In June, A and I spent two weeks in Malaysia to visit A’s sister and family, who are currently living in KL. This was my first trip to Asia and I really enjoyed our time there. Even though this trip was primarily made to visit family, we aimed to try as many Malaysian specialities we could. I’ve documented below our experience, including visits to Penang and Malaka.
Nasi Lemak – Known as the unofficial national dish and breakfast favourite of Malaysia, Nasi Lemak was definitely my favourite dish of the trip. There are two versions – rice steamed in coconut milk and served with ikan bills (deep-fried anchovies), wrapped in a banana leaf (perfect for those on the run), or the full plate version which also includes fried peanuts, sliced cucumber, half a boiled egg, sambal (chilli sauce) and a selection of curries. I had quite a few versions of this favourite, both at hawkers and restaurants, and my favourite version was from Madame Kwan’s, which was actually voted Malaysia’s best Nasi Lemak by Ministry of Tourism Malaysia. I think the winning factor is Madame Kwan’s amazing chicken curry!
Roti Canai – A and I couldn’t help but order roti canai whenever we were out – this Indian-muslim style flat bread is soft, buttery, fluffy and flaky all at the same time. Paired with curry dahl and costs around RM1-2, this is the perfect pre or post-meal snack you could wish for. Our favourite version was from notorious Devi’s Corner in Desi Sri Hartamas, which we visited quite a few times in our two week holiday.
Roti Pisang – Roti Canai but with chopped banana and sugar inside. So good!
Curry Mee – This would have to be my favourite dish to order in Australia when I’m feeling like soup – known as curry laksa in Australia and South East Asia. This fantastic dish consists of curly egg noodles served in a spicy coconut-curry soup, garnished with bean spouts, prawn, cuttlefish, cockles, bean curd and mint. This version was from Mews Cafe (housed in the B&B called Muntri Mews – which we highly recommend staying at!) and it was fantastic. I could of easily lived on this for days.
Rendang curry – I would’ve been disappointed in myself if I didn’t try rending curry while in Malaysia. I mainly ate this from Hawkers, where the food was kept in bain marie’s. I have to admit that I worried about getting sick (mainly because I didn’t want to lose any eating time) from food out in the elements, but I needn’t of worried. Pictured below is my piled plate from Devi’s Corner, featuring rendang curry, rice and ayam goreng (fried chicken).
Char Kway Teow – I had a few versions of this delicious noodle dish but my favourite was while we were in Georgetown, Penang at Kedai Kopi Ho Ping. The secret behind a great char kway teow is the heat of the wok – the higher the heat, the tastier it is. Char kway teow is seen as a Penang favourite, which can be eaten at any time of day. This fantastic noodle dish consists of fried flat rice noodles which have been slightly charred and leave a smoky aroma, with garlic, prawns, seasoned soy sauce, bean sprouts, egg, chives and cockles. If the stall you venture to is non-halal, it will also probably feature Chinese sausage or bits of lard. Delicious!
Nasi Goreng – This spicy rice dish is supposedly a signature Penang indian muslim food that has a thick spicy tomato gravy. I loved this dish – which was spicy but flavoursome.
Assam Laksa (also known as Penang Laksa) – This laksa was ranked 7th in CNN’s “world’s 50 most delicious foods” of 2011 and I’d been told that I had to try this dish while in Penang. Assam Laksa is the only noodle dish in Penang to have a fish-based broth, which is made with poached, boned mackerels stewed together with lemongrass, chillies and assam (tamarind). Assam laksa is served with thick rice vermicelli, sliced onions, cucumber, lettuce, red chillies, and mint leaves.
Durian – Before heading to Malaysia, I had only heard about Durian – I hadn’t seen one, nor smelt one, however I had heard in great detail both of these aspects of this fruit. A, Ben (bro-in-law) and I decided that we’d try Durian at a street side vendor, where you sit on plastic chairs on the sidewalk and enjoy Durian.
Gloves were provided and we each took a slice. The smell is definitely overwhelming but I think we all felt that the texture and taste where more notable – with the texture similar to avocado but with an oniony taste. I’m glad I tried it but I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste but I will definitely try Durian in an ice-cream form.
OTHER NOTABLE DISHES
Malaysia is known as ‘truly Asia’ and there are so many Excellent stalls and restaurants with other Asian cuisines on offer.
Hainanese chicken rice – Steeped chicken with rice, served with chicken broth, a hot chilli sauce dip, light soy sauce and a ginger and garlic sauce. Definitely a dish to order if you enjoy clean eating.
Tandoori Chicken – We enjoyed an Indian/Pakistani feast in Melaka at Pak Putra Restaurant. The clay tandoori ovens are perched on the footpath of this restaurant and you can watch while naan and chicken go in and out of these ovens.
A’s sister and husband took A and I to dinner at My Elephant in Sri Hatamas, an excellent Thai restaurant. My favourite dish of the evening was the Gai Tod Gratiam Prik Thai (fried chicken strips with kaffir lime leaf, garlic and crushed Thai peppercorn). I also enjoyed making my own Miaeng Kum, daun kaduk wraps with coconut crisps, peanuts, dried shrimp and assorted condiments topped with a sweet and sour tamarind plum sauce.
Soto Ayam – An Indonesian chicken noodle soup in a spicy yellow sauce with lots of lemongrass flavour – it’s delicious!
For my pre-birthday dinner, A took me to Cantaloupe Restaurant for an amazing dinner. Cantaloupe is located at the top of the Troika building in Kuala Lumpur, overlooking the KLCC park and the Petronas Twin Towers. This beautiful dining room was the brain-child of Melbourne interior designers Hecker Guthrie.
We chose the four course set menu. Each dish was excellent and showcases some amazing skills but there were two dishes that stood out on the evening – the Le Canard Confit (house-made confit duck leg, breaded and fried duck rillettes, mustard cream sauce, mashed potato with a duck glaze and potato crisps) as well as the simply named Chocolate dessert.
Now, even though this dish was simply named ‘Chocolate’ it was anything but simple. I’m going to name it the best dessert dish I’ve tried and has since overtaken the Snow Egg I was lucky enough to sample at Peter Gilmore’s Quay restaurant. This dish was phenomenal – Guanaja chocolate ganache, crisp meringue, manjari chocolate aerobat, salted caramel foam, vanilla sauce and candied nuts. The chocolate wasn’t overly sweet but had a rich, strong flavour. The sweetness of the dish came from the salted caramel foam and vanilla sauce. The aerobat was super light and made you slowly sample each bite so you could enjoy every mouthful. The crisp meringue and candied nuts added texture and surprisingly, everything went amazingly well together. It was a delicious dessert that I highly recommend sampling.
Georgetown – A and I really enjoyed walking around Georgetown and even though we spent nearly three days there, we still didn’t see everything. This UNESCO World Heritage town is split into districts, all of which are distinct. Whether you stumble upon the Colonial district, Chinatown or Little India, there is so much to see.
During our visit to Georgetown, I learnt that some pre-war vacant buildings in Georgetown are being used for multimillion dollar Swiftlet farming. Edible bird’s nests are seen as delicacy in China and Malaysia is the third largest producer of bird’s nests. During our visit to Georgetown, we saw a few buildings that were still being used as Swiftlet farms. They’re easy to spot – lots of tiny birds flying in and out of these empty buildings which boarded up to keep dark for attracting swiftlets. These farms pose a health risk to those who live close by and they threaten the city’s Unesco World Heritage status. You can read more about the issue here.
A and I loved the streetart around Georgetown. We only ended up seeing a handful of the art scattered around the town. These three were my favourite though.
I also loved seeing the Clan Jetties in Georgetown. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, Weld Quay in Georgetown was one of the world’s most thriving ports. Soon, a community of Chinese grew up around the quay, with floating and stilt houses built along rickety docks. Today these jetties are seen as tourist sites but still house low income families.
From Georgetown, we took a taxi to Batu Ferringhi, a beachside resort town. My favourite bit about this area was going to the Penang Butterfly Farm. We’d read mixed reviews on TripAdvisor before we went but we really enjoyed spending time with fluttering butterflies.
When we went to Melaka, A’s sister gave an excellent recommendation to do a Melaka River Cruise. The cruise cost us RM10 each and it was a great way to see the comparison between old and new Melaka, with lots of wall art to view as well.
We purposefully headed to Melaka on a Friday so we could go to the Jonker’s Walk night market, held every Friday and Saturday evening. These markets are crazy busy but offer lots of different stalls selling a variety of objects and better yet, food!
In Kuala Lumpur, we really enjoyed staying outside the town centre. However, within the city centre, the main attraction seems to be the endless amount of huge shopping malls. It was fantastic seeing the Petronas Twin Towers and we were lucky to have a great view from our hotel room. We stayed at the Traders Hotel, which also houses an amazing rooftop pool/bar area that’s open to the public. Perfect for viewing the Twin Towers.
A very special thank you to Deb and Ben, who were fantastic hosts and tour guides, with Deb providing some fantastic recommendations for our trip to Penang and Melaka. A and I loved our time with you in Malaysia. Lots of love xx