Malaysia may draw tourists for its stunning beaches, world class scuba diving, shopping, stunning natural scenes, and lovable monkeys – but it’s Malaysian food that really draws me to the country.
Malaysian food is a dizzying blend of Asia’s finest traditions that oftentimes surpasses the dishes that inspired it. The curries of India, fragrant rice of Thailand, noodles of China, and barbecued meat that is a signature of South Korea all blend together in a mouth-watering orgy of taste.
First and foremost among these in my eyes is laksa, a curry so rich in flavours that it really does defy description. Thin rice noodles in a slightly sweet coconut curry sauce act as a base into which meat or seafood are added along with cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s a far more subtle experience than an Indian curry, and every bit as flavorful as the more famous Thai curries.
Chili Pan Mee is something for those who like their food a little spicy. Thick noodles with a mix of minced pork, green onion, and garlic are all soaked in the flaky chili sauce that is one of Malaysia’s most famous exports. If you like your meals eye-wateringly spicy, then this is one for you.
A carnivore? Malaysian food is famous for its satay: a tangy, slightly sweet peanut sauce atop chicken or beef is a popular street food in Malaysia. Similar to the chicken or beef on a stick you’ll find in any Korean street late at night, satay should be a fast favourite with any visitor.
Nasi Kandar is something that offers a dining experience that needs to be seen to be believed. A bowl of plain rice, a selection of curry sauces, and a whole slew of side dishes are presented and it’s up to each individual to design their own meal. Sometimes eaten bare-handed, this is a meal you won’t soon forget!
But I hope you’ve saved room for dessert! Ice Kachang is a dessert similar to Korean pot binsu, Shaved ice is served up with a liberal drizzle of flavored syrup and a few toppings that can include red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, and aloe vera. The whole lot is then further sweetened with evaporated or condensed milk or some other sweet treat.
So, while you may go to Malaysia to explore cities such as Kuala Lumpur or Georgetown, soak in the sun on one of its many beautiful beaches, or get your photo taken with a friendly orangutan – it may well be that it is Malaysian food that you’re remembering most fondly when you return home.
This article was originally written (by me) for a Korean audience at Travel Wire Asia. You can read the Korean translation at: 말레이시아가 선보이는 환상적인 퓨전의 맛
Which country do you think has the best cuisine in the world? Do you share my love of Malaysian food? Or do you prefer something else?