Imagine you and your friends are walking down the street to find a decent place for lunch. Then your friends stop walking to take in all the aromas around you. Having to choose from Indian, Chinese, Malay, Japanese or Korean would make your lunchtime meal a very difficult decision! During my time in Asia, I have learned to enjoy these many cuisines. I hope that you will join me on my journey as I post about my favourite foods in Asia.
Malaysian cuisine reflects its multicultural population which consist of Malays, Indians and Chinese. Malaysian food is influenced by different Asian cuisines like curry from India, fermented fish sambal from Malaysia and noodles and soup from China. A very popular breakfast dish in Malaysia is called Nasi Lemak.
Nasi in Malay is “rice”. Nasi lemak is rice cooked in coconut milk and served on a pandan leaf. A pandan leaf is a fragrant leaf in Southeast Asia used to wrap chicken or fish. Nasi lemak usually comes with a chicken thigh, cucumbers, boiled egg, dried anchovies, peanuts, and spicy sambal sauce, and is a great way to start your day!
Another signature dish that is popular in Malaysia is a dessert called ice kachang or ABC (an acronym for Air Batu Campur, meaning mixed ice). It is like a Malaysian snow cone-cum-sundae. It sounds weird but an ice kachang contains sweet corn, red beans, and grass jelly (grass jelly is also known in Malay as cincao and is actually made of grass). Finally it is topped with rose syrup on top of the shaved ice. To make the dessert interesting some restaurants add ice cream or fresh fruit.
Another one of my favorites is satay which is eaten in both Malaysia and Indonesia. Satay can be made with beef or chicken marinaded in spices and roasted over coal on skewers. The skewer stick is made of bamboo. Satay is served with peanut sauce, cucumbers, onions, and rice cakes and is a snack you can take anywhere.
One thing that is different about eating out in Malaysia is that you might be asked by the server if you want hot or cold water with your meal. And when the water arrives, it is hot! Chinese also drink hot tea and soup during their meals. People in Asia believe that hot drinks help with digesting their food properly and helps to burn off fat.
Now imagine that you are walking in a mall. When you come around the corner you see a little dumpling with a body of toddler. He is carrying a tray of dumplings. You would like to try the dumplings, which you find out are actually soup dumplings. You are heading into my favourite restaurant – Din Tai Fung!
Soup Dumplings are dumplings filled with soup inside with pork . The dumplings are freshly made and wrapped with a piece of cold gelatin, and steamed in a bamboo basket. To eat a soup dumpling you pick it up with your chopsticks from the top of the dumpling where the twist is. If you don’t, the soup will escape the dumpling. You then put it into your soup spoon, nibble to take to soup out, drink the soup, and then eat the dumpling with soya sauce. It’s like a party in your mouth. Din Tai Fung has locations various parts of the world – here are the sites in the USA – go here for an amazing experience!
A popular Indian meal in Malaysia is banana leaf that people have for lunch. The banana leaf acts like a plate, which means no washing up! It consists of rice, curries, vegetables, salad, pickle and papadam. It only costs 7 ringgit, which is about $1.50 – what a deal! The best part of eating Indian food, is you can eat with your hands. (My Aunt Kavi, who has her own food blog, taught me how to eat with my hands.) The proper way to eat Indian food is to use your dominant hand. Using your 4 fingers minus the pinky, pick up the food, and use your thumb to push the food into your mouth. You can taste the flavours of the curry and vegetable better when you eat with your hands. The best part of eating at an Indian restaurant is your mama doesn’t have to yell at you for playing with your food!
When I first think about Japanese food. I think of sushi and tempura. Some Japanese restaurants have a conveyor belt that goes around the restaurant with sushi. It is like sushi fast food. The plates are colour coded according to price. Before I came to Malaysia I only ate California rolls and cooked rolls, but since I came to Malaysia, I have discovered the joys of raw fish!! This is called Nigiri sushi, which is raw fish served over rice.
And last but not least, Korean! It is a one-of-a-kind cuisine because it is so spicy. Korean food features fermented cabbage, or kimchi, which is a staple of their cuisine. My favourite Korean dish is kimchi fried rice, and I even eat the egg on top!
Living in Malaysia has really expanded my palate to other cuisines in Asia. I have really enjoyed trying different types of food, even though I still miss tacos.
P.S. corny captions are courtesy my weird mother.