Malay cuisine is the cuisine of Malay people of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Mindanao and Southern Thailand. Different Malay regions are all known for their unique or signature dishes - Terengganu and Kelantan for their Nasi dagang, Nasi kerabu and Keropok lekor, Negeri Sembilan for its lemak-based dishes, Pahang for its gulai tempoyak, Kedah for its northern-style Asam laksa, Malacca for its spicy Asam Pedas, Riau for their ikan patin (Pangasius fish) dishes; Gulai ikan patin and Asam Pedas ikan patin, Melayu Deli of Medan North Sumatra for their Nasi goreng teri Medan (Medan anchovy fried rice) and Gulai Ketam (gulai crab) and Brunei for its unique Ambuyat dish.
The main characteristic in traditional Malay cuisine is undoubtedly the generous use of spices. The coconut milk is also important in giving the Malay dishes their rich, creamy character. The other foundation is belacan (shrimp paste), which is used as a base for sambal, a rich sauce or condiment made from belacan, chili peppers, onions and garlic. Malay cooking also makes plentiful use of lemongrass and galangal.
Nearly every Malay meal is served with rice, the staple food in many other East Asian cultures. Although there are various type of dishes in a Malay meal, all are served at once, not in courses. Food is eaten delicately with the fingers of right hand, never with the left which is used for personal ablutions, and Malays rarely use utensils.
It is uncertain when the Malay culinary traditions took shape, but the earliest record of the tradition is from the 15th century when Malacca Sultanate became the important trade centre in the Malay archipelago. The most important legacy of Malacca derived from its involvement in the spice trade, its openness to the ingredients and culinary techniques introduced by foreigners notably the Arabs, Persians, Chinese and Indians and its cultivation of a rich eclectic gastronomy. Malacca was also a catalyst for the development of two other rich and unique culinary cultures which are the fusion of Malay with Chinese and European traditions, cuisines respectively known as Nyonya and Eurasian. In the centuries before and after Malacca, there were other non Malay groups from Bugis, Javanese to Minangkabau who were absorbed into Malay society at different times, aided by similarity in lifestyle and common religion, and had varying degrees of influence on Malay food.
Nasi lemak, rice cooked in rich coconut milk probably is the most popular dish ubiquitous in Malay town and villages. Nasi lemak is considered as Malaysia's national dish. Another example is Ketupat or nasi himpit, glutinous compressed rice cooked in palm leafes, is popular especially during Hari Raya or Eid ul-Fitr. Various meats and vegetables could be made into Gulai or Kari, a type of curry dish with variations of spices mixtures that clearly display Indian influence already adopted by Malay people since ancient times. Because most of Malay people are muslims, Malay cuisine follows Islamic halal dietary law rigorously. Protein intake are mostly taken from beef, water buffalo, goat, and lamb meat, and also includes poultry and fishes. Pork and any non-halal meats, also alcohol is prohibited and absent from Malay daily diet. Laksa, a hybrid of Malay and Peranakan Chinese cuisine is also a popular dish. Malay cuisine also adopted some their neighbors' cuisine traditions, such as rendang adopted from Minangkabau in Sumatra, and satay from Java, however Malay people has developed their own distinctive taste and recipes.
- Apam balik - also called terang bulan or martabak manis in Indonesia, it is a bread like puff with sugar, corn, and coarse nut in the middle.
- Ayam percik - grilled chicken with spicy sauce.
- Ayam goreng kunyit - deep fried chicken, marinated in a base of turmeric and other seasonings.
- Gulai - a type of soupy curry-like dishes that could be made from various ingredients; meats, fish or vegetables. A popular one is gulai kambing (goat or mutton gulai) and Gulai Ayam (chicken gulai). Gulai ketam (crab gulai) is a specialty of Malay Deli, Medan, North Sumatra.
- Kari - the Malay adaptation of curry dishes. Just like gulai, it could be made from various ingredients; meats or vegetables. A popular one is kari ayam (chicken curry).
- Ikan bakar - grilled/barbecued fish with either chilli, kunyit (turmeric) or other spice based sauce.
- Ikan pari - barbecued stingray
- Ikan patin - large catfish cooked in various ways such as gulai and asam pedas, a specialty of Riau and Sumatra
- Ikan asam pedas - A sour stew of fish (usually mackerel), tamarind, chili, tomatoes, okra and Vietnamese coriander (daun kesum).
- Kangkung belacan is water spinach wok-fried in shrimp paste (belacan) and hot chilli peppers. Various other items are cooked this way, including petai (which is quite bitter when eaten raw; some older generation Malays still eat it as is) and yardlong beans.
- Keropok lekor, a specialty of the state of Terengganu and other states on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia, is a savoury cake made from a combination of batter and shredded fish. Sliced and fried just before serving, it is eaten with hot sauce.
- Kuih (plural: kuih-muih) is usually a selection of cakes, pastries and sweets eaten as a snack during the morning or during midday, and are an important feature during festive occasions. It is a tradition shared by both the Malay and the Peranakan communities. Some example include:
- Onde onde - small round balls made from glutinous rice flour with pandan (screwpine) leaf essence, filled with palm sugar and rolled in fresh grated coconut.
- Kuih talam - steamed layered coconut pudding made of rice flour, sago flour and coconut milk is cooked by steaming. Pandan leaves lends aroma and the green color to one layer. A white coconut layer goes on top.
- Pulut inti - a kind of steamed "dry" rice pudding made from glutinous rice & coconut milk. It is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves folded into a pyramid shape, and topped with fresh grated coconut sweetened with palm sugar.
- Lemang - glutinous rice and coconut milk and cooked in a hollowed bamboo stick lined with banana leaves.
- Mee rebus - a famous noodle dish which consists of mee (noodle, salt and egg) served with a tangy, spicy and sweet potato-based sauce. It is sometimes also called mee Jawa, perhaps as a nod to its Javanese origins.
- Nasi lemak - rice steamed with coconut milk
- Nasi berlauk - plain rice served with different variety of dishes
- Nasi dagang - the Nasi Lemak of east coast Peninsula Malaysia, found mostly in the states of Terengganu and Kelantan.
- Nasi kerabu - a type of rice which is blue in colour (dyed by Clitoria ternatea flowers), originated in Kelantan.
- Nasi paprik - originated from southern Thailand, rice with lauk, typically chicken.
- Nasi goreng - fried rice. Nasi goreng kampung is a typical variant, traditionally flavored with pounded fried fish (normally mackerel), though recently fried anchovies are used in place of it. Nasi goreng teri Medan (Medan anchovy fried rice), is a Malay Deli specialty of North Sumatra.
- Satay - Satay were originally from Java and Sumatra in Indonesia, and distributed widely across the Malay Archipelago. It is widely popular and common within Indonesian cuisine with rich variations and recipes. Malay chicken satay closely resembles Madura satay with rich peanut sauce. In Malaysia, the most popular variant are Kajang satay.
- Soto - The most popular is soto ayam, chicken soup with rice vermicelli and ketupat, it clearly shows Indonesian cuisine influences.
- Pulut - Glutinous rice is a type of short-grained Asian rice that is especially sticky when cooked. It is widely used during the Raya festive seasons as traditional food.
- Ketupat - a type of glutinous rice dumpling that has been wrapped in a woven palm leaf pouch and boiled. As the rice cooks, the grains expand to fill the pouch and the rice becomes compressed. This method of cooking gives the ketupat its characteristic form and texture. Usually eaten with rendang (a type of dry beef curry) or served as an accompaniment to satay or gado-gado. Ketupat is also traditionally served by Malays at open houses on festive occasions such as Idul Fitri (Hari Raya Aidilfitri).
- Rendang - a spicy meat stew originating from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia, and adopted by Malay throughout archipelago. Rendang is traditionally prepared by the Malay community during festive occasions.
- Roti jala - The name is derived from the Malay word roti ("bread") and jala ("net"). A special ladle with a five-hole perforation used to make the bread looks like a fish net. It is usually eaten as an accompaniment to a curried dish, or served as a sweet with serawa. Serawa is made from a mixture of boiled coconut milk, brown sugar and pandan leaves.
- Sambal belacan - sambal a common condiment in Indonesian cuisine as well as Malaysian cuisine. It is made with chilies, shallots, garlic, stewed tomatoes, tamarind paste, coconut sugar, salt and belacan (shrimp paste).
- Sambal sotong - squid are cooked in a sambal-based sauce, made with chilies, shallots, garlic, stewed tomatoes, tamarind paste and belacan.
- Sayur lodeh - a stew of vegetables cooked in a lightly spiced coconut milk gravy.
- Sup kambing - a hearty mutton soup slow simmered with aromatic herbs and spices, and garnished with fried shallots and fresh cilantro.
- Serunding - Shredded meat in a form of meat floss with spices.
- Tempoyak - a popular Malay delicacy. It is durian extract which is preserved and kept in an urn. Commonly eaten with chillies and other dishes.
- Sirap Bandung
- Gin pahit - cocktail made of gin and bitters
- Teh Tarik
- Teh C Special (Three Layered Tea)- A drink made of layers of Palm Sugar, Condensed Milk, and Tea. Ice is added.
- Kopi O
- Teh O Limau Ais
- Gulai Ketam
- James Alexander (2006). Malaysia Brunei & Singapore. New Holland Publishers. p. 58. ISBN 1-86011-309-5.
- World and Its Peoples: Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation. 2008. p. 1222.
- "Tracking down fine Malay food". Star Publications (M) Bhd. October 17, 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
- Rosemary Brissenden (2007). Southeast Asian Food: Classic and Modern Dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Periplus Editions. pp. 175–176. ISBN 978-0-7946-0488-2.
- "Nasi Lemak". Malaysia.com. Retrieved 2010-07-06.
- Owen, Sri (1993). The Rice Book. Doubleday. ISBN 0-7112-2260-6.
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