Blog of an aspiring foodie

Mmmmmmm . . . . . Malaysia

Posted by beer_chris on 27-January-2008

OK, I've been in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for just about 2 weeks exactly. No posts during that time has not been for a lack of material. A mixture of just about constant work and equally constant headaches has really led to quite limited time for tip-tapping away on the keyboard – I'm either at the office or asleep, it seems.

However, a lack of posts hasn't meant that the culinary scene in Malaysia is lacking – the truth is the opposite, in fact. Again – here for about 14 days – so far I've had authentic Malay food, chinese, singaporean, hainanese, southern indian (tamil muslim cuisine), southern indian vegetarian, japanese, american, continental/malay fusion, vietnamese and fresh seafood.

Whew! Although I've dined on room service and here at the hotel an embarrassingly high number of times, there are just so many options for meals here. The following represent a few thoughts on the experience to-date:

  • Malays love rice – maybe more than any other culture. 'Nasi' (rice cooked in coconut milk) is served with everything – and there are no rules meal to meal. You eat the same foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Tamil muslims are here in large numbers, and their 'mamak' stalls are everywhere. Mamak is a Bahasa Malaysia (BM – the malay language) word meaning 'Tamil Indian Muslim' and stall is what they call a food stand here. The mamak stalls are open 24 hours, and specialize in dishes served with 'roti' – a circular unleavened bread not unlike a tortilla. Mostly you get these filled with lamb (2 thin roti pieces with lamb meat in between and grilled) and with various curries on the side and with dhal (split lentils cooked, pureed and mixed with chili oil)
  • The other famous dish at mamak stalls is something called the tarik – pronounced 'tay tah-reck' and literally translated from BM as 'stretched tea'. It is hot tea mixed with sweetened condensed milk, and then poured back and forth from cup to cup (stretched) until frothy and mixed well. This sweet, milky drink is really tasty, and the way it is made is a 'Cocktail' style performance – the guys never spill even a drop, and often pour it in strange ways – basically throwing the liquid from cup to cup. It is quite a sight. Malaysia has to be the worlds number one consumer of sweetened condensed milk. And all this time I thought this was a singularly American canned food product.
  • Food is cheap here. Lunch at a nasi lemak stall or laksa (singapore noodle soup) stall with a drink runs somewhere around 6 ringgit – about 2 dollars. At a restaurant you would pay maybe 10 ringgit ($3.50, 4 bucks)
  • Places like Chili's and Tony Roma's are very popular here – but only serve beef ribs. No pork in this Islamic state! It's kind of strange not seeing baby back ribs at Chili's – but the kitchen cannot be halal if pork is even inside the restaurant.
  • McDonalds has a 'local' sandwich for Chinese new year called the 'Prosperity Burger'. It is just a beef McRib without the sauce. If that's what prosperity tastes like I'll stick with my poverty quarter pounder.
  • Malaysians love to eat, and they love to talk about food. I have so many conversations with my coworkers about what I ate last night, what I thought of it, what I am eating next. It's an obsession I can definitely relate to. Additionally, when Malaysians go to a food court or even a mamak stall, the first task is to find a table. They leave nothing to chance. Someone holds the seats while everyone else gets their food, and then that person goes to get their food. It sounds like perfectly reasonable behavior, but imagine doing this in a mall food court – it just seems strange to me, I can't get used to it.
  • Doughnuts are a big deal here. Apparently there is a place here called 'J Co' that has copied Krispy Kreme – and the lines start at just about 5 AM each morning for the pillowy things. I've not headed over to the mall where J Co is supposedly located, but everyone cannot wait to hear the American's opinion of these doughnuts.

Well, that's it for now. I'll be in Dubai in a week and home in two!

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