The cuisine of Malaysia is more than exciting. As the country is a home to people from India and China, Malay dishes are heavily influenced by these cooking traditions, in particular by the Cantonese and South-Indian cooking styles. Also, for historical & geographical reasons, the Arab, Thai and Indonesian cuisines left their mark on the cooking styles in Malaysia. The dishes are typically very flavourful and exotic.
Malaysian cuisine uses lots of rice, noodles, chilies and curries and plenty of coconut milk for sauces, which makes many of its dishes smooth and tender. You will encounter tropical fruits, lots of vegetables and seafood & poultry, too.
Famous dishes include “nasi kandar”, i.e. fish curry served in chill sauce with meat and boiled eggs; “nasi dagang”, i.e. glutinous rice in coconut milk with fish curry and “nasi lemak”, a rice dish cooked in coconut milk served with anchovies, boiled egg, cucumber and peanuts. “Roti canai” is a favourite breakfast item in Malaysia, which is a savoury type of exotic pancake. “Satay” is very popular too if you are a meat-eater. Bite size beef, mutton or chicken marinated in spicy sauce and barbecued over charcoal fire is served on a bamboo stick. It is served with “ketupat”, i.e. rice cake and salad and is accompanied with a sweet & spicy sauce. “Nasi goreng” is the local fried rice, mixed up with meat, prawns, egg and vegetables. “Char kway teow” is a noodle dish in a soy sauce & chill paste, served with garlic, prawns, bean sprouts and eggs. And there are many-many more dishes in Malaysia that are worth trying if you are in Malaysia, or if you encounter a Malaysian restaurant elsewhere.
In Malaysia, you will find that the dishes vary from region to region. Each area of the county has its own cooking tradition, therefore cooking methods, side dishes and even ingredients may vary. Be prepared for regional variations and explore regional gastronomic traditions with an open mind.
Food tends to be delicious and cheap in Malaysia. You may dine in a restaurant or just grab a plate at a food stall. You will probably find something mouth-watering.
Today, I bring you a vegetarian recipe which is inspired by Malaysian cuisine, by Simon Rimmer, from BBC Food. Nonetheless, I modified it slightly to make it healthier, without loosing the wonderful symphony of flavours of the original recipe.
For the spice paste:
- 10-25g/1oz fresh ginger, peeled, according to taste
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- Half to 2 red chillies according to taste
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- pinch of salt
- 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
For the sauce:
- 400ml/14fl oz can coconut milk
- 250ml/9fl oz vegetable stock
For the noodles:
- 150g/5oz fresh tofu, cut into small squares, dried on kitchen paper
- 20 oyster mushrooms, finely sliced (other mushroom types can be used if you can’t get hold of oyster mushrooms)
- 8-15 sugar snap peas or mange tout, blanched, cut in half lengthways
- 400g/14oz udon noodles, cooked according to packet instructions
- fresh coriander leaves
- lime wedges
- crushed peanuts
- For the spice paste, place all of the spice paste ingredients, except the vegetable oil, into a food processor and blend to a pulp (add a bit of water if it does not mix easily).
- With the motor still running, gradually add the oil and continue to blend until you get a loose paste (you may not need to use all the oil).
- In the meantime, cook the udon noodles according to packet instructions.
- For the sauce, place a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the spice paste and fry gently for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms to the paste and fry it gently for a a few minutes to release some of its juices.
- Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a further five minutes.
- Add the cooked udon noodles to the coconut sauce.
- Add the tofu cubes to the coconut sauce.
- Add the sugar snap peas (or mange tout) to the sauce and stir well to combine.
- To serve, spoon to the curry into serving bowls and garnish each with fresh coriander leaves, lime wedges and crushed peanuts, to taste.
Enjoy this flavourful, summery Malaysian style dish, as a gentle introduction to the Malaysian cuisine and let us know what you think!