An Introduction to Malaysian Food
Malaysia is known for many things, one of the most legendary ones is food. Malaysia, situated in South East Asia, has been home to many different cultures.Given its location, trade and colonial history, it has been influenced greatly by different parts of the world. It has a very diverse population consisting of many different ethnic groups, with over half the population being Malay, one quarter Chinese, and about 7% Indian.
As a result, Malaysian food is very mixed, with influences from many different cultures from around the world. The food is mainly influenced by Thai, Chinese, Indonesian and Indian cuisine. These influences manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from the cooking techniques and tools used, to the exotic flavours and spices used in dishes.
The backbone of every Malaysian meal is rice, accompanied by generous amounts of fresh seafood, chillies, curries, coconut milk and always with plenty of spices. As Malaysia is a small island with a tropical, humid climate, surrounded by sea, it is easy to get fresh fish and tropical fruit and vegetables very cheaply. However, there is something for every palate, as Malay dishes can contain chicken, beef, mutton or fish, and unless it’s a Chinese dish never pork, as the food must be Halal. There are many Buddhist vegetarian restaurants, and Indian inspired dishes found in Malaysia are usually vegetarian too, never containing beef.
As a country that brings together many different cultures, the food is highly varied. Malaysian flavours are a unique combination of sweet, sour, rich and spicy, combined in a way unlike any other country’s cuisine.
Street food, whether in cities, villages or small towns, is almost everywhere in Malaysia. Streets, or ‘jalan-jalan’ in Malay, are paved with food day and night, with food stalls selling everything from noodles to satay skewers. There is so much to choose from, from Indian dishes, to Malay, and many different regional Chinese dishes. In Penang especially, situated on the Northwest coast, the street food scene is second to none.