Saturday, March 5, 2011

Penang Malaysian Cuisine

Malaysia prides itself in being a prime example that people of different religions and cultures can live together in peace. Thus it is, like many countries now, a culinary melting pot. Living in the U.S. we are also lucky enough to have the opportunity to sample a cornucopia of dishes from around the world. Though on the flip side we also suffer from the Americanization of many dishes to suite our tastes. People from around the world come to the U.S. bringing their culture with them, though as we can see at times they must alter what they know to make it in the business world.

There are a lot of establishments in the LA area as well out towards Tuscan where you can get good quality Malaysian food, though it is hard to find the "authentic" stuff. Penang Malaysian Cuisine is one of the closest to the real thing, though the Americanization is apparent.

The restaurant itself is small, but rather spacious with a slight beach-side eatery atmosphere. They give you an extensive menu with lots of options; including a picture folder for every dish on the menu, for those of you who like to know what you're getting into. They provide you with small dishes if you choose to dine family style as well as chop-sticks, or a fork, if you're still a learner.

Penang focuses on Malaysian and Chinese-Malaysian dishes so don't be surprised if you see something on the menu that you thought wouldn't be Malaysian (such as Penang Char Kway Teow which we dined on, that is like the Chinese-Malaysian version of Pad Thai). This dish contained velvety flat noodles with shrimp and squid. If you like Pad Thai, you will surely like this.

The dishes and drink we ordered are some traditional dishes of Malaysia; ones you would be able to find everywhere along the streets. The dish mentioned above is an example of Chinese-Malaysian cuisine.

Besides the dish mentioned above we also ordered Roti Canai as an appetizer. This dish is like a crispy crape served with a curry and is eaten for breakfast a lot in Malaysia. You tear off pieces and then dip it in the curry (in this case a chicken curry) and it melts in your mouth. I can see why it would be a good breakfast food. It is light and savory.

We also dined on Nasi Lemak, the national dish of Malaysia. This is also eaten a lot for breakfast and the name means "fatty rice" do to how it is cooked. The rice is soaked in coconut cream and then steamed. It is served with cucumber slices, dried anchovies (ikan bilis), a hard boiled egg, and a spicy sauce (sambal). It can also be paired with other items to make it more of a substantial meal. In this case ours was paired with chicken in a sort of "Malaysian gravy."

The gravy that covered the chicken I thought was very good, especially when mixed with the rice. I must admit this was the first time I have ever had anchovies (in this case dried) and I found them less fishy than expected though rather chewy. It was recommended to me that the best way to eat this dish is to mix some of the rice, anchovies, "gravy", hard boiled egg, and spicy sauce together. I enjoyed this dish eaten this way much more than when I was sampling everything separately, especially when it came to the anchovies. Though I do suggest trying each element by itself before mixing it together so that you are better able to appreciate each component.

We opted to not get dessert seeing that we were quite full afterward (I had just eaten at Outback 2 hours earlier). But I did get a very popular drink of soy milk and grass jelly (sweetened extra). It is pictured in the background of the first picture on this post. It was really delicious and refreshing and has a unique sweet grassy taste. Definitely a drink that needs to be tried. I myself want to learn how to make it!

All in all this was a great introduction to the realm of Malaysian cuisine and I cannot wait to go back and try some new dishes! Next time a dessert is definitely on the menu!

*If any of you have a Malaysian eatery you'd like us to try leave a comment on this post!

Until next time,
Bon Appetite!


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