Malaysia is a foodie paradise… Chinese, Indian and Malay influences make for delicious dishes; spices are used liberally, sauces are packed with depth and flavor, and star-ingredients include seafood, coconut, bananas, noodles and more. Any Malaysian food experience must include these five signature food dishes…
1. Nasi lemak
If you love rice and coconut, nasi lemak (Malaysia’s unofficial national dish) has your name on it. Rice is cooked in coconut cream and steamed, imparting a rich, creamy flavor, then wrapped in a banana leaf and served with condiments like spicy sambal (a cooked chilli paste), hard-boiled egg, cucumber, fried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts and other treats, including beef rendang, fried chicken and more. Nasi lemak is traditionally eaten for breakfast, but it’s good anytime of the day.
Malaysia’s take on the kebab gets its distinctive yellow coloring from turmeric. Chicken satay are the most common, often served with a spicy peanut dip (or peanut gravy), fresh onions and cucumbers and ketupat (rice cakes). Hardcore satay-addicts seeking out the country’s best version might want to pay a trip to Kajang (in the State of Selangor), known as ‘Satay Town’. It’s rumored to serve Malaysia’s best satay.
3. Roti canai
This Malaysian flatbread, made of flour, water, egg, and ghee, is one of the country’s most popular foods. (It’s also the perfect accompaniment to curries.) ‘Roti’ means bread, and there are plenty of different roti to try; roti canai is the simplest version. It’s made by whirling the dough into the air, slapping it down on a counter and cooking it on an oiled flat grill, adding more oil as it cooks. Try it for breakfast with daal (lentil curry), or for lunch or dinner with kari ayam (chicken curry)
4. Assam laksa
There are so many different laksa (noodle soups) to try in Malaysia, but assam laksa is one of the most popular, especially in Penang. The soup for laksa consists mainly of fish, cooked with a myriad of aromatic herbs and spices and garnished with condiments like fresh cucumbers, mint, pineapple and a dash of fish paste. The broth is the key to the dish’s success, made from mackerel poached with lemongrass, chillies and tamarind, which imparts a distinctive sour flavor.
5. Teh tarik
Tea-lovers are in for a treat in Malaysia, thanks to ‘teh tarik’, which means ‘pulled tea’. This incredibly delicious, thick, sweet and creamy tea is made by steeping the tea, mixing it with condensed milk, and then using an elongated pouring process called ‘tarik’ (“pulling”), which results in out-of-this-world tea featuring a thick and frothy top.
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