Ask anyone on the street what their favorite thing about living in Malaysia is, and you’ll find “food” is the most frequent answer. And no surprise – our delicious and diverse cuisine is held in high regard by all ethnic groups across the country, who have inspired and influenced our cooking with traditional touches and twists for years. But it’s not just hot air from proud locals – Malaysian food is famous the world over and has even won celebrity recognition. Here are five foods which have earned more than their five minutes of fame:
The late, great Anthony Bourdain spent a lot of time in East Malaysia filming his travel shows, and once described Sarawak’s most famous food as “breakfast of the Gods” – and who would argue with one of the most influential chefs in recent memory? Sarawak laksa made the ‘wishlist’ for Bourdain’s showcase wholesale market concept in New York, which was to feature ten ‘dream dishes’ from around the world.
A popular pick for Malaysians and Indonesians in particular, this sumptuous Southeast Asian curry found itself in the middle of an international scandal in early 2018, when British judges on the Masterchef UK TV programme (incorrectly) judged that the Malaysian contestant’s chicken rendang dish needed “crispy skin”. Naturally, Malaysians rose as one to defend this dish – and national pride. Even the (ex) Prime Minister was tweeting about it! Malaysians made it loud and clear to the world just how chicken rendang should look.
Ipoh and Italy have (at least) one thing in common: they take their coffee very seriously. Italian celebrity chef David Rocco was recently filming Celebrity Chef: East vs West in the Perakian capital and couldn’t resist comparing the well-known white coffee which is so celebrated by Malaysians (OK, he said he preferred espresso, but we’re confident he’ll come around). Reportedly, Rocco is also a big fan of roti jala, and used bananas served up a sweet version of the snack when he was back on home soil. Check out our Roti Jala recipe here!
The “King of Fruits” has some famous followers, most notably US actress Jessica Chastain, who was kind enough to surprise US talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel with some on his Saturday late-night talk show. She declared her love for the durian and its distinct aroma, and was obviously familiar with the fruit as she carved it open for Kimmel to try. She described the taste as “like onion and garlic and avocado and pineapple … in a custard”; Kimmel thought it was “on the line between horrible and delicious”. We know which side of the line we’re on!
From McDonald’s to Miss Malaysia, our national dish nasi lemak has been causing a bit of a craze lately. McDonald’s Nasi Lemak burger sold out in less than two weeks in Singapore after a summer promotion in 2017, and Malaysia introduced the local version to a similar response earlier this year. Also in 2017, this famous food turned fashion icon; on stage in Las Vegas, the Malaysian Miss Universe representative rocked a dress with a design inspired by our banana-leaf-wrapped breakfast staple. Talk about a tasty look!