On a recent tour of Malaysia, the Asian Inspirations team went on the hunt for authentic Malay cuisine. Along the way, we sampled traditional Malay fare in an historic home, learnt how to make Malay specialties in a hands-on cooking class, and dined on modern Malay food in one of Kuala Lumpur’s top restaurants. Malaysia is a multicultural melting pot, celebrating a rich history of cultures and cuisines. Today, the food scene is influenced by the native Malay people and immigrants from India and China, as well as other destinations across Asia. Hailing from the Malay Peninsula, eastern Sumatra and Borneo, the Malay people account for more than half of Malaysia’s population.
Malay cuisine is characterised by the use of rice, coconut milk, aromatic herbs and spices, palm sugar, belacan (shrimp paste) and sambal—a spicy sauce of chilli, belacan, onion and garlic. As the Malays are largely Muslims, they follow a halal diet, eschewing pork products and alcohol.
The Old Ways
The first stop on our gourmet tour of Malaysia was the Kampung Kulinari Experience in Kuala Lumpur. Here, in a restored village leader’s home, we learnt the traditional practices of the Malay people, including how to make coconut milk and pandan juice, and about wedding customs and dining etiquette.
We then sat on the floor to share an authentic Malay meal—a colourful spread that included Nasi Kerabu (a rice salad that gets its striking blue hue from the butterfly-pea flower), Ayam Goreng (fried chicken), Ikan Masak Lemak (fish with turmeric and chilli) and Kuih Ketayap (pandan crepes with a sweet coconut filling). We also touched on table etiquette, including how to sit and how to eat with our hands. An enlightening—and utterly delicious—experience.
Our next immersion in the Malay food scene was a tour of Kuala Lumpur’s Pudu Wet Market. Chef Chin Pei Ling from The Cooking House guided us through stalls selling still-flapping fish, vibrant fruit and vegetables, and aromatic herbs. Back at Pei Ling’s state-of-the-art cooking school, we created our own Satay skewers and Ayam Percik (grilled chicken in a lemongrass, chilli and garlic sauce), before sitting down to a feast that also include golden Cucur Udang (prawn fritters), Ketupat (coconut rice) and fragrant Nasi Ulam (rice and herb salad).
To round out our Malay experience, we dined at modern Malay restaurant Bijan in Kuala Lumpur. Our flavour-packed banquet included Otak-Otak (coconut and fish mousse), Ikan Siakap Sos Asam (deep-fried fish with a peanut and tamarind sauce), Kari Udang Galah (prawn curry), Chicken Curry and wild ferns stir-fried with chilli, coconut and prawns. To finish, we enjoyed Coconut Ice Cream and a Pandan Panna Cotta. Stay tuned for more on our foodie adventures in Malaysia.