Indian food, Chinese food and Malay food is found in Malaysian cuisine and can be divided in three unusual cuisines. Approximately 70% of the Malaysian populace is Malay, about 25% is Chinese and the rest is basically Indian. These 3 ethnic groups have each their own styled cuisine. We will gaze at these cuisines at this point.
Malaysian cuisine since the Indian population is quite extraordinary from the Malay or Chinese cuisine. The Indians taste hot and spicy as their flavors.
Their fix diet generally consists of both rice and bread (chapattis, thosai, parrata, puri). They consume this with various curries. As in unity with their Hindu way of life, they do not eat beef.
The food of the Malaysian Indian population in the North-West part of Malaysia, including Pangkor, can be categorized as Southern-Indian, Northern Indian and Indian Muslim (mamak). Along with the rest of the local cuisine, it has evolved and assimilated according to society’s preferences. Sometimes what is considered Indian food here, did not even originated from India.
Usually Indian Malaysian food is sold at the various local stalls or Indian restaurant and often ordered with a glass of teh tarik. Teh Tarik literally means “pulled tea”. The tea is thick and frothy. The preparation involves passing the tea and milk from one big metal mug to the other with a “pour and pull” action.
Where there is roti canai, there is bound to be murtabak. This is basically roti canai with stuffing of sardines or chicken as the Indian Hindus do not eat beef. Murtabak with beef however can be obtained from stalls owned by Muslims.
Nobody really knows how roti canai came about and would become some of the most popular of all Malaysian food. However, Penang can certainly lay claim to Indian mee (mee goreng or kelinga mee). From Penang, these dishes spread out further over Malaysia and can be eaten in and around Pangkor. The best roti canai in the area however, is not to be found in Pangkor but in Kampong Sitiawan at the riverside.
One could say the apart of nasi lemak, roti canai is probably the second national Malaysian food.
Indian mee was first created by Indian sailors and port workers. It is a combination of Chinese fried noodles with prawn fritters, potato, squid, taukua (bean curd, bean sprouts and lettuce). For more filling, an egg is usually scrambled into the mix. Mention North Indian food and what comes to mind is tandoori chicken and naan bread. Both are cooked in clay oven called tandoori. Northern Indian food is found in air-conditioned restaurants, richly decorated to reflect the Indian culture and Hindu tradition.
Ingredients as yoghurt’s and ghee are liberally compared to Southern Indian cuisine, which uses a lot of coconut milk and chilies. Even the staple diet is different, rice for the South, bread for the North. Nevertheless, both are equally spicy and delicious.
In view of the fact that most of Malaysia’s Chinese are from the south, especially from Hainan and Hakka it is quite easy to find food from this region.
All over Malaysia one of the majority well-known inexpensive meal is the Hainanese Chicken Rice which cost something like the amount of RM 3.00.
It’s an alternative of the local favorite Malaysian foods. The Hainanese also created steamboat, sort of Oriental dissimilarity of the Swiss Fondue, where you have a boiling stockpot in the middle of the table hooked on which you deep pieces of meat, seafood and vegetable.
The Hokkiens have provided us the Hokkien fried Mee (thick egg noodles cook with meat, seafood and vegetable and a rich soya sauce. Mind you, if you go to North Malaysia, Hokkien Mee means prawn soup noodles. Hokkien spring rolls (popiah) are also yummy.
Teochew cuisine is from the area surrounding Swatow in China is another style famous for its delicacy and natural favorite. Teochew food is well-known for its seafood and another inexpensive dish – Char Kwey Teow (fried flattened noodles) with clams, beansprout and prawns.
Hakka dish is too easily found in food centers. The top know hakka dish is the Yong Tau Foo (stuffed seafood bean curd) with soup or thick dark gravy.
While people in the west converse of Chinese food, they most likely mean Cantonese food. It is most excellent known and most standard variety of Chinese food. Cantonese food is well-known for the choice and the freshness of its ingredients. The foods are commonly stir-fried with only a touch of oil. The result is crisp and fresh. All those best known ‘western Chinese’ dishes fit into this category – sweet and sour dishes, won ton, chow mien, spring rolls.
With Cantonese food the more people you can muster for the meal the better, because dishes are traditionally shared so everyone will manage to sample the greatest variety. A corollary of this is that Cantonese food should be balance: traditionally, all foods are said to be either Yin (cooling) – like vegetables, most fruits and clear soup; or Yang (heaty) – like starchy foods and meat. A cooling food should be balance with a heaty food and too much of one it would not be good for you.
Off all Malaysian foods the Cantonese specialty is Dim Sum or ‘little heart’. Dim sum is usually consumed during lunch or as a Sunday brunch. Dim sum restaurants are usually large, noisy affair and the dim sum, little snacks that come in small bowls, are whisked around the tables on individual trolleys or carts. As they come by, you simply ask for a plate of this or a bowl of that. At the end the meal you are billed is the amount of empty containers on your table.
Cantonese cuisine of the Malaysian foods can also offer real extremes. You can get shark’s fin soup or bird’s nest soup which are expensive delicacies.
Cheap dishes include mee (noodles) and congee (rice porridge) and are equally tasty.
Far less familiar than the food from Canton are the cuisines from the north and the west of China – Sichuan, Shanghai and Peking. Sichuan food is usually spicy (gong bao for example is a chicken rice dish with cashew nuts and spices). Where as to food from Canton are delicate and understated, in Sichuan food the flavors are strong. Garlic and chilies play their part in dishes like diced chicken and hot and sour soup.
Beijing (Peking) food is, of course best known for the famous ‘Peking Duck’. Beijing foods are less subtle than Cantonese food. Beijing food is usually eaten with hot steamed bun or with noodles, because rice is not grown in cold region of the north. But in Malaysia, it is more likely to come with rice.
A very special pastry can be found all over Malaysia during the Moonfestival periode, usually around early October. Here’s more about the Moonfestival and Mooncakes.
Other kinds of Chinese foods originated from for example Shanghai or Hunan (usually very spicy too) are not easily found over Malaysia.
Malaysian cuisine derives its taste from the use of spices and local ingredients. Some of those ingredients used by the Malays in the Malay cuisine are:
• Serai (lemon grass)
• Bawang merah (Red onions)
• Halia (ginger)
• Lengkuas (galangal)
• Ketumbar (coriander)
• Asam jawa (tamarind)
• Kunyit (turmeric)
• Jintan putih (cumin)
Coconut milk is also another ingredient commonly found in Malaysian food. (Chili paste) or curry dish. In fact, nearly all of the Malaysian food can not be eaten without some spices. The fix food of the Malays is rice, boiled to a white fluffy texture. It is served with dishes of meat (chicken or beef), fish and vegetables. Meat and fish are usually prepared as sambal. Not all Malaysians are Malay or Muslim, pork or any food that comes from a pig is never used in Malay cuisine. Even cutlery and crockery used to serve Muslims must not have been used to serve pork.
The traditional Malay way of eating is by using the right hand. The use of the left hand is considered bad manners. The same goes with receiving or giving things, always use the right hand.
In eating stalls or at homes where hands are used to eat, guests will provided with a pot of water to wash their hands before and after the meal. Remember,this water is not for drinking. Or you simply use the always available tap to wash your hands.
Malay food is enjoyed by all races. A basic breakfast favorite is nasi lemak. It is a simple but very satisfying meal. The rice is cooked in coconut milk with fragrant pandan leaves. Side dishes can be sambal ikan bilis (anchovies with chili), omelets or hard boiled eggs, peanuts, sliced cucumber, prawns and fried fish. If one Malaysia food can be named as the countries national dish, it’s probably nasi lemak.
Another classic example of ever popular Malay food is satay. There’s no pasar malam (night market) without satay. It usually consists of chunks of chicken marinated with a variety of spices.
Ikan bakar is grilled or barbecue fish which you will be able to find almost everywhere. A popular local fish is the Ikan Kembong, Chubb Mackerel, also called Indian Mackerel. This fish is usually marinated in various spices and coconut milk. Apart of mackerel other fish is grilled too. You can eat
Mackerel (ikan tenggiri), Wolf Herring (ikan parang), stingray or Skate Wings (ikan Pari). It’s great with some chillies and lime.
Rendang Tok is a meat dish (chicken or beef) prepared with coconut milk, chillies, onion,and other ingredients. Around Pangkor and Lumut the mostfamous kind of rendang is rendang tok. It contains beef, coconut milk, onion, garlic, chilies, coriander powder, cumin, black pepper, fennel, turmeric root, lemon grass and other ingredients. If you visit a Malay wedding, like I did some time back, you most likely will have some rendang as it is usually used for special occasions.
Laksa is a good example of a crossover type of dish. The Malays probably make some of the very best laksa in Malaysia. Laksa is a kind of spicy noodle soup based on fish and spices. And don’t forget to visit Uncle Zam restaurant in Seri Manjung where you probably find some of the best Johor Laksa in the Pulau Pangkor area.