We have only a few short days left in Malaysia and I believe that the time has come to pay tribute to this country in the form of yet another food blog. We’ve pretty much given up on the Chinese options; they’re all excellent, but just not our thing. We need spice in our lives! The following are all Indian, Malay or something that blurs the line between…
*Nasi Lemak – This classic and super-cheap Malay breakfast consists of a mound of rice soaked in coconut cream then steamed, served with a scoop of spicy sambal (see below), a handful of peanuts, a sprinkling of dried anchovies and typically topped with a fried egg, sometimes chicken. The best versions are done hot and fresh, though this a common takeaway food as well, prepackaged into a banana leaf pyramid for easy transport.
*Cendol/ ABC – These are two shaved ice desserts that can be found everywhere. Cendol contains green, sweetened pea flour “strings” underneath a heaping mound of shaved ice, doused in coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. ABC is similar, though more of a layered concoction, often including beans, corn, tapioca sweets and sometimes icecream mixed into the cherry syrup-laced shaved ice. These may sound odd, but they’re fantastic!
*Roti Canai – Another typical breakfast or snack, a roti is basically a piece of flaky layered dough fried on a hot griddle. They stuff them with all sorts of things, but your basic roti canai is just a piping hot square of bread served with a bowl of dipping curry. Simply, delicious, and oh-so-unhealthy!
*Asam Pedas – This is a tamarind-curry fish, native to the city of Melaka. The spicy red bowl of curry is served with a delicious tender fish (that you picked out) and typically some pineapple, along with the obligatory plate of rice.
* Sambal – Though the word technically means “sauce,” it is used to refer to the spicy red accompaniment to nasi lemak and multiple fried meats. Sambal is made up of chilies, onions, garlic, lemongrass, tamarind and tumeric and is especially delicious when big chunks of white-meat chicken are fried in it – this was a Juara Beach specialty!
* Peanut Sauce – I don’t know what all goes into this decadent sauce that is served with satay and grilled meats alike, but all I really need is a spoon!
*Tosai Sayur – I mentioned tosai before (dosa in India) – it’s the massive but light rice/lentil crepe that is wrapped around all sorts of intriguing fillings (or just served plain, but who wants that?) and then served with three different curries or chutneys. A new favorite is tosai sayur, which came stuffed with a colorful array of vegetables, big chilies and tons of chopped roast chicken.
*Sesame balls – Here is my one tribute to Chinese food (snack, really), that I finally tried in Singapore, though I’ve seen it on vendor carts all over Asia. This looks like a bit donut hole, a ball of fried dough covered in sesame seeds. Upon actually eating one, however, it wasn’t oily and it wasn’t all dough; the inside contained a huge chunk of what tasted exactly like honey-laced chunky peanut butter. Thank goodness I’m just now finding this out!
*Beehoon curry – Nothing more special than a rice noodle soup, full of roast chicken and a variety of vegetables, but the curry that it comes soaked in is phenomenal, a whole new twist on noodle soup for us!
*Murtabak Ayam – These have to be shared…sort of like a roti, but heavier and better! The best way to describe a murtabak is to call it a thick chicken and vegetable omelett, wrapped in a thin layer of dough and quickly fried on a griddle before being served with an array of curries for dipping. Wow, wow, wow.
*Banana Leaf meals – A traditional way to eat Indian food, a banana leaf meal is just that. You pick your main dish, whether it be rich mutton masala(our personal choice), chicken tikka or something else, then the fun begins! A giant banana leaf is placed in front of you, then the guy comes around with a four-sectioned container of various veggie curries and yogurt chutneys. He puts a scoop of each one on your leaf, adds a small piece of flatbread and maybe a vadla (fried chickpea cake), then a bowl or two of dhal and dipping curry. Your meat comes in a side bowl, then an ungodly amount of rice is piled onto your banana leaf, signaling go time! Your food get mixed together, sopped up and shovelled in, preferably without any utensils – Gabe and I are painfully stuffed after sharing one of these, but the veggies, rice and sauces are bottomless for those with second stomaches! The cost? Less than $2.
On that note, we need to go hike some of this off and make room for more – time is slipping away!