Malaysian food is the ultimate in fusion cuisine, blending spice, culture and rich history.
Being a maritime hub in the heart of Southeast Asia, over the centuries the country saw ships sail in from Europe, the Middle East, India, China, Thailand and Indonesia with each leaving behind its own unique influence. The result is a vibrant and diverse cuisine, a literal melting pot of taste and big bold flavours.
Malaysian-born Rosemarie John, who charts her travel and food adventures in the popular blog Travel and Beyond, described the food of her home country as a burst of flavour!
“It is an amalgamation of the various cooking styles, derived from the influence of different ethnicities that have settled in the nation over hundreds of years,” Rosemarie says.
“Every state has an iconic dish. My favourite Malaysian dishes are Roti Banjir (flatbread laden with dahl), Wanton Mee (fresh egg noodles in dark soy sauce), Nasi Kandar (flavoured spiced steamed rice served with curry), Otak-Otak (fish steamed in a banana leaf) and Cendol (a sweet ice dessert).”
Albert Fong, who works at the High Commission of Malaysia in Canberra, shares the sentiment that the cuisine’s uniqueness comes from the diversity in the country and variety of spices.
“Our society comprises diverse races of mainly Malays, Chinese and Indian and as such we have many iconic dishes from the respective groups. Among the famous national favourite dishes are Nasi Lemak (coconut fragrance rice), Char Kuey Teow (stir-fried flat noodles) and Roti Canai (flatbread served with a side of curry).
When they crave the spice, colour, and aroma of home, Rosemarie and Albert flock to these Canberra restaurants.
A casual restaurant located in the back of the Melbourne building in the City, it has all the right signs that you have arrived for a good time and a good meal. The Lazy Susans on the table are a definite nod that this is the type of place you want to order lots of dishes to share.
The menu is large and full of authentic iconic Malaysian dishes. For something special, Rosemarie recommends Madam Lu’s Bak Kut Teh, the pork ribs cooked in a tea-flavoured fragrant broth which is both aromatic and warming. While the Belacan Okra packs a flavour punch featuring stir-fried okra with shrimp paste.
Madam Lu is located at 20/42 West Row in the Melbourne Building in Civic. It’s open for lunch and dinner 6 days a week (closed on Sunday).
This global chain spruiking affordable Malaysian food has been full, often with a queue forming out the front since opening its outlet in the Canberra Centre. Its no-nonsense, no-frills approach has customers fill out their own order sheets with everything on the menu identified by a unique combination of letters and numbers.
The menu has a big emphasis on drinks with more than 50 non-alcoholic beverages to pick from. It’s a great spot to try a traditional Teh Tarik, a strong black tea blended with condensed milk that’s poured back and forth between two jugs repeatedly to give it a thick frothy top. It makes a great accompaniment to a meal.
PappaRich is located at Shop FG13B on the ground floor of the Canberra Centre at 148 Bunda Street. It’s open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
A humble little spot in the No Name Lane complex in Civic’s business district, Ming’s Pantry delivers quality Malaysian Street Food to nearby office workers and university students alike. Its compact menu is brimming with authentic dishes.
Rosemarie suggests diving into a big bowl of noodles and ordering either the iconic Char Kuey Teow with stir-fried flat rice noodles, prawns, chicken, fish cakes, egg and vegetable or the Dry Egg Noodle cooked in dark caramel soy with Chicken Curry.
Ming’s Pantry is located at 22/45 West Row in No Name Lane in Civic. It’s open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.