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Malaysian cuisine is one of the original fusion foods of the world.
Due to its position in South East Asia, Malaysia has been a crossroads for traders and travellers for centuries and its cuisine has evolved to become a delicious mix of Malay, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian and Indian food.
Over the years, many Malaysian restaurants in Australia have simply been labelled ‘Chinese restaurants’ or ‘Asian Eateries’ without diners actually knowing they are eating Malaysian food.
Stats show that just over half of Australians believe they have never eaten Malaysian food. But when asked if they had dined on Beef Rendang, Hainanese Chicken or a Laksa—all Malaysian dishes—nearly all respondents said they had.
Wonderful food is incredibly accessible in Malaysia—almost every street corner offers something delicious at the tiny hawker stalls that draw you in with their glorious aromas.
Malaysian-born chef Jess Ong told Selector magazine that growing up in Malaysia, you start salivating at certain sounds linked with hawkers and street food.
“A cow’s bell ringing is the mobile hawker selling pulut hitam (sweet coconut black rice), a beep is for laksa, a bicycle bell for satay, a lady’s bellowing for nyonya kuih (steamed rice flour cakes in bright colours).”
These days, Australian diners are more food savvy and know more and more about Malaysian food with its wonderful array of curries, noodles and rice dishes.
Malay food is generally filled with spices, such as chilli, sambal, cumin, cardamom, ginger, star anise, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Coconut milk is also a key ingredient.
Many Australians are also now familiar with Nyonya cuisine, which is the result of early Chinese settlers marrying local Malays to form a generation known as Peranakan.
One of Malaysia’s most famous Nyonya cooks is Kee Seok Poh, or Pearly Kee as she is known.
Pearly explains that Nyonya food is not only delicious, but can be also used as medicine and day-to-day ailments can be resolved with the right root, vegetable or herb.
“Food can heal you, I see it every day,” Pearly proclaims. “Look at this ginger, beautiful, isn’t it? But don’t cut away the skin, always use the skin, use it in tea—just sip it during the day, it is so good for balancing your stomach, your joints and for the flu.”
Get more familiar with Malay food by trying these delicious Malaysian dishes at home this week.