In Malaysia, where so many cultures have grown together over the centuries, there is no national cuisine as such. It is a skillful interweaving of the best culinary traditions of all those nations that once came here.
But all the traditional cuisines of the Malaysian peoples have one thing in common – rice, or “nasi”, in Malay. Rice is life, everything else is just its decoration. Rice is steamed, fried with spices and vegetables, stewed with coconut milk, mixed with fruit for desserts. All other products are called by the common word – “lauk”, which means “addition to rice.”
You can eat well and inexpensively anywhere in Malaysia, but to get the most complete picture of Malaysian cuisine, you should buy food from hawkers. For us, lunch in such an impromptu street cafe seems undignified, but in Malaysia such meals are very common and respected. The best stalls are just as popular as the famous restaurants. For a couple of coins, the hostess of such a tray will give you a plastic plate with steamed rice, and then you already choose for yourself: go to each of the huge dishes with <lauk> and put whatever you want on top of the rice. Behind the neighboring tray of venerable years, the owner in a white apron will cook for you “sate ayam” – a traditional Malaysian dish, which is a chicken or meat skewers on small bamboo sticks. Pieces of meat are first marinated in a crushed mixture of cilantro seeds, turmeric and dried turmeric roots with salt, sugar and crushed peanuts. Sate is served on a banana leaf and served with a sweet and sour toasted peanut sauce.
According to CLOTHESBLISS, the most important meal for Malaysians is breakfast. Most often for breakfast they eat “nasi lemak”, a dish made from rice boiled in coconut milk and served with anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, roasted peanuts and cucumbers. No less beloved by Malaysians is the dish “ketupat” – a kind of cabbage rolls, where rice and spices are wrapped in palm leaves. <Ketupat> is fried in palm oil, after which the leaves are thrown away, and the filling is eaten. Other typical Malay dishes include: <tahu gorent> – fried cubes of soy flour with soy shoots, rolled in ground peanuts with spicy seasoning; <laksa johor> – thick spicy fish soup with rice noodles. Don’t forget to also try the “rendang” dish in a traditional Malay restaurant. It takes several hours to prepare. all this time, the meat with spices is simmered in coconut milk over low heat. Before that, according to our tradition, you should try the <first>, for example <ekor> – spicy, thick buffalo tail soup with numerous additives and spices, or <soto ayam> – spicy chicken soup with rice and vegetables. On the “third” you can try traditional Malay pancakes <roti chanai> or <roti jala>, puff pastries <murtabak>. Desserts are also worth a try. What is worth only “melaka”, which is made from sago with coconut milk and palm sugar syrup, or “ice kachang” – a multi-colored mixture of jelly cubes, red beans, creamed corn and peanuts, sprinkled with small crumbs of ice and poured with pink syrup.
Chinese dishes are also available in abundance. You can try Taezhou porridge, Hainanese chicken with rice, Hakk yon may fu (meat with bean paste), Hokien mi (fried vermicelli with pieces of meat, shrimp and shellfish). In addition to the traditional wok pan, Malay cuisine borrowed from the Chinese all kinds of noodles, marinades and tofu soy cheese. In Malaysia, there is even a special name for Chinese-Malay cuisine – “nyonya”. Indian dishes are distinguished by the abundant use of a variety of spices. The crown dish of Indian cuisine is <nasi bryani>, “yellow rice”, boiled in milk and meat broth with saffron and infusion of rose petals. From the culinary traditions of India, Malay cuisine took, first of all, a wide variety of spices. In particular, now it is customary here to add lemon grass, zest, leaves and lime juice to sauces for fish and meat, thanks to which the finished dish acquires a stable, slightly harsh citrus aroma. In addition, mint, fresh cilantro, ginger and turmeric roots add a peculiar taste to the dishes.
If Peking duck and oxtail soup aren’t for you, stop by one of the Malay vegetarian restaurants. Here you will be served chicken or fish, and the local exotic is that for the preparation of these “meat” dishes, the chefs used only pressed soybean curd or mushrooms.
Malaysia is a true paradise for lovers of exotic fruits. Try the durian, for example, a strange football-sized fruit covered in sharp spikes. It is quite expensive, and its value is very ambiguous. “It smells like hell but tastes like heaven” is the classic description of durian. It really smells disgusting, but nevertheless remains one of the favorite Malay fruits. Maybe the secret of its popularity is that durian is a phenomenal aphrodisiac. Little is known to us and another fruit beloved by Malaysians – chiku, which ripens here throughout the year. Most of the desserts here also use guava, which is known for its musky flavor and very tasty pulp. Jackfruit or Nangka seems strange, the twenty-kilogram fruits of which are filled with many very tasty, sweet segments of bright yellow color with a tempting aroma. Back in the days of British colonization, high-ranking Europeans considered the opportunity to taste mangosteen to be a great success. They say that the English Queen Victoria fell in love with him so much that she announced a reward to anyone who could bring fresh mangosteens to England. And, finally, when you go to the noisy and colorful Malaysian market, be sure to buy rambutan. Don’t let its hairy skin scare you away, its incredibly juicy and sweet flesh hides underneath.
Strong drinks in Malaysia are not consumed as often. Most often, Malaysians drink local beer, which is allowed even for Muslims. But we advise you to drink coconut milk in Malaysia. It’s sold on every corner and costs less than a dollar. In front of you, the seller will choose a nut, cut off the top from it and give you a shell with a straw.