Malaysian food is the combination of Malay traditional food arts blended with other country influences: Singapore, India, China etc. From each destination, individuals will find their own favourite cuisine to taste and enjoy, therefore, no two people’s culinary journey will be the same. From my experience, discovering the country’s famous cities like Kuala Lumpur, Sabah,…and at the same time, trying to recognize each place’s unique characteristics of cuisine, is a way of taking time to really get to know the culture and local life in Malaysia.
Below are 6 dishes I think deserve to be tasted:
1. Ikan bakar
In Malaysia, “Ikan” means fish, “bakar” means grilled. So Ikan bakar means grilled fish, which is marinated with unique spices of the local people. Fresh fish are mixed with much chilli sauce and placed on banana leaves, then cooked over charcoal. The fish are cooked till you may smell the distinct aroma and served with hot rice, and sometimes (if you want) with extra vegetables and curry dishes, dotted with soy sauce. It’s so simple and familiar to Malaysian people. Nowadays, it becomes a must-enjoy dish for many tourists. You can find it anywhere in Malaysia, but the best, I think, can be found in the East of the country in places like Sulawesi or Maluku – coastal regions.
2. Salad Rojak
Rojak is a kind of salad made from ingredients of vegetables and fruits such as mangoes, apples, cucumbers, papaya, guava….blended with spicy sauce and salty shrimp paste with peanuts sprinkled on top. The harmony of many different flavors makes it a delicious accompaniment.
3. Assam Laska
This kind of noodle is one of the most savoury dish of Malaysian cuisine. Its broth is made from tamarind, with fish, cucumber, papaya and a little basil. You may try it anywhere you visit in Malaysia.
4. Nasi lemak
When eating in Malaysia, you certainly cannot forget the name” Nasi lemak”. The ‘national’ rice dish appears in the streets, bars, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, schools – everywhere – with very simple recipes. I have enjoyed the opportunity of watching the process of this dish being made. Cooked rice is covered by a layer of coconut milk to get fat and delicious taste characteristics, which is then usually served with crunchy, roasted salted peanuts, dried fish or dried venison and extra chilli sauce. You can try this recipe back home, cooking for yourself or your friends and family.
5. Roti canai
Roti canai originated from India but it has become a familiar food of Malaysia, particularly at breakfast time. Flour, eggs and ghee (melted butter) are mixed together and flattened on a baking pan, then folded. It is usually served hot, with a crispy crust and soft middle. So attractive!
6. Batu Maung satay – Meat skewer
A dish of different meats and seafood marinated and grilled on charcoal, deliciously fragrant and very popular with tourists. Barbecue stalls can be found on every street corner, with piles of meat skewers waiting to be served to you.
7. Curry laska
It’s cooked with coconut milk and greasy curry and has a very distinctive, pungent taste. Also, you may add to it fish, shrimp, scallops…. served together with noodle. After completion of making its flavours, curry laska is decorated with chopped leaves. A perfect bowl of curry laska is further complimented when served with fish Otak-Otak. Let’s taste and enjoy some sensational flavours!
8. Roti Jala cake
If you have a few days in Malay and want to try something a little different, then Roti jala is not a bad choice. This is a very popular snack, especially with the younger generation, as well as tourists. Roti jala is a thin pancake, ingredients of which include coconut milk and turmeric, the surface appearance is criss-crossed and it is often eaten with fruit jams, chocolate sauce, butter or cinnamon… to taste. You can easily find, or ask for this to be served at any restaurant in Malaysia.
9. Won ton mee
Originated from China but adapted to suit Malaysian taste, this dish consists of wonton cooked noodles, some slices of pork and broth. I believe there are some types of ready-made wonton noodles available but the original, dry one is well known as the most distinctive and more tasty. It is a nice food to try one time.
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Happy travels, happy eating!