Let me take you on a journey of tastebud tingling excitement. Come with me to salivate over but a handful of what I could fit in during my short trip back to Singapore & Malaysia a few weeks ago.
It’s been 6 years since I was there last. Although I was born and grew up in England, I spent 5 years of my teenage life living in Malaysia and schooling in Singapore. The majority of my extended family also lives in these 2 countries.
So it wasn’t so much of a holiday but rather a major catch up with family and friends and a race to savour some of my most favourite and missed food delights. These dishes can generally be found in both places. Some will be native, others introduced and influenced from other parts of South East Asia. Either way, 6 years was worth the wait in every.
1. Roti Prata
Cereal for breakfast? Meh! Ok, it’s not necessarily the healthiest option, especially not when paired with sweet tea, but it definitely gets you going in the morning! I can best describe this as a crispy pancake, folded over during the cooking process to create layers, that’s served usually with curry, or in my sister’s case, doused in sugar. Regular roti prata kosong comes plain, but if you ask for roti prata telur, they will spread an egg over it before folding so that you have a layer of egg in between the folds.
2. Nasi Ambang
I believe this dish actually comes from Indonesia, which would make sense since I was introduced to it by an Indonesian friend currently living in Singapore. It’s a great sharing dish whereby individual portions are equally placed in the same serving dish to be enjoyed together with friends. It will usually consist of white rice, a curry, vegetables and fried coconut flesh.
3. Kaya Toast
The name says it all really, kaya (an eggy, coconut jam) spread on a thick slice of buttered toast. Great by itself for either breakfast or a snack, it’s also often served with 2 half boiled eggs and some tea.
Meat on sticks, quite literally! But done the right way, charred and not grilled with a chunky peanut sauce, ketupat (compressed rice) and fresh cucumber. I think I have only ever found one restaurant in London that comes anywhere close to what I consider authentic satay so I would gladly welcome any suggestions for other places to try out.
5. Nyonya Cuisine
Nyonya often refers to women of mixed ethnic Malay and Chinese descent. Sometimes known as Peranakan, they are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who settled across Singapore and parts of Malaysia. I like to think of myself as Nyonya since I’m of mixed Chinese & Malay heritage too :) The cuisine is a fusion of Malay food interpretted with Chinese ingredients. Melaka or Penang in Malaysia would probably be your best bets at finding some really good Nonya food.
6. Fresh Sugar Cane Juice
The sugar cane press is much like a lasagne sheet maker in that the canes are continually flattened and folded through, each time squeezing out a bit more sweet and irresistible juice.
7. Ramly Burger
So we shall end this culinary tour with what can only be described as the iconic Malaysian street burger. Although you’ll now find lots of variations and burgers being sold under different names, the basic burger is essentially a meat patty wrapped in a fried egg with chilli sauce, cabbage and soy sauce. Total noms! I have it on good authority that (at least in Malaysia) you should usually be able to find a vendor outside 7/11 stores. I know it looks like a total slop of mess, but seriously, it’s such a good slop of mess…
Chinese Wedding 8 course meal
Not quite done, I thought I’d sneak this one in too… I do realise that not everyone will have the pleasure of attending their friend’s amazing wedding whilst on holiday, but I wanted to highlight all these beautiful dishes anyway. Everything was super super yummy and I was trying to pace myself so that I could savour every single dish. From what I understand 8 is a lucky number as it rhymes with the words ‘to prosper’, but don’t quote me on that!
I seriously had to limit myself as this post could have gone on forever about all the amazing food there is to be had. I barely even scratched the surface… Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to save up to head back again very soon.
Do you have a favourite South East Asian delight? Let me know :)