The cuisine of Malaysia is multi-faceted and rich in history, with traditional Malay cuisines mingling easily with Indian, Chinese and Regional influences. One can find truly unique gems such as Penang char kway teow, traditional Indian rotis alongside perennial Malay favourites such as nasi lemak and lontong sayur.
Also known as roti prata by close neighbour Singapore, roti canai is often found in mamak (indian-muslim) food centres all across the capital of Malaysia. Most mamak food centres are open 24 hours, making them prime refuelling stops for over-timers and bar-hoppers. Aside from the smattering collection of fried chicken, curries and vegetable dishes, roti canai is the centrepiece for visitors, with a mind-boggling variety available to satiate any craving. Whether one is looking for classic roti telur (roti canai with egg) or an overtly decadent roti bom (roti canai filled with butter, sugar and condensed milk), a freshly fried roti canai accompanied by a bowl of curry dip is a beautiful thing.
From obscure hole-in-the-wall joints, food trucks to specialty chains and fine dining venues, one can find nasi lemak everywhere in Kuala Lumpur. Nasi lemak is the classic comfort food for Malaysians, a staple everyday dish which is truly Malaysian. The dish of coconut rice, ikan bilis, sambal and egg is a classic example of how a collection is greater than the sum of its parts. The sambal arguably is the key piece, with the quality of sambal making or breaking a nasi lemak. That being said, the accompaniments are equally important, with accolades doled out for the best nasi lemak fried chicken.
CHILLI PAN MEE
In case you haven’t noticed, Malaysians love spicy food, with the quality of chilli a requirement for restaurants looking to succeed in the F&B scene of Malaysia. This distinction is not lost on lovers of chilli pan mee, a dish which truly embodies the importance of chilli in Malaysian cuisine. Fresh hand-cut noodles are boiled and strained before being tossed in a fiery mix of chilli sauce and oils. Topped with a sunny side up egg and ikan billis, one tosses and mixes the noodle before digging into the delicious mess. A tall jug of iced water is a highly recommended accompaniment to the dish.
A popular mamak dish in Malaysia is the briyani. A traditional dish amongst the muslim people in India, briyani has a long and tiered history spanning from the 1500s. The main ingredients of a briyani is the meat (commonly chicken, mutton or beef) and the rice (usually basmati rice). The meat is usually marinated with a variety of spices and yogurt for hours before it is cooked over a pan. After the chicken is cooked, it is layered with boiled basmati rice in a pot and cooked till aromatic perfection. Briyani is often served with chutneys and raita (cucumber yogurt sauce). Definitely a must-try dish.
Unlike Singapore’s version, Kuala Lumpur’s version of Hokkien mee is a sticky, dark, delicious mess. Aptly named for its origins, the dish came from Fujian (Hokkien) in China. Cooked yellow noodles are stir-fried with lard in a sweet and salty dark sauce with pork, cabbage and seafood over charcoal fire
Visitors to Penang will be acquainted with yet another different version of Hokkien mee. Penang’s version combines yellow noodles with rice vermicelli which are drowned in a spicy prawn and pork broth and topped with eggs, vegetables and sambal.