Think Malaysia and think the heady eternal green of the jungle, the fragrance of wild flowers, the steamy warmth of the tropics punctuated by refreshing down pour of monsoon rain, the languid, meandering rivers teeming with fish, the leafy tropical trees with exotic fruits.. a meeting of cultures, a mingling of races.. and a wealth of delicious culinary heritage.
Variety is the spice in Malay food. The traditional culinary style has been greatly influenced by long ago traders from neighboring countries –
, Indonesia , the Middle- East, India . Many of the spices and ingredients essential in Malay cooking were introduced by the Indians and Arabs.. spices such as pepper, ginger cardamom. China
Malay food also varies quite significantly across the country. Each of the 13 Malaysian states has its native specialties. Even the best known Malay ‘satay’ – cubes of meat, poultry and even seafood, marinated in a deliciously spiced sauce and then skewered on bamboo sticks, roasted over glowing charcoals, and eaten dipped in a peanut sauce- differs in flavour from state to state.
The basic pattern of Malay cooking lies in the preparation of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ spices used to flavour the dish. The ‘wet’ spices include shallots, ginger, garlic, fresh chillies, fresh turmeric and are usually pounded in mortar and pestle or batu lesung if used in small amounts. The ‘dry’ spices are coriander, cumin, aniseed, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom.
Malay curries are delicately flavoured with various herbs and leaves – serai or lemon grass, lengkaus or galangal, daunlimau parut or fragrant lime leaf, daun ketumbar or coriander leaf and the karuvapillai or curry leaf.
The mainstay of every meal is rice, a generous steaming helping of it, accompanied by a selection of lauk or dishes, including fish, vegetables, poultry and sambal.
By : Devraj Halder