Brimming with different races and cultures, Malaysia has a smorgasbord of culinary offerings. Hawker centres, kopitiams (coffee shops) and mamak (Indian Muslim) restaurants mushroom all over the city, offering some of the best fare. Meanwhile KL’s cosmopolitan lifestyle means that there are plenty of international fine-dining eateries where you can still sample ethnic favourites. Here are a number of must-try dishes.
NASI LEMAK A Malay dish so popular, even the Chinese and Indians serve their own similar version. At its very basic, Nasi Lemak is a plate of white rice cooked in coconut milk. Accompanying it on the plate is ‘sambal’, a chilli paste mixed with salted anchovies or ‘ikan bilis’. Then there is an egg served, either boiled or fried, with cucumber slices of and peanuts. Finally, you may add beef or chicken ‘rendang’, essentially pieces of meat cooked in rich coconut milk and curry
BAH KUT TEH A truly Malaysian-Chinese dish, Bah Kut Teh originated a few decades ago from Klang in Selangor state. It was prepared by a stall owner under a bridge for coolies in the area who smoked opium. As their taste buds were affected by the drug, they lost their sense of taste. So what the stall owner did was boil pork ribs and intestines in strong Chinese herbs, creating a stew ripe with aroma. From there, Bah Kut Teh caught on and became a nationwide phenomenonry.
ROTI CANAI A breakfast favourite, Roti Canai is the ultimate in simplicity and taste. It is basically a kind of pancake made by combining wheat flour, oil, ghee, or butter, rolled up into a ball and then swung into the air until it takes a flat, oval shape. It is then fried on a hot iron plate and served with dhal, chicken or fish curry. There are many variations on the same theme that include putting in eggs to make it ‘Roti Telur’, sardines to make it ‘Roti Sardin’, bananas to make it ‘Roti Pisang’ and so on
SATAY Satay is the Malaysian version of a kebab, only sweeter and somewhat smaller. Pieces of softened, marinated meat are skewered on a thin stick made of coconut frond. It is then barbecued over a tray of hot steaming charcoals until brown and tenderly moist. A wide range of meat can be used from rabbit to venison but beef and chicken is the most common. Accompanying it is thick peanut gravy and ‘ketupat’, rice cooked in coconut milk, cut into cubes and wrapped into an attractive weave of coconut leaves.
KAI FAN (CHICKEN RICE) Although there are many variations of the meat from steamed white chicken and barbequed pork to roasted duck and curried boar, roasted chicken remains the most popular. First, the chicken is meticulously marinated (whole) and then roasted in an oven until crispy brown. The rice, on the other hand, is cooked with the leftover stock in a pot, sometimes with a touch of butter. Finally, cucumber slices are placed together with the chicken and rice to make Kai Fan.
NYONYA FOOD The Nyonya food that you can find in Kuala Lumpur is heavily influenced by Malacca’s rich Peranakan culture. The Nyonya style of cooking is the result of a fusion between Chinese and Malay ingredients and recipes, the result of Chinese traders settling in Malacca and adopting the Malay way of living in the 16th century. Some of the most common ingredients in Nyonya cuisine are coconut milk, lemon grass, turmeric, screw pine leaves, chillies and sambal.
CHAR KUAY TEOW A favourite hawker dish in Malaysia, fried kuay teow – flat rice noodles stir-fried with prawns, cockles, eggs, bean sprouts and chives in chilli paste, lard and soy sauce – is one of the most popular regional dishes in the country. The noodles are best eaten piping hot after they’ve just been stir fried in a huge wok. Highly sought after by local ardent foodies, this dish is sometimes garnished with strips of Chinese sausage or crab meat.
ROTI JALA Roti Jala is a popular tea-time entrée in the Malay community. It literally translates as ‘net bread’ referring to its thread-like pattern that resembles a fishing net. Essentially a type of crepe, Roti Jala occasionally replaces rice in the Malay home for meals. The batter is made from a mixture of plain flour and eggs, with a pinch of turmeric powder and butter that gives it a distinctive yellow colour. A special cup or mould with small holes is then used to make the lacy crepe which is cooked over a hot griddle
Source: Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide More at http://www.kuala-lumpur.ws/food-dining/