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The Exotic Flavors of Malay Cuisine

Oct 12, 2007
Malay cuisines are one of the world's most popular as well as unique cuisines. Malay cuisine is yummy and exciting, and is an amalgamation of cuisines of three main ethnic groups, such as, Malay, Indian, and Chinese.

A strong influence of Thai, Indonesian, and Middle East culture is also prevalent in Malay cuisines. In other words, almost all racial groups have contributed much to the Malaysian gastronomic heritage. With such an amazing as well as sumptuous blend of cuisines available in the country, no wonder why Malaysia is considered the meeting point of both the Western and Eastern cultures.

Malay cuisines are exotic and are mostly spicy. They are also available in a range of other flavors, such as, sweet, sharp, and sour, which are created through the use of items including ginger, tamarind, cloves, lime, and lemon grass.

As mentioned earlier, Malay cuisine is a combination of Malay, Indian, and Chinese cooking styles, the fusion of which has led to the origin of several individual cuisines, among which most popular are Nyonya, Kedah, and Kelantanese. Nyonya cuisine is a fine blend of cooking styles of Malay and Chinese, and is mostly characterized by spicy, sour, and pungent flavors.

Additionally, this type of cuisine mostly consists of a range of spicy items such as turmeric and galangal, apart from ingredients like pandan leaf and laksa leaf. Kelantanese cuisines are akin to Thai cuisine. But, Kedah cuisine is highly influenced by Indian cooking styles and spices.

An integral element found in almost all Malay cuisines is rice. Noodles also form an important ingredient of most of the Malay cuisines. Also, popular for the preparation of Malay cuisine are ingredients such as mutton and beef. In addition, seafood items such as shrimp, squid, and prawns are also used for the preparation of Malay cuisine.

Since majority of the Malay cuisines are spicy, ingredients such as coriander, nutmeg, garlic, and clovers, are widely used in dishes. In most of the traditional style Malay cuisine, the essence of ingredients such as daun kemangi, bunga kantan, and pandan leaves can be experienced. Further, in order to provide a unique flavor to Malay cuisines, dried spices including fenugreek, cumin, fennel, and coriander are added. Also, found in excess in many of the Malay cuisines are items such as coconut milk, fresh chilli paste, onion, cucumber, and garlic. Above all, majority of Malay cuisine include the increased usage of Belachan, which is a paste like item made from dried baby shrimps. Belachan is usually added to provide a rich taste and flavor to dishes like gravies and sauces.

One of the specialties of Malay cuisine is that such ingredients as pork, alcohol, and non-halal meat are not used for its preparation. Another unique feature of Malay cuisine is its sweetish tinge due to the adding of a small amount of sugar along with salt. Discussed further are some of the most popular types of Malay dishes.

Satay is perhaps the most popular of the Malay cuisines. It is prepared with any of the meat items including mutton or chicken, which in turn is marinated with spice and grilled over charcoal. Then, it is served with items such as cucumber, onion, and peanut gravy.

Another popular Malay cuisine is sambal udang, whose prime ingredient is shrimps or prawns, prepared with Belachan, tamarind paste, tomatoes, and chillies. Beef Redang is also a great Malay cuisine that is primarily prepared during festivals such as Ramzan and Malay New Year.

Other popular Malay dishes are Ayam Masak Merah, in which chicken pieces are fried and cooked in tomato sauce; nasi lemak; lontong - a vegetable dish cooked with coconut milk; nasi goreng -a kind of fried rice cooked with prawns, vegetables, and egg; roti canai, a type of crispy pancake made from wheat flour; and ulam - an appetizing dish made using raw herbs and plants. Malay specialties also include a variety of noodles and vermicelli dishes, such as, laksa, which is served with gravy-like seafood soup.

Above all, Malay cuisine is much famed for its desserts, such as, Pulut Hitam -a rice porridge made from sago; Air Batu Campur (ABC) -a desserts prepared with items like jelly grass, sweet corn, condensed milk, and red beans; and cendol. Let it be any type of Malay desserts, ingredients such as palm sugar and coconut milk as well as freshly grated coconut are considered staple for its preparation.

Malaysia is home to a range of restaurants and food stalls, each of them serving a diverse range of Malay cuisines.
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