As a result of migration and its geographical position, Malaysian cuisine is a beautiful mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian, with a pinch of Thai, Portuguese, Dutch and British foods. This melting pot of food & cultures gives Malaysian cuisine complex and diverse flavours and maybe why some of us are confused about the origins of some dishes. Malaysia also shares a common history with Singapore so you’ll fine versions of dishes of both sides of the border.
This dish is adapted from early Chinese immigrants from Hainan province in southern China and loved by both the rich and poor. Hainanese Chicken, or simply Chicken Rice, is undoubtedly the most iconic dish in Malaysia with fierce competition on who makes the best.
‘Do you remember your first taste of something that had a profound effect on your life? For me it was a mouthful of stir-fried Malaysian noodles know as char kway teow.’ Maeve O’Meara
Believed to have originated from Chaozhou in China’s Guangdong province and was a dish mainly sold by fishermen and served to labourers. The fishermen would fry any leftover seafood and meats with lard and rice noodles and sell to local workers. High fat content and low cost made it a cheap energy source.
Another extremely popular national dish and one Penang will claim as producing the best in the country.
Nasi Lemak is believed to be a local Malay dish originating from communities by the sea. With the readily available ingredients such as coconuts, this was added to rice to become ‘Nasi Lemak – rice in cream’. It could be considered Malaysia’s national dish & the classic comfort food. Simple coconut rice is served with a perfect balance of crunch & spice of sambal, anchovies, peanuts, cucumber and egg. Often eaten for breakfast, it’s also served with a curry chicken, beef rendang or vegetables for lunch and dinner.
The papaya salad is influenced by an ethnic Lao dish know as Tam Som, which literally means ‘pounding of sour ingredients. This was then taken to Central Thailand and variations are now found throughout South East Asia.
Kerabu Bok Kua is the perfect mix of sour, sweet and spiciness. It’s bright, fresh and the perfect side for a noodle or rice dish.
This dish hails from Indonesian and is very popular in eastern Indonesian regions where most of the locals are fisherman.
Translated to ‘burned fish’ Ikan bakar is the term for small grilled fish. This popular street food is basically a little parcel loaded with fish and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and placed on a smoky grill.
The roti is a flatbread originating from India and traditionally know as atta. Many counties have adopted the flatbread and it can be found in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Africa, Jamaica and more.
Malaysians have taken the traditional flatbread ingredient and started by simply poring it through a cup with holes in the base to make a net-like effect. These thin, net-like crepes are a prettier substitute for rice or roti and usually served along side curries. Favoured with turmeric and coconut they are the perfect delivery system for a spicy curry and sometimes sprinkled with sugar or butter and served as an afternoon snack.
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