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Malaysian Cuisine


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#1 markk

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 04:35 PM

Does anybody have any favorite Maylasian dishes to suggest and describe to somebody new to that cuisine?
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#2 kangarool

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 05:13 PM

Where are you located, markk? That will help other people in your area point you in the right direction, to some restaurants in your region to try some good stuff.

If you want to start at the very beginning, my favourite Malaysian starter is a simple, hot Roti Canai with a spicy curry dipping sauce. Another staple that is an all time fave is Char Kuey Teow, fried wide rice noodles with pork, bean shoots (sprouts), onion, chilli in a dark soy sauce. bliss... a bit of roti, some noodles, extra chilli and an ice cold Tiger beer... one of the most basic Malaysian concoctions, and the best. Good luck, it's a cuisine well worth exploring.

#3 JustKay

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 06:06 PM

Hi! I am a Malay in Malaysia. I hope it's actually MALAYSIAN cuisine you are wanting to explore? :wink: :biggrin:

Malaysian cuisine has 3 different branches (for lack of a better term) - typically Malay, Chinese and Indian. Although you can probably find any of the dishes adapted to another. For example, the Malays' version of curry always contain coconut milk while the Indians omit this and heavier on the spices and sometimes will use milk and the Chinese have less thick curry gravy and usually less hot too (Pan could probably help explain this better :biggrin: )

There are several sites that you could look up for Malaysian dishes and I could help explain more (or provide T&T recipes to) the ones that looks good to you.

There are a few Malaysians here on eGullet that I know of. I think though that I am the only Malay. :biggrin:

edited to add some links:

Here are some good sites although some of the recipes have been slightly adapted to suit a wider audience.

Malaysian dishes&recipes

another link

yet another link

Introduction to Malaysia

Edited by kew, 25 May 2004 - 06:35 PM.


#4 Pan

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 07:00 PM

I'll add a few remarks:

Other than coconut milk, there are some other important ingredients for a lot of Malaysian food:

(1) A good rempah (mixture of spices and other savory things). Rempahs come in many varieties, but arguably the essentials are shallots, (fresh) ginger, (fresh) turmeric, garlic, and hot pepper (which can be either dried or fresh, unlike all the other ingredients). All of these are traditionally pounded together with mortar and pestle and then fried (formerly in coconut oil, but now other oils are often used).

(2) Asam gelugor (a variety of tamarind), which is also used fresh and is a staple of asam dishes (which are perhaps about as common as gulai, i.e. Malaysian curries). Assam means "sour," but like most other Malaysian dishes, also with plenty of hot pepper.

(3) Lime juice, which adds acidity like tamarind juice but also adds a lovely, fragrant sweetness. Malaysian limes are usually of more fragrant varieties than commonly found in the U.S. (or most of it, anyway). My favorites are limau nipis and limau purut.

(4) Belacan, which is shrimp paste. All sorts of foods are commonly cooked with belacan and hot pepper. Belacan can also be part of a rempah.

(5) Manisan aka Gula Melaka (palm sugar). This is used most often for desserts and bubur, a traditional breakfast food of beans or/and starchy root vegetables boiled in coconut milk and manisan, which is now often also eaten as a dessert.

Nowadays, Malaysian food has been considerably influenced by Thai food, with Tom Yam soup and Pad Prik available in Malaysian restaurants all over the place. In a way, they're returning the favor, as Thai "Masaman" curry is really Muslim curry from the former Malay states of southern Thailand, and if I'm not way off the wall, I think that Panang curry may have come from Penang, Malaysia.

Another dish that's made by all ethnicities for all ethnicities in Malaysia is Hainan Chicken Rice.

And of course, there's Roti Canai/Chapatti from the Indian community and Satay (which is perhaps from Indonesia originally?). Malaysia has also received culinary contributions from the Minangkabau with open arms, e.g. Nasi Padang, though it strikes me I didn't have any on my last trip to Malaysia. The Minangkabau's homeland is on the west coast and hills of central Sumatra, Indonesia, but lots of Minangkabau settled in the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan starting in the early 19th century, if I remember correctly.

There are some uniquely East Coast dishes such as Nasi Ulam, a salad of raw and sometimes cooked cultivated or/and wild leaves eaten with rice and pungent dipping sauces.

#5 JustKay

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 07:19 PM

Thanks Pan. (An American that you are, you do sound more Malaysian than I am. :wink: )

Just a minor correction/comment - the asam gelugor or asam keping is actually dried - you reconsitute with hot water before using. But then again, maybe people in the east coast do really use fresh ones but I've personaly never seen any.

Lime is Limau Nipis. Limau Purut is Kaffir Lime. The more commonly used is Limau Kasturi which is Kalamansi.

And on top of all that don't forget the myriad of fresh herbs/leaves we add to the dishes!

Perhaps I should also add that typically a lunch or dinner would consist of rice, at least one meat/seafood dish and one vegetable (raw or cooked) dish although the number of the accompanying dishes is often more than 1 each.

#6 Pan

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 07:33 PM

I was almost a "white Malaysian" for two years. :laugh: One time, some rude white tourists even stopped their car and took a photo of me dressed in Malay clothes without asking, and drove off with me yelling after them in English ("Hey! What's the big idea!"). Undoubtedly, they didn't hear me with their windows closed. :angry:

Asam gelugor was always or almost always used fresh on the East Coast in the 70s. I don't know if that's changed today, but I'm sure they still grow asam gelugor plants. We had one outside our dapur (stove area/kitchen) in our kampung house. Fresh asam gelugor is really best!

I wouldn't call limau nipis simply "lime." Such a lime cannot be found in the U.S., as far as I know. Our limes are way inferior to all varieties of Malaysian limes, though they're still good and have some of the sweetness and fragrance that differentiates them from ordinary lemons. Limau nipis was the most common lime in at least my area of Terengganu in the 70s, with the other two varieties you mention also common.

Herbs? Sure! Everyone should go to Kota Bharu and have some Ayam Percik! (chicken made with all manner of delicious spices and herbs in a peanut-based sauce) :biggrin: :wub:

#7 JustKay

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 07:47 PM

I [delicious spices and herbs in a peanut-based sauce) :biggrin: :wub:

Pan, do you agree - if there is one dish that is impossible to recreate outside of Malaysia it would be the Nasi Ulam (a rice dish with LOTS of fresh herbs and leaves of all kinds, and roasted salted fish, dried prawns, etc) . Even today, it is such a pain to find ALL the exotic leaves to make a really authentic and complete Nasi Ulam. And most recipes now are simplified versions too.

Have you heard of or had Telur Pindang? The last person I know of that makes authentic Telur Pindang is my late Grandma. I really should get the recipe from my Mom before it's lost forever!

#8 Pan

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 08:19 PM

I think it would be possible to do a version of nasi ulam in the U.S., but you'd have to use American leaves, and it would suck not to have cashew leaves and such-like. Still, I suppose you could use some particularly interesting-tasting combination of leaves and perhaps edible flowers. And while we don't have pucuk paku, we have other edible ferns. It would take experimentation for sure, though, and certainly wouldn't taste the same.

The ulam I used to eat most often in the 1970s was a bunch of wild leaves I or/and my friends picked with or without some cultivated leaves, and we often had them with sambal belacan and without rice. (The rice would accompany gulai or something else, and sometimes the ulam would just be a snack.)

I don't recall Telur Pindang. That's eggs cooked how?

#9 JustKay

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 08:32 PM

The ulam I used to eat most often in the 1970s was a bunch of wild leaves I or/and my friends picked with or without some cultivated leaves, and we often had them with sambal belacan and without rice. (The rice would accompany gulai or something else, and sometimes the ulam would just be a snack.)


Ack! You are definitely more Malaysian than I am. :raz:

I didn't eat sambal belacan until after I was married and had to make it for my husband. After a while, I decided to try it (again).


I don't recall Telur Pindang. That's eggs cooked how?


Eggs cooked for days (or so it seems, it's more like for 12 hrs, I think) in all kinds of leaves and spices including tea leaves and soya sauce (I think - I've never made this). This egg could last for a long time without refrigeration. I googled and found several recipes for it. I will ask my Mom when I next go back for a visit.

The Chinese have their version which is now very popular called Herbal Egg. While it is similar to Telur Pindang, it is not the same.

Maybe you should try concoting Nasi Ulam NYC.

Edited by kew, 25 May 2004 - 08:33 PM.


#10 Tepee

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 08:54 PM

I agree that Pan is definitely more Malaysian than us, Kew! Pan, your knowledge and retention of Bahasa is incredible for just 2 years' stay, when was that, 20 over years ago??

My fav M'sian Malay dish would be Nasi Dagang with Ikan Tongkol. When I was expecting my 1st child, and still working then, a very faithful Malay colleague used to go to Setapak and queue up at this very laku stall to get me my morning fix. Oh, I love Nasi Ulam too, especially the four-angled beans with sambal. Never knew they could taste so good raw! At this moment, my M'sian chinese fav would be popiah, and Indian, roti canai, of course, but there's only 1 or 2 stalls which do their dhall curry the way I like it.
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#11 Jason Perlow

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:04 PM

Hmm. Favorite Malaysian dish.

I like the stir fried pearl noodle dishes (the noodles that look like worms).

I like "Chili Chicken" which is a somewhat dry chili sauce chicken dish.

Theres another dish that I've had at a NY chain called Penang, called "Tofu Nyonya" which is fried tofu in a spicy chili sauce with ground pork and lots of basil.

Oh yeah, the deep fried string beans with dried shrimp in it.
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#12 Pan

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:09 PM

Kew, you may not believe this, but I don't know much about how to actually cook Malaysian food myself! I know a lot of what I know about how it's cooked because as a child, I watched our landlady and next-door neighbor pound out the rempah and so forth. I was very observant and always asked lots of questions. And TP, remember that kids attain fluency in a foreign language much more readily than adults. But I did spend almost a month in Malaysia last July-August and regained a lot of my fluency from 26 years previous. I was fluent at a standard-6 level, so I never was really up to reading complex newspaper articles and such, but my spoken, um, Bahasa Terengganu, was excellent. :raz: :laugh:

What I could do, perhaps, is someday, if I really want to be ambitious, I could look over a good nasi ulam recipe and try to comtemplate what odds and ends I could get in a farmers' market around here that might work with it. But I've hardly cooked for years!

What I think we really need is someone who's knowledgeable about both Malaysian ulam plants and the stronger-tasting of the vegetables available in farmers' markets in the U.S. (or, for that matter, some other country).

Edited by Pan, 25 May 2004 - 09:10 PM.


#13 Pan

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:11 PM

Jason, I think the Chili Chicken may be Hainanese Chicken Rice. Is the chili sauce separate, or does it come with chili sauce already on the chicken?

#14 JustKay

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:30 PM

I like the stir fried pearl noodle dishes (the noodles that look like worms).


!!!!! :blink: :blink: What might be this 'pearl noodle dish'?

I like "Chili Chicken" which is a somewhat dry chili sauce chicken dish.


Pan, I think this is Ayam Masak Cili. Again, there are a few variations to this recipe, but basically it is like a cooked sambal dish (like a dry gulai) . Where did you have this dish Jason?

Theres another dish that I've had at a NY chain called Penang, called "Tofu Nyonya" which is fried tofu in a spicy chili sauce with ground pork and lots of basil.


Could this be MaPo Tofu? Shiewie?

What other dishes have you tried Jason?

#15 Pan

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:35 PM

The versions of Mapo Tofu I know don't have basil in them, but I don't think of Mapo Tofu as a particularly Malaysian dish.

#16 JustKay

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:40 PM

The versions of Mapo Tofu I know don't have basil in them, but I don't think of Mapo Tofu as a particularly Malaysian dish.

Not a typical Malaysian dish. It oculd have been adapted hence the basil leaves, especially if Jason had it in a restaurant in the US.

I think MaPo is more Nyonya. But Schezuan in origin.

I love MaPo but only the ones at 'authentic' Schezuan restaurants. :biggrin: And no pork for me - just chicken. Maggi (Nestle) used to sell the paste for making MaPo - not too bad considering it's in a jar. But it was short-lived.

edited to add : I suggested MaPo because it's about the only dish that I know of/can recall, that sounds like what he described.

Edited by kew, 25 May 2004 - 09:42 PM.


#17 Pan

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:42 PM

My mother doesn't eat pork and used to make good mapo tofu with ground chicken. Now, my father makes it. :biggrin:

Edited by Pan, 25 May 2004 - 09:45 PM.


#18 JustKay

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:42 PM

My mother doesn't eat pork and used to make good mapo tofu with ground chicken. Now, my father does. :biggrin:

Care to share the recipe?

#19 Pan

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Posted 25 May 2004 - 09:56 PM

It's Ellen Schrecker's recipe from Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook, just with chicken instead of pork.

#20 Shiewie

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 02:11 AM

I like the stir fried pearl noodle dishes (the noodles that look like worms).


!!!!! :blink: :blink: What might be this 'pearl noodle dish'?


Are these worms short fat pudgy ones :biggrin: made of rice flour? If so, then I think they could be Loh Shue Fun which translates to Rat's Tail Noodles :raz: (also called Bee Tai Bak in Penang - there's also a sweet version which is slightly different). Actually they look sort of like white tadpoles but with tails at both ends. They're fatter than the average noodle and needs a robust sauce to complement it - it's good stir-fried with minced/shredded meat and thick soy sauce and served with a small plate of sambal and kalamansi.

Theres another dish that I've had at a NY chain called Penang, called "Tofu Nyonya" which is fried tofu in a spicy chili sauce with ground pork and lots of basil.


Could this be MaPo Tofu? Shiewie?

Hmm... it's more likely a Malaysianised Chinese dish where the tofu is first deep-fried (outsides are golden brown but insides remain milky white) before stir-frying it with a sambal-based sauce wth minced pork and basil. Not quite Nyonya I'm afraid as basil is not really a typical Nyonya ingredient.

Edited by Shiewie, 26 May 2004 - 02:18 AM.


#21 spinoza

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 12:11 PM

I like the stir fried pearl noodle dishes (the noodles that look like worms).

Tang hoon by any chance?

Crystal noodles over here in London I think.

I can't think of a favourite Malaysian dish - it's been a while since I last went back to the motherland

They're all my favourites :biggrin:

But if pushed to choose - my usual breakfast

2 dhosai, coconut chutney, onion sambal, dry lamb curry

#22 su-lin

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 02:41 PM

Some people (myself included!) insist on a fourth branch...nonya food (sometimes spelled nyonya).

I love ikan bakar (barbequed fish)...with that limey, sambal sauce on top. Loh Bak is an another lovely one...traditionally beancurd skin wrapped seasoned pork, deep fried. They also deep fry tofu, fish cake, etc, all wrapped in beancurd skin. Hokkien mee...not the light coloured Singaporean version...but the dark dark dark Malaysian one with thick yellow noodles, some meat and veg and the necessary pieces of fried lard, all coated in a very dark sauce. My family calls it black mee. Oh, yong tau fu is very comforting in its lovely broth....fish cake stuffed, uh, items....veg and tofu.

I could go on forever...I love too many dishes...

My favourite dish, though, is more Singaporean...or should I say, better made in Singapore. Chai tow kueh....fried radish cake with egg, some chilli, pickled turnip...prawns are added today too. Light or dark (thick dark soy sauce added). My ultimate comfort food!

No wait, hang on....rendang!!! Rendang daging! No, give me a sec...hang on...uh...Crud, can't select a favourite.

Regarding nasi ulam, Umami recently made the dish for the latest My Blog is Burning...

#23 JustKay

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 05:58 PM

Shiewie, I found a (chinese) recipe by Betty Yew for Tauhu Goreng Cili in which she fries the tofu first. Minced chicken meat is used. The list of the marinade (for the chicken) and sauce ingredients are loooong. Sounds like a yummy recipe. But then she uses Chinese scallion as a garnish and not basil.

I think I have seen the noodles you describe - fat like tadpoles but with tails at both ends. Gee! And we're talking about food here. :blink:

Spinoza - tang hoon is long and threadlike. How long has it been since you last visited? Malaysia has changed quite dramatically over the last 10 years or so.

Su-lin - the nasi ulam looks good. Except for the almonds - not that it's a bad improvisation or anything. My kids had yong tau fu for dinner last nite. I love the pieces that are wrapped in tofu skin.

#24 Jason Perlow

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 07:19 PM

Jason, I think the Chili Chicken may be Hainanese Chicken Rice. Is the chili sauce separate, or does it come with chili sauce already on the chicken?

The chili sauce is on the chicken. But its not wet, its dry. And its not Chicken Rice -- thats served on the side at that restaurant.
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#25 Pan

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 08:00 PM

Su-lin - the nasi ulam looks good. Except for the almonds - not that it's a bad improvisation or anything.

I love almonds but I'm not positive they'd go well in nasi ulam. The final dish doesn't look like what I had in the pasar in Kota Bharu (the day pasar - whose name I forget - not the Pasar Malam). They gave me a bunch of green leaves and such and I think three dipping sauces (sambal belacan, tempoyak, budu - and perhaps a fourth sauce which was a red hot sauce) and a plate of rice. I then proceeded to take the leaves, dip them in the sauce (I mostly stuck to sambal belacan but tried the others), put them in my mouth, and then pick up a handful of rice and put that in my mouth. Then I repeated the procedure until I was too full to eat anymore. :laugh:

Honestly, I don't remember having nasi ulam in Kg. Merchang, Terengganu. Seems to me ulam was always a separate thing, and the rice (nasi is cooked rice, in case that hasn't been made clear before) went with savory dishes.

#26 Pan

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 08:02 PM

Jason, I think the Chili Chicken may be Hainanese Chicken Rice. Is the chili sauce separate, or does it come with chili sauce already on the chicken?

The chili sauce is on the chicken. But its not wet, its dry. And its not Chicken Rice -- thats served on the side at that restaurant.

Yeah, the chili sauce is given separately with the Hainan Chicken Rice.

#27 JustKay

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 09:08 PM

Pan ... from what you described, I think what you had was Nasi dengan Ulam and not Nasi Ulam. :biggrin:

Nasi Ulam is Kelantan in origin. So is Nasi Kerabu.

#28 Pan

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 10:08 PM

Perhaps, but I'll tell you that they had a sign up advertising that they served Nasi Ulam, what I described is what they gave me when I ordered Nasi Ulam, and other people sitting at the stall were eating the same thing (and other dishes, because you could also get fish curry and various other dishes there).

#29 SG-

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 10:13 PM

I think it would be possible to do a version of nasi ulam in the U.S., but you'd have to use American leaves, and it would suck not to have cashew leaves and such-like. Still, I suppose you could use some particularly interesting-tasting combination of leaves and perhaps edible flowers. And while we don't have pucuk paku, we have other edible ferns. It would take experimentation for sure, though, and certainly wouldn't taste the same.

Too lazy to try myself but I have seen daun selom being sold at Hahn Ah Rheum (not sure what the Koreans use it for?) and you can probably use the already blanched ferns they sell too.

Kacang botol from Vietnamese grocers. With the exception of bunga kantan, everything else is quite readily available these days. Then again myoga from Mitsuwa market might be a close substitute for bunga kantan... hmmm this might actually work!!! :hmmm:

Here's a recipe I found from the Star.

Ingredients
1kg cooked white rice (or Basmati rice)
Ingredients to be sliced finely:
10g kaffir lime leaves (daun limau purut)
2 onions
5 shallots
3 stalks lemon grass
2 stalks wild ginger flower (bunga kantan)
10g bird’s eye chilli (cili padi)
20g long beans
5g daun selom
5g four-angle bean (kacang botol)
3 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Method
Heat oil in a pan and fry the eggs to make an omelette. When the eggs set, scramble it in the pan and dish up.

With remaining oil in the pan, fry the sliced ingredients. Add white rice and fry evenly for about 15 minutes.

Toss in the cooked eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

#30 ecr

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Posted 26 May 2004 - 10:21 PM

Why hasn't anyone mentioned laksa? Laksa laksa laksa. :wub: Curry laksa is good but I love a nice sour laksa assam even more.

Nasi lemak is such a humble dish and you can get it everywhere but it's one thing I would want first thing upon touching down in KL. I just love how the rice is coconut scented, but not gloppy or gluey with coconut milk. So lovely with a bit of sambal.

Rojak! It's delectable (sweet stickiness of the sauce) and repugnant (belacan stinkiness of the sauce) at the same time and I love it. Pineapple is best. My partner told me on our next trip to Malaysia I have to go rojak hunting by myself, bec. :wacko: he can't stand the smell of it.