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The cuisine of a country is generally a microcosm of the nation and Malaysian cuisine reflects the multi racial aspects of Malaysia. Various ethnic groups in Malaysia have their dishes but many dishes in Malaysia are derived from multiple ethnic influences.
Grilled beef satay
Malay food is best characterized by its extensive use of chilli and/or coconut milk and frying method. Basically, having a Malay meal consists of a one-time serving of rice and various types of dishes served in bowls and plates (as opposed to course-by-course meal favoured by Western and formal Chinese dining). In traditional Malay meal, usually one can find a few servings of meat and/or fish dishes (cooked in varying methods), accompanied by a few servings of vegetables, and not forgetting, a serving of 'ulam', consisting of raw or steamed vegetables or leaves (most of which are highly beneficial for health) which are usually dipped into 'sambal belacan'-made up of belacan (shrimp paste) blended with fresh chillies (the hotter the better), and/or with some anchovies and tamarind juice. Methods for preparing 'sambal belacan' may differ from one household to another, but when asked, most Malays would say that having 'ulam' and 'sambal belacan' is a must if they were to have an authentic Malay meal. Malay food is best eaten at roadside stalls, hawker centres or at home.
Examples of Malay food include:
Satay is grilled meat on skewers served with slightly spicy peanut sauce.
Nasi lemak (literally rice in cream) is perhaps the unofficial national dish of Malaysia.
Asam fish is fish cooked in a sauce of the asam (tamarind) fruit.
Kangkung belacan is kangkung wok-fried in a pungent sauce of shrimp paste (belacan) and hot chilli peppers. Various other items are cooked this way, including petai (which is quite bitter when eaten raw; some older generation Malays still eat it as is) and yardlong beans.
Keropok lekor, a specialty of the state of Terengganu and other states on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia, is a savoury cake made from a combination of batter and shredded fish. Sliced and fried just before serving, it is eaten with hot sauce.
Kuih is usually a cake eaten during the morning or during midday.
Ikan Bakar, grilled/bbq-ed fish with either chilli,kunyit (turmeric) or other spice based sauce.
Ketupat and rendang is the most delicious cuisine which is served normally on Hari Raya festival.
Ramlee Burger is a Malaysian hamburger created by Ramlee Moknin, very popular in Malaysia and Singapore.
Nasi Dagang is the 'Nasi Lemak' of east coast Peninsula Malaysia, in the state of Terengganu and Kelantan.
Nasi Paprik originated from southern Thailand, rice with "lauk", typically chicken.
Nasi Goreng Kampung a type of fried rice, traditionally flavored with pounded fried fish (normally mackerel), though recently fried anchovies are used in place of it.
Desserts in Malaysia tend to make use of generous amounts of coconut milk. Some common desserts include:
Cendol. Smooth green rice noodles in chilled coconut milk and gula melaka (coconut palm sugar).
Ais kacang (also known as air batu campur or just ABC. "Ais" is a Malay spelling of the English word "Ice") Sweet corn, red beans and cincau (grass jelly) topped with shaved ice, colourful syrups and condensed milk.
Pulut hitam. Black glutinous rice porridge cooked with sago and served hot with coconut milk.
Bubur cha cha. Yam and sweet potato cubes served in coconut milk and sago, served hot or cold.
Honeydew sago. Honeydew melon cubes served in chilled coconut milk and sago.
A huge variety of tropical fruits are commonly served as desserts in Malaysia. The most famous is possibly the durian. Other popular fruits local to Malaysia include mango, pineapple, watermelon, jackfruit, papaya, langsat, rambutan, star fruit, banana and mangosteen.
Other food types
Malaysian Indian cuisine of the ethnic Indians in Malaysia is similar to its roots in India. Hands are washed before and the right hand is used during the meal.
Mamak (Indian Muslims) dishes have developed a distinctly Malaysian style. Available throughout the country, the omnipresent Mamak stalls or restaurants are particularly popular among the locals as they offer a wide range of food and some outlets are open 24 hours a day. They're fast, economical and perfect as a meeting place for a drink and snacks.
Chinese Malaysian food in Malaysia is derived from mainland Chinese cuisine but has been influenced by local ingredients and dishes from other cultures though it remains distinctly Chinese.
Nyonya food was invented by the Peranakan people of Malaysia and Singapore. It uses mainly Chinese ingredients but blends them with South-East Asian spices such as coconut milk, lemon grass, turmeric, screwpine leaves, chillies and sambal. It can be considered as a blend of Chinese and Malay cooking.
Thai food also features strongly in Malaysian cuisine and localised versions of Thai favourites like tom yam are widely available. Smaller pockets of migrants such as Filipinos and Indonesians also have set up shop locally, catering mostly to their exclusive clients. In Kuala Lumpur and other major towns, one can find more restaurants serving Japanese, Korean, Italian, American and other international cuisines.