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Food and Drink in Malaysia

Food and Drink in Malaysia
Food and Drink in Malaysia
Food and Drink in Malaysia

Malaysia is a great place for people who love to eat and experiment with food. There are a wide range of Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes available through the country and some interesting mixtures of culinary styles. As you travel through Malaysia, look out for regional specialities and try to experience the full range of Malay cuisine.
Hawker stalls and coffee shops are good places to find a cheap and tasty meal. Hawker stalls tend to be very clean and open until late in the evening. Curry dishes and other meals in western style restaurants, while seafood restaurants serve fresh fish prepared in the Chinese style. For western food, head to the shopping malls, where you will usually find a large food court with a number of well known fast food restaurants.

Here is a selection of the numerous dishes you will find on your travels in Malaysia:

Nasi lemak – the most common Malaysian breakfast dish consists rice cooked in light coconut milk with anchovies, peanuts, a slice of cucumber and a little chilli.

Rendang – usually made with beef, this dry curry dish consists of stewed meat in a spicy curry paste.  

Chilli crab – a whole crab is covered with a generous amount of sticky, strong chilli sauce.

Laksa – this dish varies from place to place but is basically a coconut both with seafood or chicken.  

Bak chor mee – this noodle dish is cooked in a chilli-based sauce with minced pork, fried anchovies, vegetables and mushrooms.

Popiah – these delicious spring rolls can be either fried or raw. Filled with boiled turnips, fried tofu, fried shallots and garlic, chopped omelette, chopped stir fried long beans, there is usually a sweet chilli sauce to dip them in.  

Hainanese chicken rice – usually found on street stalls, this steamed chicken dish is served with special gently spiced rice and tasty ginger.

Bubur cha-cha – a traditional Malay desert with cubed yam, sweet potato and sago added to coconut milk soup.

Kuih – this sweet desert is made with coconut milk, coconut flesh and either glutinous rice or tapioca. It is often made into cute and colourful designs.

Avoid drinking tap water and drinks with ice in Malaysia. Bottled water is cheap and easy to find.  

Coffee – known as kopi – and tea – teh – are both popular and tasty drinks in Malaysia as well as a local variation known as teh tarik. Tea and coffee usually comes hot, with condensed milk to sweeten it. If you don’t want milk ask for teh o, while teh ais will get you iced milky tea.
Also popular is a drink known as kopi tongkat ali ginseng, which is a mixture of coffee, a local aphrodisiacal root and ginseng served with condensed milk.

Despite being a predominately Muslim country, alcohol is widely available throughout Malaysia. Beer and other alcohol can be bought in bars, restaurants and 7-11 shops. The local brew is tuak, which fermented rice wine that comes in many forms. Usually served lukewarm, tuak is often flavoured with sugar or honey.

The Vegetarian’s Guide to Thai Food

The Vegetarian's Guide to Thai Food
The Vegetarian's Guide to Thai Food
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A beautiful asset to world travel is the chance to try exciting new foods. Of course, Thailand boasts a famous cuisine; healthy, full of exotic new flavours, intricately spiced. Any traveler worth his chopsticks will tell you it’s some of the best in the world.

But while most people can dive right in to local fare, tourists with dietary restrictions must weather a gamble each time they place an order. As a vegetarian, I’ve endured my share of food slip-ups. People who don’t know about the meat-free food movement often mistake my plea for, “no red meat – bring on the chicken,” or “I just really like vegetables – put some extra ones on top of the meat.”

Luckily, once you overcome small hurtles, Thailand is a vegetarian’s dream. Tasty local fruits and vegetables, delicious tofu, and thanks to Buddhism, some familiarity with meat-free cooking. Below is a guide for hungry vegetarians traveling in Thailand and ready to sample local fare:

Where to Get Food

To find the tastiest Thai food, get off the backpacker trail and go to where the Thais are eating. This can mean night markets, food stalls on the street, or food courts in tiny local malls. Guesthouse restaurants boast English menus and some comforts from home (baguette sandwiches, full American breakfasts). However, unless you pop into a vegetarian cafe, the meat-free options are usually slim. Markets are cheaper, fresher, and the food isn’t catered for western palettes (no diluted spices here!). Also, you can watch the cook prepare the dish before you, so it’s easy to indicate what you do and don’t want in your meal.

Travelers don’t need to worry about protein. Most Thai vegetarian dishes come with egg, mixed into the meal or else fried and placed on top of the dish. Also, Thai cuisine boasts a few different kinds of tofu; the firm type that’s common in the west; a looser egg-based tofu (usually the tastiest for tofu-skeptics), and a greyish fish-based tofu, often sold on skewers in market stalls.
 
If Thai tofu and fried eggs aren’t your style, pop into a local market (or any 7-Eleven) and load up on nuts and seeds to carry in your bag. Then, you can order lots of veggies at meals and on islands and beaches, guesthouses will offer barbecues with fresh fish. Vegetarians should load up on baked potatoes (a tasty rarity in Thailand), vegetables, rice and eggs. Also, most restaurants will keep their kitchen open during the barbecue, so there’s no harm in topping up your grilled veggies with a noodle or rice dish.
 
Travelers don’t need to worry about protein. Most Thai vegetarian dishes come with egg, mixed into the meal or else fried and placed on top of the dish. Also, Thai cuisine boasts a few different kinds of tofu; the firm type that’s common in the west; a looser egg-based tofu (usually the tastiest for tofu-skeptics), and a greyish fish-based tofu, often sold on skewers in market stalls
 
What to Say
 
“I don’t want meat” – “mai sai neua-sa”
 
“I don’t want fish” – “mai sai plah”
 
” – with tofu” – “sai tao-hoo”
 
“-with egg” – “sai kao”
 
“with vegetables” – “sai pak”
 
Some Favourite Vegetarian Dishes
 
phad thai -fried noodles, a basic Thai staple (note, to order without shrimp, simply ask for “phad thai jae”)
 
phad see ewe – wide, flat noodles, fried with egg and soy sauce
 
kao phad pak – vegetable fried rice
 
phad pak jae – simple fried vegetables in a mild sauce
 
phad kapow – spicy Thai basil fried with chilies
 
som tam jae – green papaya salad in a tangy, spicy peanut sauce
 
kai yad sai pak – an omelette with vegetables
 
yam kai dow – a tangy salad with boiled eggs, onion, and tomato
 
tom yam hedt – a spicy tomato-based soup made with mushrooms
 
tom khaa hed – coconut soup with mushrooms
 
phad priow waan pak – sweet and sour mixed vegetables
 
For Vegans
 
Vegans fare well in Thailand, because dairy is rarely used in Thai cuisine. Most creamy soups and sauces are cooked with healthy coconut milk. However, eggs are prevalent in main dishes like phad thai. Many Thai noodle dishes use egg for texture. Saying “mai sai kao” to the cook will ensure that your dish is egg-free. To play it safe, vegans should stick to rice dishes with vegetables and tofu.
 
Also, be wary of the soy milk sold in Thai convenience stores. Some brands use soy for the nutrients, but mix it with dairy milk for flavour. If you’re ordering a fruit smoothie or dessert in a restuarant, “mai sai nome” means “no milk.”
 
When looking for restaurants, keep an eye out for Buddhist eateries, which use zero animal products. The signs are bright yellow with bright red lettering, and you can judge by the dishes of other customers whether the vegan food looks tasty (trust us, it usually is).

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.