( Comment : By profession, Sayak Bhanja is a Chartered Accountant and by self certification an ‘uber -omnivore’. He brings to Itiriti readers his notes on his gastronomic experiences from his days as a ‘traveling’ consultant. Happy Reading !!!)
It has been some time since I’ve bid adieu to my days of being a consultant of
the traveling kind, although it would be a lie to admit that I don’t miss it sometimes! Living out of a suitcase, like everything else, has its pros and cons, ups and downs, highs and lows (you should get the drift by now). Quite high on my list of, well, ‘highs’ is ‘food’.
Being a self-certified uber-omnivore and limited only by the ever-tightening waistline of my trousers, my travels across lands near and far have introduced me to a myriad of cuisines and dishes.
When my friend, Itiriti asked me for a ‘guest post’ (ahem), I did what most good, honest, hardworking consultants do…copy…and paste!
Originally ‘published’ in a periodical in my former organization, this post features the cuisines from my then ‘base of operations’…Kuala Lumpur .
Food in Malaysia is as rich and colorful as the country’s culture with each cuisine reflecting the fusion of the three main sub-cultures (Malay, Tamil and Chinese), while at the same time retaining its distinct ethnic flavor.
Venturing out into the streets of Kuala Lumpur, one is spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what and where to eat.
From hawker food courts to high-end restaurants, food options prevail in abundance and suit every budget.
Nasi or rice as it is known here, tends to be the staple food of the country, with Nasi Lemak, (a mouthwatering concoction featuring rice steamed with coconut milk and served with fried anchovies, peanuts, sliced cucumber, hard boiled eggs, and a spicy chili paste known as sambal) ruling the roost as the ‘national dish’!!!
For a more ‘substantial’ meal, Nasi Lemak can be served with a choice of Ayam (chicken) or Kambing (mutton) curries, or a spicy mutton or beef ‘stew’ called Rendang
Noodles-based dishes are also very popular and not without reason!!!
With a myriad of varieties, my personal favorite is the Char kway teow, a meal in itself, prepared by stir-frying flat rice noodles with soy sauce and your choice of meat and / or seafood…!!!
Some of the best Sino-Malay cuisine is available in the numerous Peranakan or Nyona restaurants in the city…if you’re looking for cheap, street-style Chinese grub, head over to Petaling Street in China Town…go for the Curry Laksa, you won’t regret it!!!
I would also recommend stopping by at a local Mamak (a local term for ‘Tamil Muslims’) stall to partake in the vast expanse of the buffet spread (where you pay for what you eat) and be introduced to some of the finest examples of fusion food that I have ever come across!!!
My meal of choice at a Mamak joint? Parathas (Indian flat-bread) with Mutton Curry and Teh Tarik (literally, ‘pulled tea’), the ‘national drink’!!!
In Malaysia, people with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed either – ‘must-haves’ are Cendol (‘a million calories of heaven’) and Sago Gula Melaka (tapioca pearls with coconut milk and palm sugar)
If you have the tendency of counting calories (not a good idea when in a Malay restaurant) or are looking for ‘lighter’ options, step into a Kopitiam (a traditional breakfast and coffee shop).
Here you can treat yourself to some Kaya Toast (Kaya being a jam of sorts made of eggs, sugar and coconut milk) and Kopi-O (aka Coffee black with sugar.
Being in the tropics, fruits of various shapes and sizes abound. Enjoy snacking on jackfruits, rambutans and dragon fruits and if you’re the daring kind…. the Durian <cue Jaws theme>.
Known more for its penetrating odour (many have compared it to ‘fermented diapers’) than it’s ‘almond-flavoured custardy’ taste (I for one agree with that definition), this ‘King of Fruits’ is banned in most hotels and means of public transport!!!
‘Must-visit’ places on your gastronomic itinerary while in KL should include Jalan Alor, a street (Jalan) lined with hawker stalls. I recommend the grilled sting ray and the stir-fried sea shells (despite my near-death experience in discovering that I was allergic to the latter!!!) Also visit Madam Kwan’s, a one-stop shop for some of the ‘top-ranked’ dishes from across Malaysia. The food courts in Suria Mall in the KL City Centre (KLCC), Pavilion Mall and Lot 10 Mall on the hip Jalan Bukit Bintang (JBB) are also quite nice with both domestic and international food choices.
Starhill Gallery on JBB (‘Bukit Bintang’ means ‘Star Hill’ btw) has some amazing (and pricey) restaurants. I strongly recommend the garoupa preparations at The Fishermen’s Cove!
I could ramble on about eating out in KL but all this typing has made me hungry!!! While this post does not cover any significant percentage of the wondrous offerings Malaysia has in the field of gastronomy (Durian deserves a dedicated blog all by itself), I hope reading it has got your taste buds all tingly with anticipation! So until next time…happy eating!!!
Photo : Sayak Bhanja