Malay cuisine is well known for its aromatic blend of spices and herbs including the kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass, shallots and garlic, ginger and galangal, curry leaves, turmeric, pungent belachan (shrimp paste) and chillies.
Visit a Malay stall at any food centre and take your pick of nasi padang – a wide variety of spicy meat, fish, poultry, and vegetable dishes, served with rice. Also visit Carousel, a halal buffet in the heart of town, or other Malay restaurants to savour the Soto Ayam, a spiced chicken stock served with chicken and bean sprouts, together with your choice of a potato croquette or compressed rice cakes. Sit down to enjoy skewers of beef, lamb or chicken satay served with onions, cucumbers and the ubiquitous peanut sauce. Another signature dish on the Malay menu is the nasi lemak, packed in a banana leaf and beef rendang, a hearty dish made of large chunks of beef cooked with spices and herbs.
Another fundamental ingredient in Malay cuisine is belachan, a pungent dried shrimp paste, often combined with freshly pounded chillies to make the popular sambal belachan that serves as a sauce to add flavour to any dish. Neither Malay nor Indonesian cuisines include any pork for religious reasons, and are generally referred to as “halal”.
Most dishes use coconut milk to take the edge off the spicy curries. Freshly grated coconut is also used to garnish cakes and other types of desserts. Malay desserts such as cendol are usually very rich in coconut milk and impossible to resist if you have a sweet tooth, while ice kachang is a popular dessert made of flavoured ice with red bean and jelly.
Make your way to the cultural precinct of Kampong Glam to see the sights, and end the day at a coffee shop to try classic Malay cuisine that’s spicy and full of exotic flavours.