Five things I learned about Malaysian food

October 13, 2011 in Provisions,Restaurants

A few months ago, I could barely place Malaysia on a map, much less define its cuisine. I had never step foot in a Malaysian restaurant or dared to try the Malaysian drinks that Asian students in Melbourne seemed to love.

Coconut House Cendol Special drink, Malaysia Kitchen Melbourne Australia

The Malaysia Kitchen blogger ambassador program was an awesome experience, simply because it forced me out of my comfort zone–and it was a delicious result! Not only did I love taste-testing the wide variety of Malaysian food, but I’m so much more interested in visiting Malaysia and seeing if the Melbourne restaurants are as authentic as they claim. Until I can hop over to Kuala Lumpur, I’ll keep sampling all the carb-staples and jelly-filled drinks I can find.

Roti at Old Town Kopitiam, Malaysia Kitchen Melbourne Australia

It’s not for the Atkins diet: The mainstays of a Malaysian meal are flat bread, rice and/or noodles. The carb-heavy staples are key for soaking up curries and dipping in sauces, but they’re delicious in themselves. The roti is flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth delicious: honestly, I don’t think I’d be able to go to a Malaysian restaurant without ordering some now.

Noodles from Old Town Kopitiam, Malaysia Kitchen Melbourne Australia

Multicultural variety with something in common: One thing I loved about Malaysian food is that every restaurant seemed to be a little bit different: some were more influenced by Indian curries, some featured Singapore noodles, others had more Chinese flavors. But they were all spicy! The BBQ chicken at Coconut House featured the most delicious chili sauce: the kind of spice where it’s just a little too much, but you can’t stop eating it–even if you’re breaking out in a sweat.

Three layer teh at Coconut House Malaysian, Melbourne, Australia, Malaysia Kitchen
Buy a drink:
And not water or BYO! The Malaysian drinks rival the food for my favorite discovery. I have an awful sweet tooth, so I adore the iced drinks featuring evaporated milk. However, there is so much variety: I still want to try iced lychee,  fresh soy and hot tea with condensed milk. The three layer teh (pictured above) was my favorite, made of–from top to bottom–tea, evaporated milk and gula melaka (palm sugar).

Cendol special (pictured first in this post) is made of coconut milk, red bean, grass jelly and palm sugar. It seemed like everyone in the restaurant was drinking one, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing out. While I loved the coconut milk and sweet palm sugar, the texture of the red bean and grass jelly were just a bit too foreign for me to enjoy.

Nasi lemak snack plate, Coconut House Malaysia Kitchen Melbourne Australia

Go with a group: Most of the dishes are best served family style. Instead of entrees or appetizers, menus list “things to share.” The nasi lemak snack plate (pictured above) is considered the national dish of Malaysia and is traditionally served on a banana leaf. The Coconut House version included rice, small fried anchovies, pickled vegetables, roasted peanuts, a fried egg and a hot spicy sauce. Even for mains, it’s best to pick a few curries or spicy dishes with some rice or noodles: some variety to share!

BBQ Chicken Rice from Coconut House, Malaysia Kitchen Melbourne Australia

However, if you do go by yourself, a big bowl of laksa or a serving of chicken rice is an excellent choice. At Coconut House–where their chicken rice (pictured above) is “closest to home”–you can order a large or small serving of BBQ chicken, rice and soup for less than $10!

Sago Gula Melaka, rice pudding at Old Town Kopitiam, Malaysia Kitchen Melbourne Australia
The desserts are unreal: Stereotype or not, when I crave Asian food, I crave savory; however, I loved the super-sweet flavors of Malaysian desserts. One of my favorites was saga gula melaka at Old Town Kopitiam: made of sago “pearl” pudding, palm sugar and thick coconut milk, the tropical flavors shine through.

While Malaysia Kitchen may have paid for my meals, all opinions and photos are completely my own. Photos 1, 4, 5 and 6 are from Coconut House. Photos 2, 3 and 7 are from Old Town Kopitiam

  • This is a great start Christine! There is so much more to Malaysian food and you are right about restaurants being a little different. Authenticity is really subjective these days with the advent of modern cuisine but having an adventurous appetite and a hunger to try different things are good enough to discover new horizons.

  • Oh my yum! I don’t think I’ve ever had Malaysian food either, but this really makes me want to dive right in–especially because it offers so many spicy dishes, something Spanish cuisine seriously lacks. What a great program you’re involved in!

  • It all looks soooo yummy!

  • Aw man, this looks good. I think I might have to see if there’s a Malaysian restaurant in Austin… :)

  • I’m going to have to eat everything you’ve posted here when I hit Malaysia. =)

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  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed it–even though the Blogger Ambassador program is over, I’m still keen to try much more Malaysian food. Craving a big bowl of laksa for dinner tonight!

  • Anonymous

    It was really fun–such a great opportunity to try something new! Now I’m totally in love with Malaysian food–it’s a lovely spicy alternative!

  • Anonymous

    It really was–thinking about having a big bowl of laksa for dinner tonight, actually :)

  • Anonymous

    If there is, it’s definitely worth eating at–SO good!

  • Anonymous

    Here’s hoping I’ll get to try the real thing and get to Malaysia one day!

  • Now I’m dying to go back to Malaysia – I can drink teh all day l0ng! 

  • I have so much to try! I’ve only had the Beef Rendeng and the Mee Goreng (plus Roti) so far. I can’t wait to keep exploring!

  • I have so much to try! I’ve only had the Beef Rendeng and the Mee Goreng (plus Roti) so far. I can’t wait to keep exploring!

  • I have so much to try! I’ve only had the Beef Rendeng and the Mee Goreng (plus Roti) so far. I can’t wait to keep exploring!

  • I have so much to try! I’ve only had the Beef Rendeng and the Mee Goreng (plus Roti) so far. I can’t wait to keep exploring!

  • Anonymous

    Me too–anything with condensed milk! Love that super sweetness!

  • Anonymous

    It really was an awesome program–such a great way to get out and try new things! I’m a sucker for laksa though–such a delicious and spicy meal for SO cheap! Hard to find in Australia :)

  • I have never tried Malaysian food before but, yum, wow, it looks delicious. 😀

  • Anonymous

    Worth trying! I’m totally craving a three layer teh now :)

  • Fascinating post! Malaysian food is really delicious but know I have learned many curious details about it. Everything look irresistible.

  • camorose

    Malaysian is probably one of my favorite cuisines now!

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