MALAYSIA IS OF COURSE A LAND DOMINATED BY THE MALAY RACE, SO MALAY COOKING IS PRETTY DOMINANT HERE. The Malay cuisine itself varies from region to region, with the Kelantanese cuisine emphasizing on sweetish taste due to the liberal use of coconut milk and sugar, while Kedah food is spicier owing to the Indian influence since centuries ago. Nasi Lemak, a hearty meal comprising coconut rice, a slice of omelette, anchovies, a slice of cucumber and some chilli paste, and packed up in brown paper or banana leaf, is a popular Malay food. On the east coast, people dig nasi dagang, fragrant unpolished glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk and served with tuna fish curry. Nasi kerabu, another rice-based dish native to Kelantan, is served with local herbs and salted fish.
The most famous among tourists, however, is the satay -- skewed meat marinated in spices and grilled over charcoal fire. It is served with peanut gravy, rice cubes, cucumber and onions. If you spend enough time in the Malay restaurants of Kuala Lumpur, you are bound to hit upon this delicious dish.
Nyonya or Peanakan cuisine evolved out of a unique blend of Malay and Chinese cooking styles. It is characterized by sweet, sour, spicy and pungent flavors. Typical dishes include otak-otak (fish meat marinated in spices, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled) and itik tim (duck with salted vegetables. The cuisine is best tried in Nyonya restaurants which have become popular in recent years.
On the drinks and deserts side of things, chendol is a coconut milk beverage mixed with brown sugar (gula melaka), green starch strips and red beans. If you are more adventurous, try the "king of all fruits" -- that's right I am talking about the infamous durian. Love it or hate it this fruit cannot be ignored, and epitomises the "stranger than life" quality which is the East. Durians come creamy and fleshy with a big seed contained in several segments of one big, thorny fruit. It is said to be very healthy but the controversy of the durian lies in its toilet-like smell. "It smells like hell but tastes like heaven!" is a common assessment given by durian lovers. If you want to try durian remember that they are banned in many upmarket hotels due to that aforementioned obnoxious smell!
Al-Marjan: KLCC, Kuala Lumpur.
Reviewer Najah Nasseri wrote: "Al-Marjan offers Persian cuisine -- there's a variety of rice and meat dishes, dips (baba ganoush and hommus to name a few) and those grape leaf appetizers. Their dessert table was well-stocked with cookies (Jikon did a "Cookie Monster" with the sesame biscuits), Middle Eastern sweets, Arabic coffee and the best dates I've tasted in a long time. Ask for mint tea -- it's included in the RM43.70 nett (sic) price tag. Service was surprisingly better than during non-Ramadan days and it's unfortunate that they close early (we were the 2nd last people to leave) as the sweets, meats, and mint made for very lively conversation.
Kelantan Delights: Shop 418-419, Suria KLCC 4th Floor. Phone: 03/2163 4166. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is said to be one of the great Malay restaurants of Kuala Lumpur, situated inside one of the coolest buildings in the world -- the Twin Towers! As Malaysian residents will remember, Kelantan Delights used to have a stall in the food court where their legendary nasi dagang was the talk of the town (source: Fried Chillies.Com. Business must have been so good, they moved up to the classy restaurant section of KLCC on the fourth floor. Now as well as fine Malay food you get fine Malay ambience, such as only a self-contained restaurant can provide.
On the menu include such treats as kerabu pucuk paku ((Malay salad with fresh kampung vegetables, lime juice. onion slices and grated coconut), daging bakar (wood-fired roast beef with sambal), kerutuk and patin Assam pedas (spicy fish with high grade rice, cucumber and fresh vegetables).
Nonetheless, the nasi dagang remains the most popular dish at Kelantan Delights.
So far this review has been glowing, but not all diners have been delighted by Kelantan Delights. I found this opinion on Makansakan: "Prices are around the area of RM40+ (I can't recall the exact price, sorry), and I only went there because I was desperate, had luggage in tow and a bus to catch.
"There aren't that many Kelantanese dishes on offer (many a Kelantanese have told me that they'd never set foot in the place), it was more nasi campur on steroids. The most memorable part of that meal was the kuih raya, but in hindsight, it was more the novelty than anything else.
"Major downside: I expected that a local cuisine buffet would have teh tarik on tap. They didn't and they actually charge if you ask for it."
That's the good, the bad, and the ugly about Kelantan Delights.
Madam Kwan's: Suria KLCC 4th Floor.
A Malay favorite and one of the most popular restaurants in KL, pretty close to the similarly excellent Kelantan Delights. This is a little on the expensive side, with dishes costing between US$10 and US$20 -- you could safely eat on the street for a quarter of this price but if you want excellence and air-conditioned comfort, come to Madam Kwan's! Must-try's include their fried chicken, beef rendang and hokkien noodles, while the sweet dessert sago melaka is just the thing to finish a great meal. Dragontml wrote: "This is the kind of place that you'll probably meet friends with, come with the family once in a while or just when you have that plain craving for good Nyonya Chinese fusion cuisine.
"Nasi Bojari is a type of Indonesian coloured rice that comes with Assam prawns, beef rendang and deep fried chicken drumsticks. Or give the Nasi Lemak a try! It's rice cooked with coconut milk. Usually eaten with hard-boiled egg, cucumber, fried anchovies and sambal. For desserts, there's the typical ice campur, cendol, bubur cha-cha or sago gula Melaka to complete your Nyonya Melaka dinner experience."
Nasi Lemak Tanglin: Lake Gardens, near the Bukit Aman police headquarters and also near the KL Bird Park and Islamic Museum.
I believe I stopped here in May 2005 because after a long walk across the heart of KL, I was exhausted -- I needed to replenish on a can of Cola or soy milk, I can't quite remember! Next time I am in the area I will definitely dine here as well because this place is meant to be slamming in the food department! Shiewie writes: "The texture of the rice at Nasi Lemak Tanglin is excellent -- I haven't been in a while but a phone call to a friend who just went there for breakfast yesterday confirmed that it's still as good -- wonderfully al-dente rice -- the grains of rice are separate and do not stick together. Nasi Lemak Tanglin used to be the highlight of my Saturday mornings on the way to work - some offices here are open on Saturdays."
Senja Restaurant: Level 4, Suria KLCC. Phone: 03/382 0780.
Some of the types of delicious Malay food here include: sambal udang berserai, daging goreng berlada, kerabu sotong, jelatah jantung pisang, ayam masak opor, daging goreng berlada, sambal goreng ikan bilis dan kacang, and many more. You have been informed!
Soo Kee Restaurant: Jalan Imbi.
Do not let the simple wooden tables and chairs fool you: this place serves the best Malaysian Hakka dishes in Kuala Lumpur! Especially well known are the lobster noodles.
Songkhla Hawker: Jalan Sultan Sulaiman, in front of the post office, Chow Kit. (Turn a half-block east at the Pizza Hut on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.)
This review written by John Krich in The Asian WSJ (15 Nov 2002):
"I'm relieved that much of this amazing stall, claiming a whole corner of a broad side street in the Chow Kit neighborhood, is more or less in the dark. Because much of the food here is as indescribable as it is unfamiliar. I could see that I was served a plate of lemongrass-charged rice, nasi kerabu, topped with grated coconut. But I had to be told that the rice was blue, a north-eastern specialty achieved with natural coloring.
"The many cloaked and shy Malay ladies who ply their trade here hail from Malaysia's northernmost states of Kelantan and Kedah. Hence, loyal regulars have named the business after the Thai border town of Songkhla, and many dishes show a Thai influence-such as the beef curries and a fiery green mango salad, pounded to order with chilies and dried shrimps in a mortar a la Bangkok.
"While there are only a few stunted plastic tables for diners, there are three sections to this ambitious sidewalk enterprise. (Is this place the equivalent of a five-star hotel buffet for those on a one-ringgit budget?) One wing consists of numerous, spice-charged stews, including a coconut-tinged tuna curry. Another wing holds fresh roasted cockles that promise an intense burst of mollusk flavor. Sewing up Songkhla Hawker's selection is a central section displaying an astounding assortment of sweets. Scanning the rows of quivering rice and coconut balls, rolls, dumplings and porridges, I was reminded of my first sight of a Turkish bakery with its long display cases full of more variants of baklava than I thought could possibly be forged from mere filo pastry, honey and nuts. This time, the main materials at hand are tapioca and sago, banana and the nicely bitter molasses-like cane syrup Malaysians call gula melaka. But you don't need names here, just point and try, unless you like the sound of ordering bubur chacha -- a porridge featuring sweet colored nubs that resemble green beans turned to candy..."