Flavors of Malaysia - A Journey Through Time, Tastes and Traditions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 May, 2012, 12:00am


Flavors of Malaysia - A Journey Through Time, Tastes and Traditions
By Susheela Raghavan

The cuisine of Malaysia, naturally enough, has its roots in the food of the Malays, but it's been influenced by cooks from other cultures who settled in the country or traded with it, including Chinese, Indonesians, Indians, Portuguese and Brits. The cuisine is a true melting pot - it's hard to detect where one influence stops and another begins.

In her book, Susheela Raghavan starts by giving the history of Malaysia before describing the ingredients, cooking methods and dishes each wave of immigrants brought to their new home. Over time, these cuisines were adapted to incorporate ingredients that were readily available and/or to suit the changing tastes of the people, to create a cuisine that is uniquely Malaysian. From marriages between Chinese and Malay cuisines, for instance, come various types of laksa, complex and well-spiced rice dishes and desserts such as sagu gula Melaka (sago with palm sugar).

Raghavan also goes into detail about how food is eaten in Malaysia (hawker stalls and kopitiam [coffee shops] feature heavily) and the cooking of the various regions. The recipes in the book include bakuteh (pork rib and herb soup); nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk, served with boiled egg, ikan bilis [fried anchovies], peanuts and cucumber); Indian-style fish curry; spicy fried chicken; chilli crab; stir-fried sambal shrimp and lemongrass lychee martini.