20.01.2012 - 28.01.2012
You must experience Malaysia with your tastebuds.
Reminiscing of our stay over the Chinese New Year, each day intrinsically involved food. Our previous visit 2 months earlier also focused on food sampling around the city, branching out from our hostel in Chow Kit to Kampung Baru and Chinatown. Welcomed by family at the airport, our first stop was to pick up chicken biryani (from a joint renowned for serving only this dish) to eat together. Unfortunately, most of our meals did not survive long enough to be photographed for this entry!
On our second day we had breakfast twice. First, delicious home cooked noodles and chicken curry prepared by Lela, and then we headed to a local diner. Benefiting from Rina’s father’s knowledge of the best local eateries, this diner was great value. For 30 cents you could have a large, freshly made roti canai with curry. Accompanied by an extra tall mug of teh tarik this was the national habit. But that wasn’t all that was available. Our appetites couldn’t keep up as we wanted to taste everything despite already being full.
Briefly stopping in a village near Johor Bahru (or “JB” as referred to by the cosmopolitan Malays) to pick up Xavier, we tucked into a homemade lunch of sambal udang (chilli prawns), asam pedas ikan (sour chilli fish), kari daging (beef curry), fried chicken and stir fried vegetables. However, the highlight was dessert. Delicately made layer cake kueh lapis and fried “johnfruit” (jackfruit’s cousin) was unforgettable with black tea. Full again, we headed back home and relaxed for the day.
Our culinary adventure continued as we attended two weddings on the weekend. Polyester frills and lace was the primary décor of the event, embellishing the front and backyards of the two homes in Melaka. The first wedding was themed in baby blue and the second in bright pink. Each bridegroom pair wore matching traditional outfits (in baby blue and bright pink), and guest gift bags were truly Malaysian with pickled eggs, jelly cups, pandan cake and flavoured milk. In addition to gifts and photography at the floral wedding throne, the music was sentimentally Alleycats (where karaoke is always appropriate). All this surrounded the centerpiece activity – the buffet of course. We shamelessly ate from a ten tray smorgasbord, which included Melaka style gulai ayam, korma ayam and kari daging, This was washed down with rose cordial, firm pink jelly and kueh bahulu.
In between plates there were gracious introductions and reacquainting with near and distant relatives. Cousins seemed to have grown both in height and number but all were warm towards us. It was lovely to be a part of the greater family again, even if it was only for a while.
Leaving the kampung, we headed back to Kuala Lumpur city (affectionately condensed to “KL”). Visiting Taman Tun Dr Ismail was literally a trip down memory lane – it was where Rina spent her childhood. Flavours of Singapore style rojak and supersized special nasi lemak at Uncle K’s were intensified with nostalgia. The sensational nyonya meal at Peranakan however, was unbeatable – we still dream of the durian cendol from that day!
Speaking of aromas, for us there is no stronger association with Malaysia than the pungent perfume of the durian. We had the privilege of visiting Uncle Ishak and Aunty Anna’s orchard (with it’s durian trees) just one hour from the city. Picking mangosteens and collecting our spiky gold overnight was a highlight of our Malaysia leg. With orang asli passing by as we bathed in the rushing freshwater creek, sleeping under the stars and indulging in our self harvested bounty, we could not have asked for more in life.
Returning from our agricultural escape we flew to Langkawi island to stay with Uncle Ray. Here seafood is a specialty, and we had our fill of technicolour fish curries and delectable whole sotong sambal. We also managed to fit in some sightseeing – riding the cable car and visiting Beringin beach for sunset.
It was a whirlwind visit and before we knew it we were on the bus to Singapore. We had such a wonderful time and we will be back. The generosity and hospitality of family over 10 days left us with a taste of the essence of Malaysia.