Apr 27, 2012

The third F

We went back for the three Fs - Family, Friends and Food. This post is a report on the last F.

Malaysians, for better or worse, have a love affair with food. There are three main and very distinct cuisines in Malaysia - Indian, Malay and Chinese. Within each broad type of cuisine, there are many variations depending on tribe/dialect and location. For instance, for kaya (a coconut spread) you have Hainanese (descendants of people from Hainan, China) kaya and Nyonya (descendants of early Chinese immigrants to Malaya) kaya. Malaccan (people from the state of Malacca) rojak is very different from Penang rojak (also known as pasembur) and KL rojak. The TeoChew, Hainanese, Hokkien and Cantonese all have different specialities which would be broadly grouped under Chinese food. Some food have mixed influences as each culture takes inspiration from the other's food and puts their own twist on it. Chicken curry - Chinese, Malay or Indian style? A look at the dish will tell you.

Malaysia (then Malaya) was also last colonised by the British, and we have long English traditions that hang around today, including culinary influences. We also share a border with Indonesia and Thailand and have a number of migrants from these countries, so we have quite authentic Indonesian and Thai food.

Malaysians (to be precise, this refers more to the white collar population) love a culinary adventure and have embraced foods from all over the world. As a result, there are many restaurants offering a variety of cuisines - the most popular 'foreign' ones being Italian, English, Korean, Japanese, American-Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Taiwanese and Hong Kong, with a smattering of the less popular German, French, Brazillian and Moroccan. The popular ones are found, not only in the city center - as here in Sydney - but wherever an urban population exists.

Walk into a 5-star hotel, and you are bound to find at least a 'Western' restaurant, a Chinese restaurant and a Japanese restaurant in-house.  This is a list of restaurants found in a shopping mall - the list does not include fast food outlets; that is in the column before this one. It also does not include snacks and bakeries; that is in the column after.

My former boss is someone who has travelled to probably more than 30 countries, and has eaten at some of the finest restaurants in the world. Over dinner once, he said solemnly that there is no place else in the world with such a wide variety of cuisines, so well cooked, so accessible and so affordable.

Sniff....Ah, well! On to my accomplishments :

Yong tao foo - stuffed veges and tofu...

Malaccan hawker and traditional favourites - this is 'bak chang' - and I eat no other except the Malaccan variety. Made with glutinous rice, it has a salted egg at its heart. Mmmmm...

Pasar malam fare... we used to go to the night market every other week, to buy dinner and snacks and shop for cheap clothes.

And of course, the hawker fare not to miss if you are in KL - Hokkien noodles.

There is more and I will post up in a post to follow this one.

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