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Variations between Malay/Indonesian and Singapore?


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I'm currently researching Malaysian food, and will be looking at Singapore and Indonesia next. Big question - is there a significant difference between the cuisines? For instance, are there dishes available in Malaysia that aren't in Singapore or Indonesia and vica versa? Or is it really more a matter of a different flavoring style? I'm curious... thanks!

--Janet (GG) (Up to my neck in rojak and curry mee right now.....) :rolleyes:

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

http://www.frombruneiandbeyond.com

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Indonesia is a huge country with tremendous regional variation. There has been immigration from many parts of Indonesia to Malaysia, which is one of the reasons that various Indonesian dishes are available in Malaysia, but there's even more Indonesian stuff you won't find easily -- or at all -- in Malaysia. As for Singapore, with all the prickliness of Malaysian-Singaporean rivalries, it may be hazardous to express an opinion, but I think on this mostly non-trash-talking site, we'll probably get agreement that the differences between Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine are more analogous to regional variations within the Malay Peninsula than the difference between food in Selangor and West Papua. Keep in mind that the border between Malaysia and Singapore is easily traversable by a causeway and a bridge, so it's hard to imagine that there's little similarity between chili crabs, for example, on both sides.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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We had a conversation last night about your question while we were making khao yam (I can post pictures if anyone is interested). I tried hard to pin the partner down on where he would recommend. His opinions are based on travels and national service in the early 90's, so maybe things have changed. If pressed, he would recommend Malaysia over Indonesia, based not on the food necessarily, but the ease of travel. He remembers rolling blackouts in some of the bigger Indonesian cities and thinks Malaysia is more "developed" and would be easy to travel in for someone obviously foreign who doesn't speak the native language. Foodwise, he thinks if you go to Malaysia you'll be happier then in Singapore, and it pained him to say so. He is of the opinion that many of the vendors in S'pore are using pre-made bulk pack stuff for their offerings and the food is suffering for it. On Indonesian food vs. Malaysian, we came up with Indonesian food is to Malaysian food as Louisiana food is to the Carolinas food. In otherwords, very different to someone from one of those places, but very similiar to an outsider. Hope that helps.

You might check out Mrs. Leung's cookbooks for lots of ideas on M'sian/S'porean old-school food.

regards,

trillium

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It is difficult these days to say that there are foods that are available only in Singapore that are not available in Malaysia, especially with the flow of culinary expertise across the two countries and elsewhere in the region.

Singapore chefs lay claim to having invented chilli crab and the raw fish salad that is available during the 15 days of the Chinese New Year, but these are also readily available in Malaysia and in the case of the raw fish salad, even in Hong Kong as I know of a chef who had gone over there to introduce the dish.

I'd say that there are variations in the flavours. For example, fried Hokkien noodles in Singapore is "white" (meaning no dark soya sauce is used), but the version in Kuala Lumpur is dark. Char kway teow (fried rice noodles) in Singapore is dark; the version in Malaysia is "white". Either versions of both dishes, done well, taste very good - it is all a matter of preference and taste.

Wonton noodles in Malaysia (if you choose the 'dry' version, not served in soup) comes with a dark soya and oil sauce, which was available in Singapore in the 60s and 70s, but has since been replaced with one that also has chilli sauce.

But even in Malaysia , there is variation in the same dish. Each state of Malaysia has its own version of laksa, and the Perankan food in Singapore is closer to that of Malacca than that of Penang, which has stronger Thai influences.

While it is true that the hawker food in Singapore, especially in the proliferating air-conditioned food courts, tend to taste the same, there are still those who have been cooking up the same dishes their parents and grandparents did; you just need to know where to locate them.

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It is difficult these days to say that there are foods that are available only in Singapore that are not available in Malaysia, especially with the flow of culinary expertise across the two countries and elsewhere in the region.

Singapore chefs lay claim to having invented chilli crab and the raw fish salad that is available during the 15 days of the Chinese New Year, but these are also readily available in Malaysia and in the case of the raw fish salad, even in Hong Kong as I know of a chef who had gone over there to introduce the dish.

I'd say that there are variations in the flavours. For example, fried Hokkien noodles in Singapore is "white" (meaning no dark soya sauce is used), but the version in Kuala Lumpur is dark. Char kway teow (fried rice noodles) in Singapore is dark; the version in Malaysia is "white". Either versions of both dishes, done well, taste very good - it is all a matter of preference and taste.

Wonton noodles in Malaysia (if you choose the 'dry' version, not served in soup) comes with a  dark soya and oil sauce, which was available in Singapore in the 60s and 70s, but has since been replaced with one that also has chilli sauce.

But even in Malaysia , there is variation in the same dish. Each state of Malaysia has its own version of laksa, and the Perankan food in Singapore is closer to that of Malacca than that of Penang, which has stronger Thai influences.

While it is true that the hawker food in Singapore, especially in the proliferating air-conditioned food courts, tend to taste the same, there are still those who have been cooking up the same dishes their parents and grandparents did; you just need to know where to locate them.

Very nicely put. I love regional differences, and it makes me sad they are disappearing in N. America.

Would you say it was easier for a non-speaking tourist to find hawker dishes that are made the same way as grandparents did in Malaysia or Singapre? Not trying to cause trouble, just looking for another opinion.

regards,

trillium

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I've been researching Singaporean food at this point (working on expanding the scope of my GaijinGirl site), and reviewed the Singapore thread on Egullet. From what I've seen, it really does seem as if most of the country's food originated elsewhere. Of course, I've never been there firsthand, so I might be wrong. Anyone know of any food native to Singapore?

--Thanks, GG (Janet) :biggrin:

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

http://www.frombruneiandbeyond.com

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