I perch myself on a brightly-coloured red plastic chair with legs threatening to give way at any moment. Out of the corner of my eye, I see an old lady dishing out food by the second. Before I know it, our order is on our table. I peer over the steaming bowl of laksa I ordered – it is easy to spy translucent noodles playing games with the cloudy coconut curry. As the steam arising from the curry soup mists my face, I close my eyes and inhale the fragrance of exotic spices, asian chillies, and the sea. In that moment, I fall in love with South East Asia all over again.
My love affair with the food of Malaysia goes back a long way. Vid and I first went to Malaysia in 2006. I clearly remember being introduced to a steaming bowl of Laksa at a street-side stall. It cost less than a dollar but the aroma arising from it was priceless. It was love at first sight, or should I say bite? Even writing this article made me crave a good ol’ Malaysian soup – the perfect recipe to brighten a chilly winter morning in London. Of course, I can’t hop over to the take-away around the corner and order that bowl of goodness. So I did the next best thing! I wrote about my favourite Malaysian Food in painstaking detail so you guys could crave it too and share my misery – I’m really philanthropic like that 😉
Without further ado, here are the dishes that you NEED to taste in Malaysia :-
Small pieces of chicken dart towards one another as a boiled egg plays hide and seek with roughly torn green leaves. A coconut curry flavoured with lemon grass, Asian chillies and other exotic herbs, Laksa is the epitome of Malaysian street food.
There are as many variations of the laksa as there are regions in Malaysia but I’m yet to come across one that doesn’t taste amazing.Don’t forget to customise your bowl with noodles, fried tofu, bean sprouts, and seafood, and add a generous helping of sambhal (chilli paste) if you like your food with a bit of zing.
Usually I leave the best for the last but there are times when I have to make an exception, especially when the dish in question is mind-numbingly, brain-freezingly scrumptious.
#2 ICED MILO AKA MILO DINOSAUR
If the name isn’t enough for you to pick it off a long menu of drinks, let me give you another reason. One sip of Milo Dinosaur – iced chocolate milk topped with an EXTREMELY generous helping of Milo powder – is enough to transport you to a time when you were five and carefree days were spent devouring endless glasses of chocolate milk. Calories?? What are those??
#3 TEH TARIK
Warning!! This drink isnt for the faint of heart and is known to induce a sugar coma.
Teh Tarik is how the Malaysians have tea. Creamy milk is boiled with tea and (too much?) sugar till the concoction reaches boiling point. The tea is then poured into large glasses and served hot/iced. The influence of Indian chai (tea with a generous helping of milk) is obvious but the Malaysian version is sweeter and comes in a much larger glass (I’m talking 500 ml!). Are you brave enough to take the plunge?
#4 CHICKEN AND RICE
Chicken and rice is popular all over Malaysia but we love the way it is done in Melaka, a small town close to Kuala Lumpur. Here chicken is served with rice, pressed into ping-pong sized balls, which automatically makes the experience a whole lot more fun (or is it just us? 😉 ). You would be hard-pressed to find chicken served with rice balls in any other part of the country. Most restaurants offer a choice of steamed and grilled chicken – we loved the latter!
#5 CENDOL AND ICE KACHANG
A mountain of finely-shaved ice is covered with pristine coconut milk and slathered with treacly palm sugar. The resultant ‘ice-cream‘ is god-sent on a balmy summer’s day in Malaysia.
But wait – there’s more! The whole mountain of shaved ice rests on a bed of bright green (yes GREEN!) noodles and red kidney beans. How does that sound now? 😉
If the thought of having kidney beans for dessert sends a shiver down your spine, then try the Ice Kachang (shaved ice). Choose from a variety of toppings – flavoured syrups and fresh fruits are most popular. It’s hard to go wrong with this one!
#6 GLORIOUS SEA FOOD
This is a no brainer! If you are fond of sea food, South East Asia is THE place to be. The scent of the sea lingers on sea food, making it that tad bit more special. Choose from garlic crabs, grilled Red Snappers, giant clams, and fish baked with flavourful marinades.
I can’t talk about the food of Malaysia without mentioning Braised Garoupa – one of my favourite dishes ever. My friend Sid introduced me to it (Hey Sid, if you’re reading 🙂 ) and I haven’t looked back ever since. The Garoupa fish lends itself well to Asian spices. A generous sprinkling of finely-chopped spring onions and chillies later, you get art in a bowl. Take a look :-
#7 FRESH FRUITS AND SMOOTHIES
If you, like me, enjoy fruits and fruit-based smoothies, then Malaysia is the place for you. Local markets are laden with colourful fresh fruits, just waiting to be devoured. Passionfruits, mangoes, litchis, mangosteens, and rose apples are some of my favourites.
Then there are the smoothies. It is so easy to begin the day with a delicious smoothie packed with nutrients and vitamins because all cafes and road-side carts offer a variety of options. They cost just $1-2, depending on where you buy them. Mango smoothies are a perfect sweet treat on hot summer days. But my favourite is the dragon fruit and passionfruit smoothie – the bright pink colour of the dragon fruit and the tanginess of the passionfruit lends an intensity to this smoothie that is hard to beat – nomilicious indeed!
#8 ROTI CANAI AND MURTABAK
The roti canai is an Indian-influenced flaky flatbread. The thin layers of the roti – made with flour, generous helpings of fat, and water – literally dissolve in the mouth. Dip it in the accompanying chicken gravy to experience euphoria.
The Murtabak, on the other hand, has Arabic origins. Spicy minced meat is nestled between layers of dough to create a savoury dish that never fails to excite.
Are you drooling yet? Please say yes – it will make me feel a bit better about being a glutton 🙂
If you are in Malaysia, make sure you visit Melaka on a day trip from Kuala Lumpur. It’s amazing!