Wednesday, 10 October 2012

traditional food

Malays in Peninsula Malaysia originally come from all over South East Asian archipelago. Intermarriages among these ethnic groups result in a rich food culture. So, each tribe has their own spread of traditional food that is typical to their respective villages.

Once Malaysia was formed, the diversity of its Malay traditional food are recognized mainly by its geographical location, according to the states. On the west coast, the northern states are well known for their hot, spicy food. This is due to heavy influence of neighboring Thailand. The central part by its rich gravy and the southern states by their thick and sour spicy sauces. The east coast states on the other hand, is more associated with sweet, but rich fare with glutinous rice.

However, the true Malay traditional food, in my opinion, should be prepared using only local ingredients. The spices and herbs are grounded manually, the meals are cooked over ancient-styled oven or stove, stirred with traditional utensils, packed or served in tropical edible leaves, eaten using the hand, following Malay etiquette and table manners.

A myriad of kuih-muih (sweet and savory cakes)originally from the Malay people. The Nyonyas
also claim some of these and they are known as "Nyonya kuih" too. Even though they may look alike, there is a subtle difference in terms of colors, taste and also the kind of ingredients used.

Some of the more well known heavy fares are: lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo pole), ketupat (glutinous rice cooked in pandanus, coconut or banana leaves) and nasi dagang (3 part rice to 1 part glutinous rice steamed with ginger, onion and fenugreek).

Breakfast items included pulut inti (steamed glutinous rice with sweet coconut topping), boiled tapioca served with grated coconut, nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk) and various sweet and savory dainty Malay cakes (kuih-muih).

Fish crackers (keropok -- made with sago and fish, prawns or other seafood) are popular snacks.
There are several types of keropok, the more common ones are dried before frying but keropok lekor which originates from the East Coast were boiled before frying. This type of keropok does not have long shelf life (two days at the most).
However, the good news is, unfinished keropok lekor, after boiling, can be sliced thinly and turned into the normal dried keropok by drying the slices in the hot sun

Since most of these tropical products do not last long once they mature or ripen, the ancient cooks created ways to preserve them by drying, fermenting, salting, smoking or turning them into flour and pickles.

And here we are, moaning whenever there is a power cut such that our freezer is not working! So, you see, Malay traditional food mainly use local produce that can grow easily and abundant in this land. Please bear in mind that wheat and its by-products were brought in by the western colonial powers so traditional Malay food does not have them. Therefore, leavened bread is not part of traditional food.

Instead, crepe-like delights like "lempeng" are made with bananas, molasses and garnished with coconut shaving. Tapioca are finely grated and used to make delicious sweet cakes which are baked in a tin over and under smoldering coconut husks. Ahh, what a wonderful smell emanating from those burning, smoky contraptions. I simply love Malay traditional food.

There is still so many traditional food that we did not discover in this Malaysia. Some of it i already share with you guys, and you may share with me if you have the information.

In this modern world, some of traditional Malay food are indeed dying or have already been abandoned. It is up to the Malays themselves to uphold the tradition. One of the ways is to keep on asking your grandparents about the kind of Malay traditional food they ate when they were young. Also, to observe the rituals performed in some ceremonies which are very closely related to traditional food preparation.

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