Food connoisseur recounts a day of dining in Malaysia

November 13, 2022 — by Natalie Chua
Photo by Leyna Chan
A fresh bowl of Laksa.
A plethora of delicious food fills the Gurney streets of Malaysia.

As a cuisine influenced by the culture of neighboring nations, Malaysian food largely consists of a blend of Southeast Asian spices and coconut products. Sold mainly on the humid streets of Malaysia are Indian mee goreng, roti prata, laksa and ais kacang — some of my favorite Malaysian foods.

Although Malaysia holds beautiful coastal lines, big and beautiful Buddhist temples, and famous landscapes like the twin towers, food is the best cultural aspect of Malaysia. Even though I lack knowledge of Malaysian culture and history, the food was always something I looked forward to on my vacations to Malaysia, as it allowed me to connect with relatives. 

During my visits to Malaysia, my relatives would always take me to the Gurney streets of Penang, a vast strip of food stands that stretches for miles. The noise of vendors promoting their food created an unpleasant and loud sound of shouting on the streets, and the smell of rich and savory foods filled the air. Shielding my legs from the irritating mosquitoes, my family settled on a table while I sought out to buy my usual breakfast, roti prata, and milo, a common chocolate drink in Malaysia.    

Indian street vendors sell their roti prata in various combinations including Nutella, cheese, eggs and other varieties of toppings, along with the popular mee goreng dish. Crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, my roti prata with eggs served with canai malay curry was the perfect savory snack. After finishing my breakfast, I’d stuff mouthfuls of the mee goreng my dad ordered, which left a pleasant, aromatic and spicy sensation in my mouth. Originating in Indonesia, mee goreng is a popular fried noodle containing potatoes, bean sprouts, peanuts, tomato sauce, tofu and chicken. 

For lunch, my family would drive to the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre to order laksa, a warm bowl of noodle soup with a base of coconut milk and curry. Using chopsticks, I slurped the thick rice noodles along with shrimp, cucumbers, onions and bean sprouts. 

On our way back home, my family stopped to get ais kacang at a stand nearby to cool off from the hot and sticky weather. The shaved ice, flavored with Sarsi syrup and topped with overflowing red beans, eased my dry mouth and relieved the uncomfortable sweat drenching on my back. 

I would recommend Malaysian food at Banana Leaf in Milpitas or Killiney Kopitam in Palo Alto, particularly dishes like roti prata, mee goreng and laska, to anyone who enjoys spicy, creamy and flavorful food. Ais kacang is also a great dessert option to top off the meal. 

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