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GaijinGirl

Malaysian/Indonesian food differences?

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What are the primary differences between Malaysian, Indonesian food? From my experience, Malaysian seems more spicy, but I'm sure there's more to it than that (that might also be due to my available Indonesian restaurant choices, as opposed to the number of Malaysian restaurants I can sample from.) Thanks for any info! :smile:

--Janet


Mochi, Foi Thong and Rojak - what more can a girl want from life?

http://www.frombruneiandbeyond.com

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I'll have a stab at this - having lived and travelled extensively in both places.

The cuisines of these countries have evolved over years from a combination of the available local ingredients and the culinary traditions of the people that live in these countries.

In Malaysia about 50 per cent of the population (or more) is ethnic Malay. About 30 per cent (or slightly more) is ethnic Chinese, and about 15 per cent is Indian - particularly south Indian and Tamil.

In Malaysia the well established culinary traditions of both China and India have to some extent been assimilated into what we think of Malaysian cuisine today. Think of the many Malaysian curries for example - or fried noodles and laksa etc as examples of the Indian and Chinese influences repectively.

Indonesia on the other hand consists of many different ethnic groups (Batak, Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese etc. etc.) indigenous to the islands - and also has a small but very visible Chinese population of about 5 percent. The Chinese influence on indigineous Indonesian cuisine is less noticebale than it is in Malaysia as the Chinese population in Indonesia is relatively much smaller than in Malaysia and has never been particularly well integrated in mainstream Indonesian society.

The many ethnic groups that make up the archipelago each have their own culinary traditions - and it is therefore much easier to speak of Balinese or Javanese cuisine that it is to speak about Indonesian cuisine.

Indonesian cuisine is therefore extremely diverse - but largely indigenous to the islands without much outside influence apart from some Dutch colonial influences.

Malaysian cuisine on the other hand has been largely shaped by the strong influences from China and India.

I will go out on a limb here, and say that Malaysian cuisine is probably somewhat more interesting than Indonesian cuisine as a result of the heavy Indian and Chinese influence. At any rate, we consistently ate better in small Malaysian towns than we did in small Indonesian towns - and indeed we found this rather odd because in all other respects (art, crafts, music, history, geography, language, culture, ethnic diversity etc etc) Indonesia is by far the more interesting country.

But both are wonderful cuisines - and if you spend some time in the area the differences will soon become recognizeable.

Hope this helps.

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I'll put in my own 2 sen in response to Ducky, who I think was very helpful. For one thing, I've always loved the Chinese and Indian food in Malaysia but was less impressed with most of the Malay food in the 1970s (with the notable exception of Kelantanese food and Satay in Kajang and good places in KL); now, I'm highly impressed with the Malay food, too. But I had several memorable meals during two 2-week trips to parts of Sumatra, Java, and Bali in that same period (1976, in that case). If it's true that nowadays Malaysian food is clearly better than Indonesian food generally (which I wouldn't know), I'm guessing that's because Malaysia is so much wealthier. Other points I'd make are that there are a very large number of Malaysians who are of Indonesian heritage, with ancestry from Minangkabau, Aceh, Java, the Bugis region of Sulawesi, etc., and also that, in addition to being greatly influenced by Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian cuisine, Malaysia has been suffused by influence from Thailand in the last couple of decades. In a way, the Thai influence is returning the favor, as Panang and Massaman Curries are Thai versions of Malay curries (or Thai versions of Malay versions of Indian curries -- see how complex the web of influences gets?).


Michael aka "Pan

 

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In a way, the Thai influence is returning the favor, as Panang and Massaman Curries are Thai versions of Malay curries (or Thai versions of Malay versions of Indian curries -- see how complex the web of influences gets?).

I make Penang curry from time to time. Mine will be an American influenced Chinese rendition of Thai versions of Malay versions of Indian curries!


W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"

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Pan, you are quite right to point out the positive influence of Thai cuisine in Malaysia - and that the relative poverty of much of Indonesia (contrasted with Malaysia) has undoubtedly had an inhibiting effect on the historical development of "Indonesian" cuisine as such.

My point about Indian and Chinese influences in Malaysian cuisine was that these today have been very much assimilated, and are part of the idiom of Malaysian cooking. And Malaysian cuisine is better off for it!

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In Indonesia, the kicap manis, or sweet dark soy sauce, appears quite often...


"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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[...]My point about Indian and Chinese influences in Malaysian cuisine was that these today have been very much assimilated, and are part of the idiom of Malaysian cooking. And Malaysian cuisine is better off for it!

No doubt about it.

Agreed on the kicap manis, PCL.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I do like very much indeed Balinese deep fried ayam kampung... 'village chicken'... generally a tough skinny free range bird that once ran around the village before everyone got hungry...

No one else does ayam kampung like them, though I must admit, it's just a trace memory from a holiday when I was a kid almost 15 years ago now...


"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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I do like very much indeed Balinese deep fried ayam kampung... 'village chicken'... generally a tough skinny free range bird that once ran around the village before everyone got hungry...

No one else does ayam kampung like them, though I must admit, it's just a trace memory from a holiday when I was a kid almost 15 years ago now...

One of my fondest dining experiences in Indonesia was stopping by a shack on the way back from Borobodur. I wasn't expecting anything at all but the fried kampung chicken was spectacular as was the sambal.

I'll say this, Indonesian do a much better job with those tasty kampung chickens than Malaysians.

Much like yourself it was about 15yrs ago too...


Edited by SG- (log)

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