When I visit foreign countries, I always eat local food. Most of the time it’s like playing Russian Roulette: will I survive this time or not. Up to now, I survived through nine trips to India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, Fiji and Singapore. I guess, I am reasonably lucky (or careful?).
So on my recent trip to Malaysia I was up to the next challenge. And what a challenge it was….
I’d like to say straight away that there are lots of photos of Malaysian dishes and raw products. Some of them look great and tantalising, some of them look aesthetically unpleasing. Just bear with me one more time, please.
FOOD COURTS AND STALLS
My first meal in Kuala Lumpur was in a large food court. Lots of similar looking restaurants, lots of strange food names. Not many rang any bells. Suddenly I recognised the word Laksa. What a relief! I knew what it eass and I actually really like it. But it was not the Laksa I expected. Very pungent, lots of chili and a very suspicious colour.
The next meal was in a different place. To be safe I ordered the hot pot with chicken and mushrooms. Neither my tiny friend Sam, nor me liked it. It was dry and boring.
Lonely Planet highly recommended trying Roti Chanai (comes with dahl) and Teh Tarik, which is a specialty of Muslim restaurants in KL. I LOVED both of them. The roti was flaky and crunchy and the “long tea” was really tasty. I had a second helping. Two of everything in this picture cost me 4.60 ringgits, which means 1.5 AUD.
This man is making Teh Tarik – the name of the drink comes from the special pouring process – or ‘pulling’ – the drink during preparation. They use condensed milk for this tea.
On the way to the hotel I bought myself a dinner: rice and three mains (about 5 AUD). I decided on fried fish, okra and chicken kebab. The seller asked me if I knew what chicken parts are on the stick. I shrugged my shoulders. “Chicken butts” – she whispered, looking closely at my face. Foreigners don’t eat that”. I replied that this is the best part of the chicken and left. I could feel her eyes on my back until I turned the corner.
One day after work my colleagues from Malaysia invited me to the proper restaurant in Kluang (small town in Johor state). There were certain dishes which I simply had to try.
Very light and fluffy bread with marinated duck and soy sauce is a must in this place.
This is a demonstration session on how to handle such a complex dish with chopsticks. After two not very successful attempts I asked for a fork.
There was also a special fish cooked in traditional sauce and nuts. Peanuts are everywhere.
Steamed veggies with oyster sauce.
Strange soup from deep fried tofu.
Traditional dessert with something reminding me of fresh bamboo roots, sweet broth and lots of ice.
Interesting, that I never eat at McDonald’s restaurants. But on one occasion when I went to visit Mini Malaysia Park (out of Malacca) and could not get a bus or taxi back to the town, I decided to eat at the local Maccas.
The menu is very similar to ours, but they had Chicken Porridge, which I had to try. Very watery overcooked rice with tiny pieces of boiled chicken and a bit of spring onion.
And McFlurry with boysenberry.
Breakfast at the hotel – Roti Chanai, Tek Tarik, fruits, chicken sausages and mango juice.
Roti Jala – literally means lacy or net bread. I bought myself a similar container, and will try to make them at home. Looks so easy.
MARKETS AND SUPERMARKETS
Visiting a local markets is so much fun. Never know what can be found there. These “noodles” are made from some vegetable and supposed to be part of a dessert.
Super fresh tiny lettuce.
Many different types of fish.
Huge crabs on ice. Sold by the kilogram.
I couldn’t figure it out if it was seafood or vegetables
I walked into one supermarket to get some chocolate. And found the frozen section with lots of semi cooked products.
Also many varieties of fish.
This interesting contraption is an ice-shaving machine.
Here is the best and probably the most dangerous part – street food. I was told to eat lots of this food as it it an actual representation of Malaysian cuisine. And so I did.
Sometimes I had no idea what I was eating.
I think the cooks had their doubts occasionally too.
Varieties are endless.
The majority was hot or very spicy.
If it’s not hot enough there is always chili oil
Fish and seafood are very common. The fish is eaten whole with the head.
Fish eyes are the delicacy.
I believe they are mushrooms.
Absolutely no idea, but it looks scary.
Some seafood and fish balls
This lady will cook to order.
Not sure if they are sweets or savouries
My colleagues strongly recommended trying this type of food. It works like this: I choose as many sticks as I want and the guy will dust it with spices and peanut paste and fry in boiling peanut oil.
This was my choice. Every stick is painted and the price depends on the colour. Hot sauce supplied in a plastic bag. Not very classy, but quite tasty. I paid 22 ringgits (about 7 AUD).
Part of the entertainment in historical Malacca is to visit Jonker’s Walk Night Markets. This is a very popular tourist spot, where people buy souvenirs, stroll along the shops and, of course, eat. This is a real street food place. I am so glad I stayed an extra two days to visit this market.
Below is mini-omelets from quail eggs sticks.
This is the same idea as with the food truck, only much cheaper.
This lady makes octopus balls. She needed a real skill as the balls were made in two parts. Very tasty, I tried.
Malacca’s Chinese specialty – Chicken Rice balls. chicken cooked in Hokkien-style marinade and served with small rice dumplings. Hot sauce is provided. I liked it, but would not order it again. (13RM for the dish, 5RM for coconut).
It was a long queue to this guy. I can tell you that it was vegetarian, probably with tofu and flat noodles. I found it quite plain. (4ringgits for a small takeaway container).
I was surprised to see two spoons provided. But it was probably a sign from above as right there and then I met a very interesting man Arnold from the Netherlands, and we finished this dish together. After that we decided to share all of our food, because then we could try more food. Great idea!
That was probably the best. Curry Chicken bread was bothering me for 2 days, but I realised that I could not finish it myself.
Arnold and I chose the smallest bread on display. A staff member came with large scissors and started to cut the bread.
Inside was the best chicken curry. And the bread was just fantastic- warm, soft and fluffy. While eating we also were promoting this food and two more couples decided to try it too. I want commissions now!!! (35 RM for a small serve).
I always thought that I was quite an adventurous woman. When Arnold and I decided to try scallops and these bamboo looking sticks with mollusc inside I was prepared to give it a try.
Observing the cooking method with a gas lamp, my determination started to wilt.
Ok, I have to admit, I could not do it. I ate a bit of the scallop, but quit straight after. Arnold said it was quite good, but too much garlic.
FESTIVALS AND SWEETS
I found a Donut King outlet in a shopping centre next to my hotel and ate one. I wanted something sweet so much.
Local sweets, look like marshmallows. Did not try.
Famous pineapple tarts in the making.
They are really nice, sweet and sour at the same time (1RM per cookie).
Some traditional cookies, look more like chocolate muffins.
We came for a free walking tour with the great guide Lingam. Kampung Chetty had finalised an election of the local council and celebrated it in style. Absolutely accidentally Arnold and I were invited for this festival. Lots of homemade sweets and drinks were offered to everybody, including us.
I felt so privileged to be a part of this celebration. Food was great, but too sweet for me. I started to feel an insulin rush.
I highly recommend visiting Malaysia. And don’t be scared to eat locally. If I survived all those experiments with food, so will you.