Malay Recipes from Singapore and Malaysia
This, has got to be one of my favourite cuisines. If I had to choose just one, it would be a hard tussle between Malay and Italian!
There are a few theories on where the Malays originated. Some say they came from South China while others insist that their original homeland is Indonesia. Over the years, I have come across so many people who have mistakenly assumed or thought that Singapore was part of China, perhaps for no other reason than the fact that the Chinese make up about 80% of the general population of Singapore. The Malays, are in fact, the indigenous people of this tropical island.
The first written record of Singapore dates back to around the 2nd Century when it was described as a trading post of some importance by the Chinese as well as the Greeks. Its old name was Temasek, meaning Sea Village/Town. Legend has it that an exiled Sumatran prince by the name of Sang Nila Utama, landed on the island after a shipwreck and encountered a lion. Impressed by the majestic beast and taking it as a sign of great things to come, the prince renamed the island Singapura (Singa-lion, Pura-city), meaning Lion City in Sanskrit and founded a settlement. Singapura continued being an important trading post in the area until the 17th century when it faded into obscurity.
Modern Singapore was of course founded in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles of The East India Company, established a British Trading Post there and despite its size, has been and still is, one of the busiest ports in the world.
Of course, Singapore and Malaysia were one nation until 1965, when the powers that be decided that because of the different ethnic bias, both countries would be better off on its own. So, while Singapore is predominantly Chinese and Malaysia is predominantly Malay, their citizens share a common heritage in all aspects of their lives. Incidentally, Malaysia is a monarchy while Singapore’s head of state is its President.
Back to Malay food. If I had to try and describe it to someone not familiar with it, I would say it’s like crossing Indian food with Thai food! The use of sharp, highly aromatic spices is reminiscent of the foods of its neighbours, Thailand, Indonesia and India. You’ll have to make some of the dishes to really appreciate this wonderful cuisine.
I’ve listed 3 recipes here to begin with and will try to do more before the month is up!
Literally, fish, sour, spicy! It’s a hot and sour dish, a cross between the Indian rasam and the Thai Tom Yum, but sharper and flavoured with a herb called Daun Kesum/Laksa Leaves/Vietnamese Coriander. Always eaten with rice. Needless to say, you can control the amount of heat it packs.
2. Mee Rebus
Again, mee is noodles and rebus is boiled. This is an extremely satisfying and warming dish. Egg noodles in a curry-ish sauce that’s thickened with mashed sweet potato and ground peanuts. Although always made with a small amount of beef, I have quite often catered to vegetarians by omitting the beef entirely, with great success.
Chicken in red sauce, with vegetarian alternative. A mild dish, the colour is from the abundant use of tomato puree and ketchup, not chilli.
Bon Appetit! So much more to come!
Have a great Easter!