The Malaysian Cuisine: Food in Malaysia
Some say Malaysian food is disappointing. They're 100% WRONG! The Malaysian cuisine is in fact even more extensive than in neighboring countries as Thailand, Indonesia, China and even India. It's because of the ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese and Indian.
Do not make the mistake that Chinese and Indian food in Malaysia is not Malaysian. It is in fact just as Malaysian as the Malay food is. Many Chinese dishes are not available outside Malaysia, not even in China or Hong Kong. It's a bit different with the Indian cuisine which is closer to the mainland Indian cuisine.
Malaysians are very proud of their cuisine and the best, according to many is to be found in Penang.
Results of Nazlina's Cooking Class
It is of course disputable. Fact is that Penang with larger part of the population of Chinese have a huge food resource.
Best places to eat, typically, are the food court. These places are usually cheap and good, as everyone has to fight for their clients. Lousy food results immediately in lower sales and being out of business. You can easily get your fill for anything from RM 5-15 including drinks (alcohol ads up to the price and only non-Muslim places offer it).
The different racial groups in the country have each their own cuisine but there are countless overlaps too.
The National Dishes
You could say that nasi lemak is the national dish: rice with sambal, fried eggs, cucumber, sotong (squid) or chicken.
Very popular is roti canai, a kind of pancake eaten with sauce. Both are popular and easy to find breakfast dishes but can be found all day.
If you like soups, you are in the right place too. The variety is endless. Tom yam, curry mee, mee rebus, mee ketjap, kuay tow soup are a few to mention soups.
Laksa is very popular (the best laksa I found was in Ayer Itam, Penang, where there is a very famous roadside stall on the way up to Kek Lok Si. This is a must try.
Drinks can be anything, popular is ice-coffee, Chinese tea and balik but pepsi, soy milk and beer (in Chinese and Indian places only) are available. The typical Indian milk tea (teh tarik) is also popular and everywhere available.
Eating during the Ramadan
Food courts are always very popular, here in Gurney Drive in Penang
Ramadan is the fasting month of the Malays (Muslims). During the Ramadan the Malay restaurants and food stalls will be closed during day time.
Chinese and Indian restaurants and food stalls are normal open. During the Ramadan it is worth to explore the Malay food in the evenings. Many special dishes are prepared to break the fast. Dishes like rendang (beefstew) is only available during this period although some more upmarket hotels and restaurant do offer it outside the Ramadan.
Do not be surprised many hotels offer special Ramandan buffets in the evenings.
At the east coast, where the Chinese/Indian population is smaller then at the west coast, it may be a little more difficult to find your breakfast or lunch at day time. All over Malaysia the Kampungs are more traditional Malay and it will be harder to find food. Even shops in the Kampungs might be closed. In the cities you will always find a place to eat.
However, pay respect to the Muslim population and do not eat in front of them during the Ramadan.
Cooking Class in Penang
Nazlina's Cooking Classes are held in E&O Hotel in George Town on Wednesdays and in her own Nazlina Spice Station at Stewart Lane, a side street of Love Lane and close to Chulia Street, the backpackers area of Penang on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Nazlina is an exceptional chef with plenty of articles about her class published (USA Today (USA), New Strait Times, Malaysia Airlines (Malaysia), Daily Telegraph in the UK, several articles in Hong Kong food magazines but most of her publicity comes out of Australia, where people seem to enjoy cooking more than anywhere else.
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