Malaysian cuisine has to be one of the most underrated cuisines in the world. There, I said it.
As purely Malaysian born and bred myself, that may be the bias of my cultural palate talking. Let’s be real, we Malaysians know how to eat. But, you’ll agree with me by the time you’ve scrolled through this article.
I’ve recently found it interesting that the new food and health trends heavily emphasize a lot of coconut-based recipes and their health benefits while Malaysians have been enjoying it in our national cuisine all along. Here’s 11 reasons why you should book that flight and get eating.
1. Nasi Lemak
This has to be Malaysia’s signature dish, which consists of fragrant rice with condiments. It’s usually served with a spicy sambal sauce, anchovies, cucumbers, nuts and eggs. Plus extra protein if you prefer (trust me, you do). The best part? You can literally have this any meal of the day- breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper.
#CoconutTip: The fragrant rice in this dish is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf.
2. Nasi Dagang
Translated as trader’s/trading rice, this traditional breakfast is most well-known in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia and served up with fish curry, pickled vegetables and eggs.
#CoconutTip: The steamed rice is cooked in coconut milk and often served with coconut shavings that have been fried with shallots until golden brown.
This South Indian breakfast dish is a winner because COCONUT. These cylindrical-shaped beauties are made of steamed ground rice layered with coconut and are usually eaten with banana, brown sugar and coconut shavings.
#CoconutTip: Coconut shavings are sometimes served as a topping over this already-coconut-filled dish. It’s coco-NUTS!
Another favourite from South India, appam is basically an Indian-inspired pancake made of fermented rice batter and coconut milk. It has many variations, including palappam, which means ‘milk appam’ and has the added bonus of coconut cream or milk poured into the doughy centre of it. This specific stall in Kuala Lumpur area adds an even better component to it- caramelised brown sugar to top it off.
#CoconutTip: The batter itself is made with coconut milk, and has the extra hit of coconut with the creamy milk centre.
5. Curry Laksa
Who doesn’t love a good bowl of curry noodles? This dish is a coconut based curry infused with tofu, seafood and is a Malaysian-style noodle dish. The richness of the curry varies with the use of either coconut milk or cream.
#CoconutTip: Coconut is an essential ingredient in the making of curry, whether it be Malay, Chinese or Indian styled curry.
6. Ondeh Ondeh
Ondeh ondeh is a Malay kuih (cake or pastry) and is often served at tea time. It is either made from sweet potato or glutinous rice flour (the latter being more common) that is infused in pandan and filled with gula melaka or palm sugar. The balls are rolled in coconut shavings and explode with sweet flavour.
#CoconutTip: The coconut shavings added on top gives ondeh ondeh a better texture and balance out the sweetness of the palm sugar in it. Try this homemade recipe for ondeh ondeh.
7. Seri Muka
Kuih seri muka is a double layer of goodness. The bottom half is made of glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk while the top layer is a green custard made from pandan juice (hence, the green colour). It’s the perfect evening treat with a cup of tea.
#CoconutTip: If you haven’t already noticed, a lot of Malaysian cuisine includes steamed rice in coconut milk and pandan leaves in different variations.
8. Pulut Inti
Pulut Inti is a blue glutinous rice cake which is a hybrid of Malay and Chinese cultural cuisine (called Nyonya). This is a typical treat you’d see at a wedding reception. Dyed with bunga telang or blue pea flowers, the glutinous rice is blue and topped off with grated coconut and palm sugar and wrapped in a banana leaf.
#CoconutTip: The hints of coconut in the steamed rice is accentuated with the added element of coconut that it’s topped with.
9. Kuih Lapis
Yet another tea time treat, kuih lapis combines steamed soft rice flour pudding and coloured layers of goodness in each bite. Its colours vary, but the classic kuih lapis is a pink and white colour combo.
#CoconutTip: Coconut milk and sugar are added to this steamed kuih to give it a hint of sweetness to be enjoyed midday.
10. Tosai with Coconut Chutney
Tosai (also known as dosa) is an Indian favourite, and replaces rice as a staple in most meals. It is served with curry and a coconut chutney that adds flavour and texture to its plain form.
#CoconutTip: Learn how to make coconut chutney with this traditional recipe.
11. Kaya Jam
I obviously saved the best for last. What’s a Malaysian food article without kaya? Let me make it simple for you: kaya = coconut jam. Sold yet?
#CoconutTip: You would typically find this spread on toasted bread at breakfast. You can try making this at home.
That’s Malaysia for you. The land of cultural hybrid and good food. Don’t forget to book that flight ASAP to come try it for yourself.