Malaysia, as I had mentioned earlier, is a country with huge cultural influence from around the globe; so how could the local cuisine be untouched? The Malaysian cuisine is a mélange of flavors from the Malay, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, Dutch and the Portuguese culinary styles. Like most of the South East Asian countries the local food of Malaysia is rich in spices but the sweets of the region and equally appealing. Here is my list of the top ten famous and savored dishes from the Malay land, one should not miss.
1. Satay – Meat pieces marinated with an overpowering blend of spices, skewered and grilled - that is Satay the most famous of the local meat dishes (chicken, lamb or beef). It is usually eaten with spicy groundnut sauce or sambal chilli sauce and is a famous street food too in the region.
2. Asam pedas – It is a spice rich fish dish with Indian, Indonesian and Portuguese influence. The sour and spicy dish is made with dried chilies, tamarind, shallots and dried shrimps, along with the main fish. It is one of the most loved Malaysian curries.
3. Apam Balik – This is the most famous street snack in Malaysia. It is a thick buttery pancake that closely resembles the south Indian Apam but has a distinct Malay touch to it. The Apam is filled with crushed peanuts and glazed with honey before the gooey centre settles and then is cut into pieces and served.
4. Durian Dodol – Inspired by the colonial Portuguese cuisine, Dodol is a thick sticky cake made from coconut milk, rice flour and jaggery. It is very much similar to the goan sweet famous in India but has and interesting twist of the local Durian fruit that makes this a ‘do not miss when in Malaysia’ thing.
5. Kuih Ketayap – Kuihs are Nyonya tea time snacks and Kuih Ketayap is the most loved one of the range. I is a Pandan crepe, tube shaped, mini spring role with dark brown, jaggery rich coconut filling. This was personally my favourite authentic Malay sweet.
6. Kuih Lapis – From tapioca, to durian to coconut to Pandan – this sweet has it all in its nine layers. Kuih Lapis is a steamed, layer Nyonya snack made from coconut milk, tapioca flour, coarse sugar, rice flour, Pandan leaves and at times tinge of durian. This is available in almost every eatery in Kuala Lumpur and though it is sweet it is considered a tea time snack as it is not overpoweringly sweet.
7. Seri Muka – This is yet another Kuih with Pandan and rice. This two layered sweet – sweet pandan custard on the top and steamed glutinous rice on the bottom – is one of the most popular Malay sweets and can be found at every nook and corner of KL in the evening and the eateries with Seri Muka are actually the most crowded ones too.
8. Ondeh Ondeh – They look as funky and they sound, but are winners when it comes to taste. Coconut and palm sugar center in green rice castings enveloped in coconut shavings are the perfect pop and savor sweet.
9. Abok Abok Sago – This is a snack that resembles the Indian Pan but is absolutely nothing like our local appetizer. Abok Abok is a mixture of sago and coconut, wrapped and steamed with banana leaves. I admit, I didn’t like it the first time I ate it, but by the time I was having it for the 5th time I did develop a taste for it.
10. Bingka Ubi – Malaysia is a tropical country and so is an amazing place to try exotic fruits like kiwi, dragon fruit, tapioca, durian etc. The Malays have cakes and custard of almost all these fruits but the one that totally stands out in the lot is Tapioca Cake with is also known as Bingka Ubi.
There are many more flavours the beautiful country has to savor – from the durian puffs to the rose drink, from Redang to Rojak, from local breads to Roti Cenai but these ten totally top the list. The Best places to enjoy a perfect Malay dinner or a filling Malay snack in KL are – Songket, Saloma Bistro, Cucur (Suria KLCC) and local market stalls in Chinatown and Bukit Bintang.