Saturday, 23 January 2016

My Top-5-Must-Try Malaysian Foods



After spending some seven years in Malaysia, it is impossible not to develop a taste for Malaysian food. Though I did develop it in the very beginning but for some, it takes some time. Malaysian food has a huge variety influenced by the different cultures, religions and races living together. And every dish has a different flavour depending on the location where it is served. I like Malaysian food to the point that while on vacation in Australia, I located a Malaysian restaurant and was pleasantly surprised how homely it felt.

At Mamak (China Town, Sydney) 


Malaysia's national food, as far as I can guess, must be Nasi Lemak; rice cooked in coconut milk served with sambal/curry, vegetables, peanuts and anchovies.  It enjoys the same status as Biryani does in Pakistan. However, with all my apologies to Malaysians, I still haven't developed a taste for it. Sorry! 

My list of favourites is pretty long but here are my top 5 favourite dishes that are a must try.  After reading this you'd know what to eat if you visit Malaysia and or a Malaysian restaurant anywhere in the world.

List in no particular order: 

Murtabak. Originates from the land of Arabia but a localized version of it is commonly available in Malaysia. You can get it at Mamaks.  Mamak is a term used for Indian-Malaysian mixed community. These are usually food stalls and road side restaurants that serve these unique innovative dishes representing the blend of two different cultures in a delicious way. Mamaks are usually 24 hours restaurants, clean and quite affordable. People from all walks of the society come to mamaks to enjoy the local taste.

Murtabak is like a pancake stuffed with minced chicken or beef with garlic and egg. The top layer is very thin and soft. It is served with curry and pickled onions. Not all places serve good murtabak. My favourite is from 'NZ café' or 'Pelita'. Both of these mamaks have multiple branches throughout Kuala Lumpur.

Chicken Murtabak with curry and pickled onions 



A Typical Set of Roti Canai served with Daal and Curry 
Roti Canai: Pronounced as roti 'Chanai', ('C' in the Malay language is pronounced as 'Cha') is a flat bread. Something similar to desi paratha but comes in different flavours. You can see Malaysian creativity at its peak if you see the kind of Roti Canai this country makes. Apart from the plain roti which is served with daal and curry, there is a range of normal fillings like egg, omelette, condensed milk, peanut butter, jam, Nutella, etc. Also, there are some with amusing names like Roti Bom which is small but thick, layered paratha served with sugar or margarine. Then there are these daring combinations - Roti Pisang, with banana stuffing, Roti Strawberry with fresh strawberries on top,  Roti Badut with M&Ms, Roti Beer (Not readily available) where the dough is marinated in beer for a distinct flavor (Not halal!!). Roti Kopi stuffed with shredded coffee beans and the most exclusive Roti Cobra speciality of east Malaysia which is stuffed with a snake. Just Kidding. Roti Cobra is stuffed with egg and served with a piece of fried chicken :D.

Roti canai is available at all mamaks, small tea stalls and cafes.



Char Kway Teow at Little Penang,  Suria Mall
Char Kway Teow. I think with our (desi) taste buds it’s a love or hate relationship with this dish. I love it, my mother hates it. Once my husband took her out for lunch while I was at work and got her a plate of Kway Teow. That was the first time in life she complained that my hubby made her eat something horrible. You might have the same reaction. I have had people ordering it seeing my excitement but all I got to see were these faces trying to hide their extreme disappointment at my changing taste buds. But both my husband and I enjoy it. It is a noodle dish made of flat rice noodles stir fried in dark soy sauce, chilli and shrimp sauce with bean sprouts and clams. The noodles are very soft and somewhat mushy, unlike the normal noodles. We usually take it with a lot of chicken or prawns and I request it without clams. Remember to ask for a double quantity of the chilli sauce that is served with it. 

Yes, I also struggle with the pronunciation so my tip is to locate it on the menu and then just point at it. Though readily available everywhere, the best place to have it will be at any branch of 'Little Penang'.


Hainanese Chicken Rice: Chicken Rice is a dish originating from the Hainan province of China. As simple as the name, it is a chicken and rice dish. The rice is boiled in chicken stock creating oily rice. Sometimes pandan leaves or coconut milk is added for flavour. While the chicken is cooked in stock from bone that is used over and over again.  It is served with chicken broth and a dip prepared with freshly minced chilli and garlic. The best place to try chicken rice would be obviously ‘The Chicken Rice Shop’ or the 'Chicken Rice' at some food courts like Suria KLCC. 

Chicken Rice
Nasi GorengReadily available at all mamaks and local restaurants, Nasi Goreng is fried rice. Nasi means rice and Goreng means fried. It is cooked with sweet soy sauce (which gives it a slightly sweet taste), shallots, garlic, tamarind and chilli. You can add egg, chicken or prawns depending on your taste. The taste of nasi goreng is stronger and spicier than conventional fried rice mainly due to the soy sauce. It was in Malaysia that I came to know about different types of soy sauce while I was throwing my home cooked fried rice which did not taste like it should have. I had added sweet, concentrated soy sauce thinking that soy sauce is ... soy sauce! Either I never noticed the variety (thanks to my almost non-existent cooking skills) or luckily I have always picked up the same soy sauce while shopping back home ;)

Anyway, like roti canai, Nasi Goreng also has many types like Nasi Goreng Mamak, Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Goreng Ayaam, Nasi Goreng USA, Nasi Goreng Pattaya but my favourite is Nasi Goreng Kampung (Kampung means village). The only thing that we haven’t yet developed a taste for is Ikan Bilis (Anchovies - salted dry tiny fish) that are fried and added in Nasi Goreng Kampung. Perhaps not as much for the taste but because these little creatures are cooked as is. If you don’t want tiny, little, fried fish looking at you while you eat them, please remember to tell the waiter you don’t want anchovies. And then ignore his stare .... as Malaysians LOVE anchovies and add them to their rice dishes, chutneys and or have it just like that as a snack. 



A plate of spicy Nasi Goreng 
Here is a bonus point for you for reading till the end:
The sixth most important thing you need to know:

Teh Tarik. Tea with milk. Enough said.


Teh Tarik - The Malaysian Tea 
Do share your experiences once you have tried any of these foods. 

Happy Fooding :) 




28 comments:

  1. Tempting. you have a flair for writing about food. This made me hungry

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    1. Haha thanks! Just as good as my tendency to eat :)

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  2. Very well written. Your article has served as a secretagogue.

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  3. Very well written. Your article has served as a secretagogue.

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  4. Try nasi lemak of sogo you will luv it
    Gud article

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  5. Oh my. I absolutely love nasi goreng and murtabak. Good to know that you managed to find some comfort food in Australia!

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  6. Which part of Malaysia did you go to? I recently visited Kota Kinabalu and I agree with you, Malaysian food is everything!! I've been to KL too but I just feel like KK is my thing. I love Nasi Lemak and of course Mee Goreng.

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  7. Thanks Dexter!

    April - I live in KL. I have also visited Kota Kinabalu.. amazing place and food. In fact I did a post on that too. You can check that out!

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  8. I once visited MY - Johor Bahru but never had a chance to try any Malaysian cuisine back then.

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  9. I really love Malaysian food and this totally got me craving as well! :D

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  10. I have never been to Malaysia among the 5 original ASEAN countries. I think I have tasted Philippine versions of some of these, including Nasi Lemak, but nothing beats eating it in Malaysia itself. When I read the word anchovies, I wanted to taste that Nasi Lemak!

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  11. I LOVE Malaysian food. We have tried all these five when we went to KL a few years back. My favorites are Char Kway Teow and Hainanese Chicken Rice.

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  12. Southeast Asian people have almost the same taste but differs in style of cooking. The spiciness is the overall denominator which could be minimized with taste. Personally, I don't like spicy foods but grilled seafood and meats.

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  13. Oh I love Nasi Goreng, I just don't know if the Nasi Goreng here in local restos are authentic as I've not tasted Malaysian cooked ones. Speaking of which, what a coincidence, my husband just came back from Malaysia. I'll ask him about the food!

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  14. I've tried Hainanese Chicken and Nasi Goreng and I enjoy those dishes. I like to try the rest on the list too.

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  15. I think these foods can be well rated by Malysians. I will cherish them in as much as they are healthy to the body system

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  16. Quite a few are aimilar to Indian dishes. Esp the Murtabak is called in Soith India as Kothu Barota... There's also veg & chilli option avbl in it!

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  17. I got really hungry after reading your blog. Haha. I want to try the chicken rice.

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  18. I'm not a big fan of curry, but I do love chicken rice! Great that you found authentic Malaysian food while in Sydney!

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  19. Nasi Goreng will always be one of the dishes that I look forward to trying! Especially since it's spicy and I'm a huge fan of spicy food. I really love trying out dishes from different countries. Thank you for providing a list for reference!

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  20. Everything looks really good. I could definitely go for some tea with milk!

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  21. Fortunately these dishes we get in SG also. But am sure actual Malaysian taste would be better.

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  22. Thanks so much for giving us idea what to eat in terms of Malaysian food.

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  23. I have really tried Malaysian food properly but some fo it looks delicious. I think I would enjoy the Nasi friend rice.

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  24. Haha... All these food are available in Singapore too! Although I won't say all of them taste better in Singapore, but Hainanese Chicken rice was never from China. It was from Singapore!

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  25. i liked the way you describe feeling homely at a malaysian restaurant all the way in australia. that truly means loves. nasi goreng has do become a big trend so i'm glad it make into your list. btw, some of my dad pakistani friends stayed with us for a while and they made us this milk. it wasnt as sweet but creamy. i loved it but teh tarik is the my first go to. malaysian forever. lulz.

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