written by: Katie Cruz
It’s fair to say that Southeast Asia is a popular destination for traveling due to the accessibility and affordability of the region. Visiting Southeast Asia is always a good idea if you want to enjoy spectacular landscapes, beaches, exotic cuisine and tropical climate. While there are many countries to visit in the region, I will highlight one country that is incredibly rich in culture and cuisine – Malaysia.
The Malaysian culture
A country that has a multicultural society with a shedload of colorful history. Thousands of years ago, large waves of people migrated to the Peninsular Malaysia from mainland Asia, as it was easily accessible through the Indian Ocean. What shaped the budding country was the many foreign trades and customs that arrived in the land. Right now, the Malays make up the largest sector of the Malaysian population, followed by the Chinese and Indians.
In this day, the culture of Malaysia is multi-faceted due to the unique combination of ethnicities, yet each still manages to preserve their own individuality, beliefs and practices. The population of Malaysia predominantly practice the Islam religion, but foreign influences are also widely practiced as integral parts of the Malaysian life, such as Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Remarkable events happen in Malaysia every year, with festivities of all of these different cultures, such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Thaipusam and Deepavali. As such, the marrying of cultures is the result of Malaysia’s melting pot of exotic cuisines as it is now home to some of the world’s best dishes. Hence Malaysia is known as the “Food Capital of Southeast Asia”.
Breaking into Malaysia’s way of life
A pivot of different cultures, each of which have brought in all kinds of flavours to create a vibrant cuisine Malaysian cuisine is not limited to its local flavours of Malay, Chinese and Indian, but other continents have brought over an astonishingly strong influence as well.
For instance, Japanese cuisine has garnered a mass following due to its new trends for delicious bites. Nowadays you can find famous Japanese treats that are currently being hyped in Malaysia, like the Kakigori, baked cheese tarts, Taiyaki ice-cream, Teppanyaki and authentic ramen noodles. Time after time, the culinary landscape of Malaysia has gone through numerous blends of ethnicities between East and West while keeping up with its classic dishes. Malaysia’s food scene has successfully expanded to fit into the spaces of various fusion palates of the different nationalities and is even now spreading across the country.
Scrumptious delights in Kuala Lumpur
Those who are adventurous on broadening their palate should take Kuala Lumpur as a starting point of their culinary journey. One can never find a better local fare spread than the heart of Malaysia. You don’t need to search high and low for the best version of Malaysian food and amazing options for international cuisine. Every bite in this city is meant to be savored because Kuala Lumpur’s food scene is a way of life.
Only in Kuala Lumpur you will find the best of dishes that have been inspired by Thai, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian and myriad of other countries’ cuisine. Here is a glimpse into the food heaven. At 11am on a Sunday morning, hole in the wall restaurants are absolutely brimming with patrons. Here, there’s no menu, just mouthwateringly unctuous and spicy chilly pan mee. A dish comprising minced pork, poached egg, dried anchovies and homemade noodles – no fuss or frills. This is a pure indication of Kuala Lumpur’s relationship with food.
In the corner of every street, you will probably see a man grilling celebrated chicken wings on a charcoal heated grill, the smell perfuming everywhere. Deep, charred reddish brown, with a subtle spiced flavor. For about RM1 (0,25 US$) per stick, you can get savory lamb, chicken and beef satay too. Kuala Lumpur’s cultural mix doesn’t end there with the three main groups. Take roasted stingray for instance. This absolutely tasty Portuguese influenced dish comes with tangy chili sauce on the side. It offers an amazing contrast of flavors and textures with its crispy skin and soft white flesh.
As you explore the city, you might stumble into a German themed stall dispensing European beer or find rich minced pork noodles and beef meatball soup from a restaurant that has been around since 1945. Who knows what you might discover. Walking around the city is a fantastic way to truly get to know Kuala Lumpur’s unique mix of cultures that has created a fascinating fusion of simple yet delicious dishes. Kuala Lumpur may be gleaming with skyscrapers and shiny malls, but the soul of this city is in its food and as cuisine is becoming more and more influential on the way we travel, Kuala Lumpur’s diverse cuisine is now attracting many more travelers than just foodies.