FOOD is definitely a big deal for Malaysians as we constantly think about what to have for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper.
We can be considered lucky with a variety of different cuisines at our disposal; be it Chinese, Indian, Malay, Portugese, Sarawakian, Sabahan, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Australian, Italian, French, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and whatever else that comes to mind.
The sumptuous array of food and the wide spectrum of flavours certainly make Malaysia a melting pot of cuisines. Her people however, have their favourites and these are some of the popular Malaysian dishes.
It is difficult to come across anyone who dislikes Nasi Lemak. In the past, the Malay community savoured it for breakfast but these days, Nasi Lemak is a regular breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper meal for people from all walks of life.
Nasi Lemak is rice cooked or steamed with creamy coconut milk and served with Ikan Billis Sambal (anchovies Sambal) and is garnished with fried anchovies and ground nuts, sliced cucumber and hard boiled egg.
Traditionally, the dish is wrapped in a banana leaf to enhance its flavour and retain heat but these days, it is sold buffet style where you can add extra side dishes like Beef or Chicken Rendang, Sotong Sambal, Fried Chicken or veggies to pep up your meal.
Popular Nasi Lemak spots include Nasi Lemak Tanglin, Sakura Restaurant and Pakcik’s stall at Jalan Walter Grenier.
Satay is synonymous with Malaysia as this barbequed skewered meat (chicken, beef or lamb) dish is so, so delicious.
Pieces of meat marinated with cumin, fennel, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, coriander, sugar, salt and groundnuts are pierced through skewers, then barbequed and savoured with a slight spicy sweet peanut sauce. Rice cakes, onions and cucumber are served on the side.
Different cooks use different marinade to flavour the meat.
Kajang town is famous for its satay but the dish can be found just about anywhere.
Burger Ramly was first started off by a Ramly Moknin in the late 70s but today many roadside burger stalls have picked up on the idea.
These burgers are also commonly referred to as Burger Ramly by Malaysians. Sinfully yummy, this snack typically consists of a beef or chicken patty, margarine, onions, an egg, cabbage, lots of mayonnaise and Worcesterchire sauce. These burgers can be found almost everywhere and taste just as good.
Popiah are spring rolls. Popiah skin is made from wheat flour, water and egg white (optional).
The ingredients vary but common ingredients include lettuce, bean sprouts, dried prawns, fried shallots, cooked turnip, pounded fried ground nuts and sambal paste.
The ingredients are placed on the popiah skin and wrapped.
Popiah is available at many restaurants, night markets and food courts.
This is another Malaysian heavy weight when it comes to local favourites. This addictive bread made from wheat flour, sugar, condensed milk, water and margarine (some cooks use clarified butter) is relished from the break of dawn to the wee hours of the morning. The dough is kept overnight to allow the gluten to work its magic. Some cooks add egg to the dough to make it tastier but to cater to vegetarians; the egg is often left out. Roti Canai is similar to the South Indian Roti Paratha but the latter’s ingredients vary slightly as it has sugar, salt, milk, egg, flour and water. Roti Canai can be found everywhere.
This is another favourite, tea made from tea leaves, milk (condensed, evaporated or cow’s milk) and sugar.
Literally translated, it means pulled tea. Ginger and spices can pep up the taste of Teh Tarik and it is available throughout the day at various stalls and restaurants.
Char Koay Teow
Fried flat noodles. That’s what Char Koay Teow translates to. The flat noodles, about 1cm in width is fried over high heat along with ingredients such bean sprouts, chilli sauce, prawns, cockles, egg, Chinese chives and soy sauce.
Typically, pork fat is used to fry the noodles but some chefs do replace it with ordinary oil.
Some of the best Char Koay Teow can be found at Peng Hwa Food Court in Pudu and Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang.
Originating from Penang, Nasi Kandar dates back to the time when rice hawkers used to balance a pole on their shoulders with huge containers of rice meals on each end. The action of balancing the pole is known as “Kandar' and hence the name. Today, the dish is served at various Indian Muslim restaurants. Steamed rice is served with choices of various curries such as chicken and fish head, fish roe, prawn sambal, fried squids, ketchup beef and more. Typically, a mixture of curries or sauces is scooped over the rice, which gives this meal a distinctive flavour. Some of the popular Nasi Kandar places include Restoran Kudus and Yaseen Nasi Kandar in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Restoran Medina Baru in Sungai Wang Plaza, the various Nasi Kandar Kayu and Pelita outlets.
A variety of teatime cakes called ‘kueh’ which are bite-sized sweet delights and these include Kueh Seri Muka, Kueh Bahulu, Kueh Keria, Kueh Dadar, Kueh Lopis, Kueh Lapis, Kueh Bengkang, Kueh Koci and plenty more.
Malaysian kueh which are commonly made by the Malays and Nyonya usually has coconut milk, screw pine leaves, and palm sugar as popular ingredients and various starches are used like rice flour, glutinous flour, corn flour, tapioca flour and wheat flour.
They are available at local markets, night markets, and specialty restaurants like Nyonya Colours, La Cucur and at hotel buffets.
Bak Kut Teh
Bak Kut Teh (Pork Bone Tea) is a popular Chinese herbal soup dish served with rice. The soup is cooked with pork ribs or other pork parts and savoured with hot rice. Besides pork, the soup teems with spices and herbs like black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, tong kwai and garlic. Some recipes include Chinese herbs like tong sum, kei chee and spices like fennel and cumin.
These days, to cater to non-pork eaters, there’s Chi Kut Teh (the chicken version). The dish is believed to have originated in Klang and is therefore a truly Malaysian dish. It is still big in Klang and is available throughout Malaysia.
This is a Malaysian Indian rojak consisting of shredded cucumber, boiled egg, turnip, potatoes, beancurd, bean sprouts, prawn fritters, spicy fried crab and fried octopus. It is served with sweet and spicy peanut sauce. Try the stall along the road opposite Petronas station in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, Subang SS15 Pasembur and a stall under the Cheras roundabout.
Pisang Goreng translates to mean banana fritters. Fresh bananas dipped in batter are deep-fried and it is a popular teatime snack of all time.
Also easily available at road-side stalls all over the Klang Valley and the country.
This dessert is usually served in a small bowl. Coconut milk is poured over shaved ice and is sweetened with thick brown syrup or Gula Melaka. Also added in are glutinous rice, red beans and green Pandan flavoured noodles.
Cendol is easily available at the small stalls along roadsides and is best taken during a hot day.
ABC or Air Batu Campur is also known as Ais Kacang and this dessert also has shaved ice base. Topped with red or brown sugar, other ingredients in the dessert are red beans, jelly, sweet corn, ‘cincau’, peanuts and evaporated milk. These days, ice-cream is a popular addition upon request. Like Cendol, ABC is also easily available at kerbside stalls.