November 11, 2014 By Shauqeen Mizaj

The Malaysian Delicacy


The street appeared vibrant and colorful, bustling with noises of the passers-by. Small rounded and lighted paper lanterns hung in a row on fine strings tied across the buildings lining either side of the street, lending the ambience an exotic allure. In the crowd consisting mainly of natives there were some tourists too, taking their evening stroll, shopping and sauntering by eateries exhibiting diverse range of local specialties. Night markets with white canvas tops and bright lights imparted a brilliant carnival-like atmosphere. All streets in Malaysia are as exuberant as this one and food here, as it is said, is a national obsession. Malaysians have a passion for good food and they dine out experimenting with delectable combinations in the local restaurants. The biggest part of the population seldom cooks at home because eating outside is part of the Malaysian culture. It is not uncommon to be greeted by the phrase ‘Sudah makan?’ (Have you eaten already?) in Malaysia.

Pasar Malam or the night markets usually opens in the evening, selling food, snacks and other goods. It is said that Malaysia’s best food is served at these open air ‘hawker stalls’ at the roadside. Sometimes you can see a sign in the stalls saying “approved by the Department of Health” ending all your worries about having to eat unhygienic food. The country’s cuisine is as authentic and elegant as is its beautiful landscapes with rich cultural heritage blending the Asian and European influences. Malaysia is home to several ethnic groups whose roots can be traced back to the colonial period. Thousands of immigrants found a living here blending into the culture and enhancing the fusion further. At different stages, Malaysia has found itself under the British, Portuguese, and Dutch rule, with significant migration coming from China and India in more recent times.

Heavy traffic along the Strait of Malacca, a vital shipping route during the height of the spice trade, led to the influx of goods and spices to Malaysian ports. Domestic reinventions of Chinese noodles, Thai-style stir-fries, and Indian curry dishes can all be found living harmoniously in the country. All these factors have contributed much to the country’s cuisine. It is incredibly varied and has a wide range of flavours and culinary styles. The dishes have rice as their main ingredient and would be served with meat, fish or vegetables. The meal is served all at once and not in courses. Spices are used generously. Coconut milk finds space in almost every dish lending its rich and creamy character to them. Lemongrass and galangal, a fragrant root belonging to ginger family, is also widely used in cookery.

Some popular dishes that you should never miss are nasi lemak (coconut milk steamed rice), sambal belacan (shrimp paste with pounded chilies) and beef rending (dried curry). The recipes follow.

Apam balik (Turnover pancake)


Plain flour – 170 gm

Rice flour – 100 gm

Corn floor- 30 gm

Baking powder – 2 teaspoon

Baking soda- 1/2 teaspoon

Salt – 1/2 teaspoon

Eggs- 2 large

Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon

Few drops of yellow colouring (optional)

Water / coconut milk – 250 gm

Castor sugar   -150 gm


Mix together the butter, sugar, roasted chopped peanuts, cream sweet corn, choc rice and cheese.


Combine all the flour, baking powder and baking soda and sieve.

Mix the salt, eggs, vanilla, colouring and sugar.  Slowly add the water and coconut milk or mixture of both.

Add little by little until you get a thin and smooth batter. Strain the batter and keep in the fridge for about 3 hours.

Take a small non-stick pan, rub with butter or vegetable oil and heat using a small fire.   When hot, ladle the batter in a spoon and swirl the pan. Make sure it covers the wall of the pan, for keeping the filling from oozing out.

Once you see the pancake starts to bubble, sprinkle your chosen filling.

Once the bottom side is done, flip the pancake.  Do not overcook.  Serve hot.

*You can choose your own filling and use coconut milk instead of evaporated milk or fresh milk.



Bean sprouts – a handful

Water spinach – a handful

Tofu puffs – 2, large, fried

(Tofu is also known as bean curd and is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. Deep fry the tofu blocks and you get tofu puffs)

Dough stick(Strips of unsweetened dough) – 1, fried

Green mango, pineapple, yam bean, cucumber – each a handful, peeled and sliced

Roasted peanuts- ½ cup, crushed



Tamarind pulp – 2 tbsp

Crushed red chilly– 1-2 tsp

Shrimp paste- 1 tbsp, roasted for about 20 mins

Sugar –2-3 tbsp

Lemon -1/2, juiced


Soak the tamarind pulp in a little water until soft. Strain it to get a thick puree. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and combine well to form a thick sauce consistency. This makes the dressing.

Blanch the bean sprouts for 10 seconds in boiling water. Remove from flame and leave to drain. Repeat with the water spinach.

Place the dough stick under a griller or in a hot oven for a few minutes to crisp up. Leave to cool.

Add the sliced fruit and vegetables to the dressing along with the bean sprouts, water spinach, tofu and dough stick.

Mix well, coating everything in the dressing. Spoon into serving bowls and garnish with the crushed peanuts.


Nasi kerabu

It is a traditional Malaysian dish that is famous for its blue rice. The rice is blue because of getting cooked in the blue extract from the dried flowers of the Clitoria ternatea plant which are vividly blue. It comes with many side dishes as well. Three of them are listed below.

Ingredients for rice:


Fragrant rice – 4 cups

Telang flowers – 10, cooked in 4 cups of water and filtered

kaffir lime leaves –3 (also called as makrut lime in English)




Cook the rice along with the kaffir lime leaves and the flower water, just like the normal rice.


Coconut sambal


Coconut sambal is similar to the Indian chutney adding a spicy accompaniment to Nasi Kerabu.



Shallots – roughly chopped, 3

Coriander leaves – 1 small handful

Fresh mint – 1 small handful

Red chili- de-seeded and roughly chopped, 1

Lime juice – 1 tbsp

Fresh grated coconut – 150 gms




Roast the coconut until brown.

Finely pound theshallots, garlic, coriander, red chilly and mint.

Mix it with fried coconut and season it with lime juice, white pepper and salt. Combine well.


Solok Lada

Solok lada is stuffed chilli cooked in coconut milk and makes an excellent side dish.



Large green chillies – 16

Mackerel meat – 180 gms

Grated coconut – 150 gms

Shallots – 8

Coconut milk – 200 ml/ ¾ cup

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste



Slit the chillies lengthwise for stuffing. Remove seeds and soak in water for about 15 minutes.

Blend together the fish, shallots, grated coconut.

Add salt and sugar to taste.

Stuff the mixed ingredients into the chillies.

Place the stuffed chillies in a pan, pour in the coconut milk slowly and add a touch of salt. Cover pot and simmer gently for 15 minutes until cooked and done.


Sambal Budu




Shallots – 4
Garlic – 1 clove
Turmeric – ½ inch
Red chilly – 2-3
8 Tbs budu – 8 tbsp (It is a fermented fish sauce and often used for flavouring)

kalamansi lime – 4, squeezed

Pound shallots, garlic, turmeric and chillies.

Mix in budu and lime juice.
Let it rest for 10 minutes


*Ayam Percik, grilled creamy chicken and sliced boiled eggs also form a part of Nasi kerabu.




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