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Malaysia - Adventures in Eating

Hawker centre in Penang
Char Kuey Teow
Malay Indian banana-leaf meal
Chilli Crab, Singapore

A trip to Malaysia is rich in wildlife, history, culture, and sumptuous beaches. In our opinion it is among the most underrated destinations on the continent. The ultimate highlight, however, has to be the food. 

Malay Chinese account for around one third of the population, and have given us one of the world’s great comfort foods - Char Kuey Teow. The dish has spawned numerous variations, but the core ingredients remain the same – flat rice noodles stir fried with egg, beansprouts, chives, chilli, and prawns. A similar but equally delicious dish is Hokkien Mee – this time thin yellow noodles are fried with a variety of additional vegetables, condiments, and proteins, and covered in a thick, dark soy sauce. Finally, a must-try is also an Oyster Omlette, which is exactly as imagined, only tastier!

For the best of Malay Indian food, start the day with a plate of Roti Cenai; a simple dish of light and chewy Indian bread accompanied with hearty dhal. At lunchtime, move on to Nasi Kandar – a flexible term to describe a plateful of rice, overflowing with accompanying curry dishes. Special mention should also go to Murtabak, a stuffed, folded, and fried pancake originating from the Middle East but found often in Indian restaurants.

Finally, for authentic Malay food, seek out restaurants specialising Baba Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine – the food of the earliest 15th-16th century Chinese settlers. The most famous dish is Asam Laksa, a sweet and sour dish consisting of a fish and coconut-milk broth, filled with thick noodles and a variety of spices. Less ancient but considered the national dish is Nasi Lemak – coconut rice, anchovies, nuts, spice paste, and a hard-boiled egg served on or inside a banana leaf – the true breakfast of champions.

Penang, on the North-Western coast, has become a particular haven for foodies as it offers a microcosm of Malaysia’s diverse cultures and culinary delights. However, access to street vendors and hawker centres selling all these delights and more can be found in other cities such as Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, and the neighbouring city state of Singapore

Posted by Luke on 14 November 2013

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