Introducing Malaysia

This week we’re eating the food of Malaysia, by Mr.’s request for “more familiar food”. Having traveled in Malaysia and lived in Singapore, Malay food fits that bill perfectly.

There are a few cuisines that are prominent in Malaysia, due to a mixed cultural population: Malay, Nonya, Indian, Chinese, Eurasian and fusions of these. I plan to make some dishes from each, except Indian, as there’s a restaurant I want to tell you about instead.

The Menu Plan

I am pretty excited, and I’m looking forward to making some of my favourite foods, as well as some new and interesting dishes I haven’t tried before. I will be using some of my own recipes, one or two internet-provided recipes, and I will be also using a book, The Food of Malaysia, by Wendy Hutton, which Melbournites can borrow from the Preston City Library.

  • Nasi lemak (tofu, sambal and coconut rice)
  • Kway teow (fried noodles)
  • Devil curry (curry)
  • Ais limau (lime cordial)
  • Nasi goreng (fried rice)
  • Nasir kerabu (herbed rice)
  • Ayam Masak Merah (red cooked “chicken”)
  • Rendang daging (“beef” rendang)
  • Asam laksa (sour nodle soup)
  • Sambal terong (spicy eggplnt)
  • Nonya wedding rice

The country: Geography

Malaysia is made up of the Malay Peninsula, between the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea, a number of islands in both the Strait and the South China Sea, and East Malaysia, which shares a border with Indonesia and with Brunei, on the island of Borneo.

On the peninsula Malaysia shares a border with Thailand to the North, and while they do not have a land border with Singapore, you can travel between the two countries via a Bridge that crosses the Johor Strait. The Capital is Kuala Lumpur.

Map, courtesy of

People and Economy

  • Population: 25,715,819
  • Median Age: 26.5 years
  • No of children born per woman: 2.92
  • Ethnic Groups: Malay 50.4%, Chinese 23.7%, indigenous 11%, Indian 7.1%, others 7.8% (2004 est.)
  • Religions: Muslim 60.4%, Buddhist 19.2%, Christian 9.1%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%, other or unknown 1.5%, none 0.8% (2000 census)
  • Languages:
    Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai
    note: in East Malaysia there are several indigenous languages; most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan
  • Literacy: male: 92% female: 85.4%
  • GDP per capita: $14,900
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.7%
  • Gini Index (indicates equity wealth): 46.1, which is 36th least equitable in the world. (Fairer than Singapore, less fair than the US)

Other Stuff

Malaysia is the first place on this blog (other than Australia) that I have actually visited, so I’m gonna share a little of my own info. I have to say, it is on the whole, entirely awesome. The people are awesome, the food is awesome, the weather is hot and sticky (but I kinda like that if I’m on holiday), its easy to get around, and the buildings, cultural difference, and natural sites are great. We had a whirl-wind tour of KL, Penang, Pulau Tioman, and Johor Nahru (for a wedding), and I’m looking forward to going back to explore further.

For the vegan traveller food is not too hard to come by, if you know where to look. At lunch there is often a Chinese Buddhist restaurant or stall open, with yummy buffets of vegies, mock and tofu. You can also get snacks such as sweet biscuits, rice wrapped up in pandan leaves, and nuts, which you can take with you to munch on while you wander, and when you find them its worth stocking up.

At breakfast and dinner you’ll have better luck looking for some indian food – say you want Jain Food. Dairy can be difficult to avoid in Indian restaurants, as it isn’t common to avoid it, and there are various languages spoken: the trick is to ask a question where “no” is the answer you want, such as, “Does this have dairy”, rather than than, “can you make it dairy-free”, as most wait staff are eager to please, and may to say “yes” when they don’t understand or are unsure, as well as when they mean it.

If you get really stuck there is always fruit, Ais Kechang (a mountain of red beans, shaved ice, colourful syrups, jelly and fruit), and drinks available at markets, and nuts, tofu-dessert and other snacks are around at any supermarket/grocery store.

Also, you can get drinks in a plastic bag. Just saying, awesome.

So, clearly, I’m looking forward to this week, hope you can tag along 🙂


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Steph says:

    I’m excited! I love seeing other people’s take on Malaysian food, since it’s the food I’m most familiar with (having eaten almost nothing but Malaysian food until I left home).

    Have to be careful when ordering ais kacang, as often it contains condensced milk.

    ps it’s ‘jain’ not ‘jane’ :o)

    1. Keira says:

      Thanks, I’ve fixed the post spelling-wise 🙂

      With the ais kacang, we just asked for no milk. It got us some funny looks and a few giggles (I don’t know if it was an odd request, or our pronunciation was off, or if we were just amusing), but it worked. We only got it at markets though, where you can be nosy and watch it being made and jump in when the condensed milk can comes out 🙂

  2. K says:

    Looking forward to this one too.

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