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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.

Food and Drink in Thailand

Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand

Thai food: colourful, inexpensive, full of flavour, often spicy and always available – you just can’t beat it. There are five flavours which make up every Thai meal – hot (spicy), sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Thai people are very passionate about their food, and love nothing more than sitting down to a huge meal with family or friends. Usually, several dishes will be ordered at one time for people to share. Most visitors quickly become hooked on trying the hundreds of Thai dishes, which can be anything from extremely spicy vegetable salads, rich curries or incredibly sweet deserts.

Although each dish is different there are certain ingredients that are essential for Thai cuisine. Almost all dishes contain nam pla, a pungent and strong tasting fish sauce as well as shrimp paste, a combination of ground shrimp and salt. Most Thai dishes contain a range of chilies and spices as well as curry pastes, soy sauce, dried shrimp, Thai pepper, and roasted chili paste.

Vegetarian food can be found if you know what to ask for. If you tell a waitress you are vegetarian (mung-sawirat), they will usually be able to suggest vegetarian dishes. Fish and seafood is easy to find.

Here are some of the most popular Thai dishes which should not be missed.

Breakfast is very different to what is served in western countries and can take a little getting used to. There are two main breakfast dishes, Jok, a kind of rice porridge with pieces of meat, ginger and herbs and Khao Tom, a Thai style rice soup.

In Thailand, main meals can be eaten at any time of the day and are often enjoyed 3, 4 or even 5 times a day.

Khao Pad literally means friend rice and is very popular. It is usually made with chicken, beef, shrimp or pork.

Pad Thai is pan fried rice noodles with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chopped peanuts, and egg mixed with chicken, seafood, or tofu. Look out for carts selling this incredibly cheaply on Khaosan Road.

Tom yam is rather spicy and sour soup with meat. With shrimp it is called Tom yam goong or Tom yam kung with seafood. Eat this dish with rice to reduce the spiciness.
Tom kha gai is hot sweet soup with chicken and coconut milk.

Rad na is wide rice noodles in a thick gravy-like sauce with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, or seafood.

Khao pad naem is found in the Northeast and is fried rice with fermented sausage.

Pad see ew is noodles stir-fried with thick soi sauce, fish sauce and pork or chicken.

Gai Pad Khing is chicken stir-fried with sliced ginger.

Red curry or gaeng phet meaning ‘hot curry’, is made with large amounts of dried red chillies.

Green curry or gaeng khiew-waan, meaning green curry, is made with fresh green chillies and Thai basil, chicken or fish balls. This dish is spicy, rich and creamy.

Massaman curry is an Indian style curry which is not quite as spicy as the Thai alternatives, containing roasted dried spices, chicken and potato.

Pad pak ruam – stir fried vegetables, great a vegetarian option or side dish.

Som tam is a fresh, spicy grated papaya salad, where the flavours are pounded with a mortar and pestle to combine them. Som tam poo is made with salted black crab, Som tam Thai has peanuts, dried shrimp and palm sugar and Som tam plara is from north eastern part of Thailand with salted gourami fish, white eggplants, fish sauce and long bean.

Larb are very spicy sour salads containing meat, onions, chillies, roasted rice powder and garnished with mint.

Yam is the name for any type of sour salad, such as those made with glass noodles.

There are a large selection of deserts available, all sweet and many involving banana or another fruit and coconut cream.

Kao niao ma muang is the world famous sticky rice and ripe mango.

Kao niao Durian is sticky rice and durian in coconut milk.

Gluay buad chee is banana in coconut milk.

Make sure you try Cha Yen – Thai Iced Tea and Kah-Feh Yen – Thai Iced Coffee. Very sweet and creamy, they can be a good way to cool down.

Although beer is widely available, most Thais choose to drink whiskey, sharing a bottle between the group and adding water and ice.

The Vegetarian’s Guide to Thai Food

The Vegetarian's Guide to Thai Food
The Vegetarian's Guide to Thai Food
vegetarian_3

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.

Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life

Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life

I first tried Pad Thai several years ago in a restaurant in London. It was my first experience of Thai food and I had no idea what to expect. Shortly after ordering, I was presented with a plate of thin noodles, vegetables and tofu, topped with group peanuts and lime. The dish was beautifully presented and it seemed a shame to demolish it, but I was glad that I did. The food was delicious; full of rich flavours, interesting textures and just a little bit spicy. For me it was love at first bite.

When I first arrived in Thailand I was delighted to discover that the Pad Thai I had enjoyed in London for 5 pounds UK could be bought for as little as 20 Baht – 35 pence! Not only that, but the delicious dish can be sampled right on Khaosan Road, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere while you eat. Of course, the price varies according to the quality of ingredients and where you eat it, but a large serving of Pad Thai made with quality ingredients can be bought for 40 or 50 Baht, which is about 1 pound.

I quickly discovered that the ingredients, flavours and presentation of Pad Thai dishes vary significantly between restaurants and areas. Before long I had sampled the dish at most of the restaurants in my area of Bangkok and found my favourite places to eat.

I have found that the tastiest Pad Thai is located not in fancy restaurants but in small, traditional Thai restaurants or from carts on the street. Eating on the street also provides the opportunity for people watching, always a welcome diversion.

One of my favourite places to eat and watch the world go by is on Soi Rambhutri in the heart of Bangkok’s Banglampu. Here, the blend of Thai people, seasoned travelers and hapless tourists makes interesting and often comical entertainment.

One of the very first people I met in Bangkok was Tip as I was wandering down Khao San Road looking for refreshment. The vibrant Thai woman drew me to her with her bright smile and the mouth-watering aroma coming from wok and told me to sit at one of her folding tables next to the curb. I watched as she tossed noodles, sauce, vegetables, tofu and dried shrimp into her wok, talking animatedly with a friend as she cooked.

Within minutes, Tip had produced a large plate of Pad Thai. It smelt great and was very tasty – slightly spicy with the deliciously contrasting textures of chewy noodles and crisp vegetables. Tip stood watching me eat, smiling broadly when I showed my appreciation.

When I finished eating, Tip told me that she had been cooking Pad Thai at her stall for over 15 years. The stall was given to her by her husband’s parents as a marriage present. Tip gradually bought the tables and chairs from her profits and has gradually been adding little touches to personalise the stall.

“I don’t make much money,” Tip told me. “But I am very happy. I can talk to many foreign people and practice speaking English every day.” Tip told me that the best part of her job is watching people enjoy her food. “Everybody likes to enjoy,” she said with a broad smile.

Noodles were first brought to Thailand by Chinese immigrants. They also brought chopsticks and woks, essential equipment for enjoying Pad Thai. However, Thai people traditionally eat rice three times a day and noodles were overlooked for a long time.

The Prime Minister of Thailand, Luang Phibunsongkhram; introduced Pad Thai and made it a national dish during World War II. Thailand was faced with a rice shortage and budget crises at this time and the Prime Minister promoted the eating of Pad Thai to combat the problem.

Today, Pad Thai is enjoyed all over Thailand and indeed all over the world. It is loved by Westerners because it is not spicy like many other Thai dishes and can be eaten at any time of the day or night.

In Bangkok, many Westerners consume Pad Thai after a few beers. As veteran backpacker Dan states; “You can’t beat Pad Thai. It’s cheap, tasty, and the women who cook it are easy on the eye, too!”

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!