Monday, January 16, 2012

Amazing Malaysia Eats

I have just returned from an adventurous three week holiday in Malaysia, taking in the sights, sound and tastes of Sabah, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi Island. I knew I was going to enjoy Malaysian food simply because of my passion for Asian food in general, but was not quite sure what to expect. My only experience with Malaysian food had been dishes like laksa's and heavy curries, and I hoped that the food I found on my holiday would not be limited to these foods. I was pleasantly surprised by the exciting array of options available to us. Seeing that the Malay culture is generally a mix of native Malaysians, Chinese and Indian, we could pretty much choose between these culinary options. There is even a cuisine referred to as Nyonya, which is a fusion of Chinese and Malay created by mixed marriages. The great thing about the Malaysian culinary scene is that there are upmarket options and literally 'market' options. Most of the best food is found on hawker stalls on the street, and the options are very cheap and plentiful.
Because there are simply too many amazing meals to recount, I am going to do a picture blog describing some of the yummy goodies I tasted throughout my travels. I am also going to write individual blogs on some restaurants that I particularly loved.

Filipino BBQ, Kota Kinabalu- where all the locals eat, an exciting array of seafood and meat options that you choose yourself to be cooked on the BBQ. Whilst the food is great, the pricing can be tricky. Many of the options are by the 100grams, so some of the food isn't as cheap as you expect it to be. It is an atmospheric experience though to be eating on plastic chairs and tables, surrounded by smoky BBQ's and locals eating with their hands.
Banana Fritters, Kota Kinabalu- yummy little treats... 8 pieces for 30 cents! (AU)
Yum Cha Breakfast, Kota Kinabalu- we ate this traditional Chinese breakfast several times. The restaurant is a self serve conveyer belt type system where you simply walk along and choose from noodle dishes, dumplings, dim sum, friod goodies and steamed buns. Although it wasn't the most healthy start to the day, that and the very strong coffee definitely gave us the energy needed for our big adventures. (About 7 bucks combined with two coffees!)
Fried Carrot Cake, Kota Kinabalu- a very intriguing dish that actually isn't carrot at all. The name comes from the loose translation of radish from English to Malay. It is somewhat similar to carrot which is why people call it carrot cake, as the dish is actually cakes of glutinous rice with carrot. Fried with chilli, herbs and beanshoots it is a tasty dish similat to Pad Thai or Char Kway Teow. (About AU $2)
Nyonya Fried Chicken

A local Sabah dish, fried jungle ferns (very similar to water spinach)

Nyonya Beef Rendang

Cendol- crazy dessert containing everything... ice, ice cream, jelly, sweet corn, beans, syrup, pandan noodles. Crazy!
 Rasa Nyonya, Kota Kinabalu- a little restaurant near our hotel that serves Nyonya food (mix between Chinese and Malay). The food is homestyle, cooked the way they cook in their own homes. We loved the local specialty of fried jungle ferns and the Rendang in particular was melt in your mouth. Not sure about the dessert options though! ($20 AU with rice and drinks)

Dessert Buffet @ Circle, Le Meridian (KK)- We had a NYE buffet here and were very impressed by the food. The attention to detail and little touches they had put into preparing the feast and its presentation was truly amazing. They had obviously spent hours turning the food into a work of art. And with a sushi buffet, plenty of fresh and fabulous seafood, a carvery station with some of the best pieces of meat I have seen, a dim sum station, an Indian station, fresh salads, cheeses plus the amazing desserts you can see above, rest assured we did not go hungry on the last night of 2011!
Prawn Wonton Soup, Dragon View Restaurant, KL- a tasty and nutritious breakfast in KL. We all know how much I love Asian soups. Enough said. ($2.50 AU)

 Pak Putra, Melaka- Best Indian food ever. The tandoori chicken was absolutely amazing, and the cheese naan was to die for. They cook it all on site in a huge tandoori oven (see photo of front of restaurant). Eating with our fingers on plastic tables and drinking mango lassie was a great experience. I wish I could find this quality food in Melbourne. (About $20 AU with mango lassies, tandoori, two naans, prawn curry, vegetable curry and rice! A very cheap feast!)
Hottest Satay EVER, Jalan Alor, KL- we had a satay stick from this hawker stall on the famous 'Eat Street' Jalan Alor as an afternoon snack one afternoon and nearly blew our heads off. It was the weirdest experience because it had such a great taste but at the same time it was like an atom bomb had exploded in our mouth. Even a Malaysian local couldn't believe we could handle the heat from this particular stall. What a great concept though- choose the stick you want and they will steam it or grill it for you! (80 cents a stick)

Grilled Stingray fillet, Jalan Alor- We ordered this yummy piece of fish after trying to be a little more adventurous with our choices on the last night in KL. We had seen sting-ray on several menus, some even wiith little signs saying "Yes, same animal that killed Steve Irwin!" =/ and decided to order it on a whim. What a great choice. The fillet was like flake, but less 'flakey' and with a much stronger taste. The fish just fell off the bone. Definitely not as weird as we expected.

Curry Mee Soup, Langkawi Island- We ate several times at this cute little beach side restaurant that serves both Western food (amazing chicken baguettes) and yummy local cuisine like roti with curry sauce, noodle dishes and this amazing soup. Just the right balance of hot, sweet and sour, I ate this when I had the sniffles and it seemed like the greatest cure. It only cost about a dollar, and I wish I could eat this every day, it was one of the yummiest things ever!!

Yummy Icy Drinks, everywhere- These drinks were a saviour in the tropical heat. Filled with ice and a refreshing tasty drink flavoured with coconut (my favourite, so hydrating), raspberry, orange, lemon or watermelon. For only 30 cents a cup, I miss these!

In addition to these goodies, two foods I didn't get photos of but absolutely adored were roti chanai and pork buns. Both are traditionally breakfast foods but the Roti is Indian and the pork buns are Chinese. Both were easily accessible especially along one street in KK and whenever it rained we would walk along and eat these yummy foods. The roti is freshly cooked and served with a curry dipping sauce. You eat it with your hands or with a fork and the buttery, soft roti is just delicious and so indulgent. The pork buns consist of steamed bread wrapped around shredded BBQ pork and are cooked in these MASSIVE bamboo steamers that carry 50 or so buns at once. Both dishes are about 30 cents each. My next mission in Melbourne is going to be to hunt down the best pork buns available here.

So in conclusion- Malaysian food has been added to my favourites list. Such a diverse range of flavours, dishes, textures and cuisines. It was wonderful to be in one country yet able to immerse ourselves within the cultures of China, India and Malaysia all at once. Also, a huge plus- hygiene. We did not get sick once, not even a slight case of Bali Belly (which definitely makes it easier to eat your food!) This is partly due to the wonderful food handling and hygiene system the government has created where food is rated on a scale of A, B, C or D (A being excellent hygienic standards, B being good, C being okay, D being not very good). By ensuring that we ate at only A and B restaurants, we were able to keep ourselves healthy and hungry the entire trip.

For those of you out there who are thinking about branching out into the wonderful holiday destination of South East Asia, I highly recommend Malaysia as a holiday destination. Whilst I cannot say I fell in love with its charm in the same way I did in Vietnam, it has so much to offer. Also, not being struck by the same kind of poverty as some of the other parts of Asia, you do not find yourself feeling unsafe, or hassled, or overwhelmed. It has just the right mix of adventure, nature and luxury options.

Be sure to check out the restaurant specific blogs about some of my favourite restaurants over there!
L x

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lauren,

    Great post. I think the BBQ pork buns ('char siu bao' if I'd read your description correctly) you're referring to are available at almost every Yum Cha establishment in Melbourne. You can even buy them from Asian supermarkets (I strongly recommend the Great Eastern Groceries Centre on Russell St, Melbourne CBD). You just put the in the steamer or microwave at home.

    Good luck determining which buns are best!


Leave me a comment or question about my adventures! =)