitiated an endless gastronomic adventure. It comprises three main group - Malay, Chinese and Indian with each having its own distinct style of cooking. There are also cuisines that have evolved from the meeting of cultures notably those of the Nyonya and Indian Muslims communities. Western cuisines, especially Continental and Mediterranean fare, are also available in the major cities. Indeed, Malaysia as a meeting place of both eastern and western cultures, has produced a most diverse culinary melting pot. For teh visitor who is interested in dining out, Kuala Lumpur will prove to be a unique experience both in terms of the array of culinary delights as well as in the wide choice of settings. You can dine out at posh hotels, restaurants, elegant chain restaurants, chic sidewalk cafes, delicatessens or eat out at the many hawker stalls till the wee hours of the morning.
Malay cuisine is rich and spicy arising from the use of hard spices and a wet spice mixture of "rempah" and coconut milk. Malay cuisine varies from region to region. Kelantanese cuisine, akin to Thai cooking for example, has a sweetish taste due to liberal use of coconut milk and sugar in cooking. On the other hand, the cuisine of Kedah is spicier due to the influence of Indians who arrived here centuries ago during the spice trade. For the adventurous, there is an array of popular Malay dishes to tantalise their taste buds. A favourite with Malaysians is "Nasi Lemak", rice cooked in coconut milk served with anchovies, squid, eggs, cucumber and sambal (chili paste). An East Coast favourite is "Nasi dagang", fragrant unpolished glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk and served with tuna fish curry. "Nasi Kerabu", another rice-based dish native to Kelantan, is served with local herbs and salted fish. A Malay banquet would not be complete without the ever popular "Satay", skewered chicken or beef marinated in spices, then grilled over charcoal fire. It is served with peanut gravy, rice cubes, cucumber and onions.
A wide variety of Chinese cuisines is available in Kuala Lumpur. Among the popular styles of cooking are those of the Cantonise, Hokkien, Hainanese, Hakka and Szechuan communities. Generally, Chinese cuisines is mild in flovour but local influence has given it a slightly spicier taste. In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, there are elevenses where "Dim Sum" (steam snacks) is served. Apart from hotels outlets and large chain restaurants, Chinese food is also available in most coffee shops around Kuala Lumpur.
Nyonya or "Peranakan" cuisines evolved out of a unique blend of Malay and Chinese cooking styles. It is characterised by sweet, sour, spicy and pungent flovours. Typical dishes include "Otak-otak" (fish meat marinated in spices, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled) and "Itik tim" (duck with salted vegetables). The cuisines is best tried in Nyonya restaurants which have become popular in recent years.
Contrary to popular perception, Indian cuisines need not be searingly hot. Various spice blends are used in Indian cuisines to give a robust flavour to food but yoghurt almost always accompanies a meal at the end to cool down the tastebuds. Milder on the tastebuds are dishes such as "Kurma" (mild meat curry) and "Tandoori" chicken (chicken baked in clay oven). Generally, Southern Indian cuisines is hotter than its Northern Indian and Moghul counterparts and is characterised by the heavy use of cream meat-based dishes and "Naan" breads. Indian -Muslims cuisine is another local favourite one ought to try while in Kuala Lumpur. Popular dishes include fish head curry, "Murtabak" (pancake with spiced meat mixture) and "Mee goreng" (fried noodles).