With its multicultural history, Malaysian cuisine is a melting pot of cooking traditions and styles influenced by indigenous people, traders, colonizers, and migrants. Malaysia’s geographical location on the crossroads of the Asian spice trade routes has played an important role in the formation of modern Malaysian cuisine. Contributions made by Malay, Chinese, Indian, and other ethnic groups made Malaysian food unique with a splendid array of flavors. Colorful, flavorful, and fiery are the words that describe Malaysian cuisine.
In Part 1 of Malasian Cuisine, I will be talking about 4 dishes I tried in Johor Bahru: Nasi Lemak, Roti Jala, Laksa Nyonya, and Nasi Ambeng. I very much enjoyed all of them and plan on adding them to my menu, and I have to admit that my taste buds went on a wild ride during my trip to Malaysia.
Nasi Lemak, unofficial national dish of Malaysia, is one of the most popular Malay dishes. It comes in many varieties, but the traditional Nasi Lemak consists of the rice cooked in coconut milk with pandan leaf, fried anchovies, fried peanuts, cucumber slices, sambal (spicy chili sauce), and a hard-boiled or fried egg. Fried chicken, fried fish, or beef stewed in coconut milk are added to the dish for a protein rich meal. Even though it is commonly eaten for breakfast, Nasi Lemak is widely available throughout the day in restaurants and with street vendors.
The literal translation of Roti Jala from Malay is net bread, but outside Malaysia it is known as a lacy or net crepe. Its batter consists of flour, cow or coconut milk, eggs, and turmeric. Roti Jala is made using a special mold that has 5 small funnels, and the batter is poured through these small openings into a frying pan which results in lace like appearance. It is usually served with curry dishes as its lacy texture is better at scooping the curry than the plain bread.
Laksa Nyonya is a spicy curry noodle soup, one of the varieties of Laksa, which has become popular outside Asia in recent years. Laksa Nyonya consists of rice noodles (rice vermicelli or spaghetti), bean curd puffs, chicken or fish sticks, prawns and cockles served in spicy broth, which is based on rich and savory curried coconut milk. The soup is commonly served with sambal, bean sprouts, a boiled egg, Vietnamese coriander (laksa leaf), and chilies.
Nasi Ambeng consists of the rice cooked in coconut milk with pandan leaf (like Nasi Lemak), chicken curry or chicken cooked in soy sauce, fried salt-cured meat, steamed vegetables, frikadeller (pan-fried meat balls), fried tempeh, fried coconut flesh, fried noodles, salted fish, rempeyek (dip-fried savory cracker), and sambal. It is traditionally prepared during the festivities like Nasi Ambeng Festival and weddings.
More to come in Malaysian Cuisine – Part 2.