Malaysia is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that is full of diversity, and the multiculturalism of the country gives Malaysian food recipes flavors, textures and colors that are distinctly their own.
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country. Its population includes Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Chinese, and the indigenous peoples of Borneo. And these various ethnicities and religions influence its cuisine. The Chinese and Indian traders and Thais who settled in the area greatly influenced its culture, including its food. For example, since Islam is the dominant religion, food is handled according to Halal standards.
One of the best things about food in Asia is that a lot of it is available right outside your home, school or office. Street or hawker food abound in countries like Malaysia.
And as in most countries in Asia, the staple food in Malaysia is rice. The national dish of Malaysia is nasi lemak, which literally means “fatty rice”. Nasi lemak is steamed rice laced with coconut milk for fragrance. The meal itself is called nasi lemak, and it is served with the chilli paste sambal, eggs, cucumber, fried anchovies, and peanuts. It can be served in different manners and can be eaten any time of the day.
Noodles, like bi hoon, mee suah and yee meen are also popular Malaysian food, and a source of carbohydrates alternative to rice. Indian-style bread like roti canai, dhosai and idli are usually eaten during breakfast.
Due to its proximity to Indonesia, Malaysian food recipes are similar to Indonesian cuisine. Malaysian recipes use many different kinds of spices, herbs and roots, and usually involve a spicy paste called rempah, which is a spicy mixture similar to the Indian masala. To create a rempah, you will need to either fresh or dried spices and herbs, grind these to make the paste, and then saute in oil to extract the aromas.
Malaysian food recipes generally fall under four classifications. Native Malay dishes are characterized by the generous use of spices, the addition of coconut milk for creaminess, and belacan, or shrimp paste, which is the foundation of the sambal paste. Signature Malay dishes include the aforementioned nasi lemak, beef rendang, and spicy prawns called sambal udang.
Malaysian Indian dishes bears a lot of similarity to its Indian roots. Like native Malay dishes, Malaysian Indian cuisine uses a lot of spices and coconut leaves. But the most distinct feature is the use of curry leaves. Common Malaysian Indian dishes include the rice dish nasi biryani, Malaysian chicken curry, and fish molee.
Modern Malaysian recipes also include those derived from the Chinese. Chinese dishes usually include pork, but since Malaysia has a largely Muslim population, there are chicken options for traditionally pork-based Chinese food. Popular dishes include bak kut teh, or herbal pork rib soup, char kway teow rice noodles, and Hainan chicken rice.
Lastly, they have the Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine, which is characterized by Chinese ingredients blended with Southeast Asian spices – a blend of Chinese, Malay and Thai cooking. Popular dishes include the spicy fish noodle soup asam laksa, otak-otak – a steamed fish cake wrapped in pandan leaves, and ayam pongteh or chicken stew.
So if you are looking for great food that is full of rich and interesting fllvors, it is time to step out of your comfort zone and experience the flavors of Malaysia.