What to eat in Malaysia

12 Sep

Why is it that countries closer to the equator have such bolder flavours in their food?

On a recent trip to Malaysia over summer vacation, I was keen to eat my way around the country. Malaysia has an interesting food culture, predominately made up of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian, but most asian food is enjoyed on its streets. This is a place where you can have dim sum for breakfast, spicy Indian curries off banana leaves for lunch, and then slurp up a pungent and fishy noodle soup in a back alley for dinner.

Enjoying a cold cendol, a drink with coconut milk, palm sugar and jelly noodles, before my spicy noodles come.

Enjoying a cold cendol, a drink with coconut milk, palm sugar and jelly noodles, before my spicy noodles come.

While my mother says I take too many photos of food, I thought I’d put them in one post as an overview of all the delicious things I ate in Malaysia (and she can skip it if she’d like!). Here are some of my favourites.

Asam Laksa

It’s the perfect balance of sour, salty and fishy, without being offensive. Laksa is a noodle soup, the asam variation is made with a fish and tamarind broth, with shredded fish, cucumber, onions, chilli, pineapple and mint.

Despite it being one of Malaysia’s most well-known dishes, it was difficult for me to find. I had this bowl on Jalan Alor, in KL. I spent the rest of my time in Malaysia and one frantic last day in Penang searching for another bowl to no avail. It’s that good.

Laksa -- one of Malaysia's most well known dishes.

Laksa — one of Malaysia’s most well known dishes.

Wan Tan Mee

A noodle dish of Cantonese descent, Wan Tan Mee has egg noodles with barbequed pork, wontons, greens and spicy pickled green chillies, swimming in a dark soy sauce.

Wan Tan Mee, eaten at a Chulia street hawker stall in Georgetown, Penang.

Wan Tan Mee, eaten at a Chulia street hawker stall in Georgetown, Penang.

Oyster noodles

If I closed my eyes and ate these noodles, and forgot the fact that I was in a cavernous Chinese restaurant in a converted mansion in Georgetown, Penang, I would’ve thought that this was a homemade Italian pasta. This dish was lightly creamy with fresh oyster chunks. I ate it with fried greens.

Chinese oyster noodles, eaten in Georgetown, Penang.

Chinese oyster noodles and fried greens with carrot juice, eaten in Georgetown, Penang.

Satay and spicy pepper sauce crab

This was an indulgent meal I had on Jalan Alor. With drink, it cost about 35 ringitt ($11). Satay is meat grilled on sticks and very cheap, sold at street stalls and in restaurants. This crab was probably meant for a family, but I tore it apart in all its spicy, messy glory by myself. Amazing!

Crab and chicken satay on Jalan Alor.

Crab and chicken satay with a litchee shake on Jalan Alor.

Chee Cheong Fun

These are like a very wide, thin rice noodle rolled up and cut into pieces. A Cantonese specialty, these are often found at dim sum restaurants around the world. In Malaysia, they’re served with a sweet sauce with chilli and shrimp paste.

Chee Cheong Fun on Georgetown's Chulia Street.

Chee Cheong Fun on Georgetown’s Chulia Street.

Street treats

Little markets seem to pop up just as the sun is about to set on side streets all across Malaysia. Many street stalls with have numerous trays with little fried foods and sweets that can be purchased for very cheap (like three for $1). A great way to try out interesting looking things.

Malay sweets -- the ones in front are like chewy jellys covered in coconut.

Malay sweets — the ones in front are chewy, gelatinous squares covered in coconut.

Indian thali

Thali are plates filled with many different tastes — curries, vegetables, meat, breads and rice. These are popular in Malaysia and allow you to choose different things and only need to eat a little bit (if you don’t like it!). Great with a lassi or glass of fresh soy milk.

Thali with tandoori chicken, naan and curries.

Thali with tandoori chicken, naan and curries.

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