Malaysian chefs have drawn on their multi-ethnic heritage for centuries with the result being a unique blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai and Eurasian cooking methods and ingredients. But, while the staple ingredients may resemble those used by their Asian neighbours, the extras are what make Malay food so original. Tropical fruits and seafood are added to various dishes, coconut milk is added to almost everything and rice serves as the basis for every meal. And, while the ingredients may not vary largely from dish to dish, the cooking method and accompaniments are what make each dish so special.
Another advantage of eating out in Malaysia is the huge number of food stalls in the country. From the tiny villages to the bigger cities, the vendors are always out in force with mouth watering and reasonably priced gastronomic treats. And, while it may not sound quite as luxurious as a four course sit down meal, it is a much-loved practice among locals and visitors alike so you should avail of the unique opportunity to do so.
There are several extremely popular traditional Malaysian dishes, at least some of which you should try to sample during your stay. Satay is probably the most popular of all and contains small pieces of beef, lamb or chicken which are marinated in spices, skewered on bamboo strips and barbecued over a charcoal fire. They are served with rice cakes, a salad consisting of cucumber, pineapple and onion and a peanut sauce.
Another favourite is ‘rendang’ which is another meat dish and also includes coconut milk, onion, chilies, cinnamon, cloves and coriander. This too is served with rice cakes or ‘lemang’ which is rice cooked in coconut milk. Finally, other dishes which come highly recommended include ‘char kway teow’, rice noodles which are stir-fried with garlic, prawns, bean sprouts, cockles and eggs and ‘rojak’ which is a salad of pineapple, cucumber, bean curd, prawn fritters and boiled eggs.
Breakfast is also a very important meal in Malaysia and consists of many unique specialties. The favourite among the natives is ‘roti canai’, it’s a type of wheat-flour pancake served with eggs and diced onions. Others include ‘nasi lemak’, a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and served with anchovies, boiled egg, peanuts and cucumber and ‘nasi dagang’ which is a type of rice and fish curry. But, while these are highly favoured dishes with which to start the day for the locals, those of you recuperating from a tough night might want to try something a little lighter to start the day.
And, as a final treat don’t miss the local fruits. The pineapples, mangoes, rambutans, lychees, guavas, starfruit, and durians which you will find in Malaysia are the best you will ever taste. The only problem is that fruit back at home will not seem nearly as appealing on your return.