Pairs Well With…Malaysia + Sipping + Sampling + Pushing Food Boundaries
Riddle me this: how do you go to another country and not eat everything? If anyone has the answer, please let me know. Eating, like life, is a balancing act. The way I figured, all the walking and workouts would balance out the u-turns in my highly regimented eating. Previously regimented eating, that is. What can I say? A girl’s gotta eat.
I went through a phase of two bites of this and a handful of that as I worked Jalan Alor like RuPaul worked the runway in the 90’s. And I worked it. Now, you may be thinking to yourself based on my Instagram, “Holy shit, this girl ate a million things in Asia!!!” Yeah, well, roughly 35 days of being in Malaysia, and we’ll call it two meals and some snacks a day, equals don’t you dare judge me! Because if you are, a couple things are probably happening here:
- You’re having “Food FOMO” and are jealous that what I’m eating is better than what you’ve got in your pantry.
- You’re hangry right now and are about to drool over the best part of this article – the pictures. I’ll get there…hold your horses.
- You’re just jealous that you’re not here. (And completely understandable.)
Malaysia is a bit of a food bonanza if you ask me. The flavors and meals of the country are heavily influenced by Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures. I stepped out of my comfort zone and braved the runny eggs, mystery meats, meat floss (yes, I did try it) – and even some seafood. I truly enjoyed everything I sampled…almost. Minus the bull penis soup that is. #yesyouheardmeright #neveragain
Okay, so why am I, Ms. Carin Across the Globe, telling you what I’m eating? Simple. Because I want you guys to partake in this journey with me, even if we’re on different ends of the globe. I was perusing aisles in stores aimlessly and taking notice of all the foreign items on the shelves, picking a few up to try along the way. I’d find myself saying, “Ooooh, my sister would like this” or “If I were at home, I’d totally make and bring this to my next Culture Club get together.”
Well, one thing led to another and I put together the A Girl’s Gotta Eat Guide to Malaysia as an idea starter for your next at-home dinner party, out of your comfort zone cooking attempt, or girl’s night in. It includes a few of the best must-try local recipes featured below and the most curious, fun or just plain tasty local products. (To be completely honest, half the time, I couldn’t read the package, so I superficially picked the products based on looks alone, but only recommended the yummy ones that had an interesting twist.)
Invite some friends over, have everyone pick and order an item of interest from the list and sample the night away! (Add alcohol for an extra adventurous time.) The list, which I hope you find to be helpful, includes both adventurous products as well as select ingredients for the recommended recipes.
So, without further ado, all my month one favorites…
HOCK CHEW MEE SUAH: considered a traditional Chinese comfort and birthday food. These salted wheat noodles are either boiled or pan-fried and dressed in sauce, sometimes with other ingredients. (The balls have yet to be identified, but I am pretty sure they are some sort of imposter sausage.)
APAM BALIK: a peanutty griddle stuffed pancake generally sold as a sweet street food in Asia. If you’re feeling really frisky, up your game and get yours with a dose of coconut.
ROTI CANAI & SPINACH PANEER MASALA: How I’ve not heard of pizza dough’s dramatic twin escapes me! This Indian flatbread, maybe more amazing than naan (if that’s even possible), is really just a vehicle for sauce, veggies and wiping your plate clean with an edible foodie napkin. It pairs well with pretty much everything, but especially my favorite, spinach paneer masala.
ROTI BANJIR TELUR GOYANG: (also known in Malaysia as “Hanging Balls.” I just can’t make this stuff up): A local, hybrid mashup of two breakfast dishes: 1) Roti Canai (Indian flatbread) served “Banjir” style (meaning “flooded” with other stuff) and 2) Telur Separuh, two half boiled eggs.
BANANA LEAF MEALS: Look Ma, no hands! Okay, just kidding. Hands, yes. Silverware, no. The banana leaves serve as plates in an effort to reduce waste from disposable plates. You begin with a base meal of banana leaf rice and vegetables, topped with sauces and proteins to your liking. The best part of this meal? Utensil free. Monkey see, monkey do, follow suit and eat like the locals do.
MEAT FLOSS: Okay, bear with me for a moment while I try to describe this one to you as it’s almost one of those “you had to be there for it” type foods. Looks like: carpet. Taste consistency: cotton candy. Feels: fuzzy. Flavor profile: sweet on the tongue and savory after taste. Overall: it was odd. Not bad, just odd.
NAAN: A rising oven baked, flatbread which originated in Central and Southeast Asia. Thicker than Roti, it is another dining accompaniment to curries or anything sauce based. This meal will make em’ say, “Mmmm…..naan, naan, naan, naan.” Yep, I went there.
MAGGI GORENG: A popular instant noodle Malaysian dish. Stir fried with veggies, egg, and sometimes protein, this dish is a lo mein meets fried rice dream.
CHEE CHEONG FUN & CHAR KWAY: First of off, we all know how unamusing Monday’s are to begin with. Second, this was my Monday morning Malaysian breakfast the third week of our trip. I was presented with a completely foreign, maybe not so appetizing meal at first sight. But, I braved it and tried it anyway. Turns out it was quite good. Chee Cheong Fun is a rice noodle cooked to perfection and dressed with a sweet sauce. The meal is complimented by a stick of Char Kway, a Chinese donut, or even a naked churro.
CURRY: The new love of my life these days, my main squeeze. Curry, an Indian dish, uses interesting combinations of flavors and spices, with some having higher levels of heat than others.
Have all the feels for all the meals? I hope so!
Pairs Well With… is looking to showcase your best foodie night photography from the recipes in the A Girl’s Gotta Eat Guide to Malaysia. Pass along pics of the food that made you lick your plate to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured on Carin Around the Globe Instagram. Tag @carinaroundtheglobe when you post and let me know via #pairswellwith what you think your meal’s perfect pairing is. (Oh, and don’t forget to send along those candid shots of the friend trying something she hated. Believe me, the best picture in the world is that first bite of a durian cookie.)
And that, my friends, has been my month one wrap for this A Girl’s Gotta Eat series.