Malaysians, one of our weirdest nightmares has come true. In a recent index by CEOWorld, Singapore was apparently ranked as “the best city in the world for street food” while Malaysia didn’t even make the list which consists of 50 cities. Wait, what? Hold my nasi lemak!
Interestingly, the results were based on data gained from an interview involving business travellers and corporate travel agents. They ranked our neighbours in top spot, followed by Bangkok (Thailand), Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) and Mumbai (India) in the top 5.
Here’s what the actual top 20 list looked like:
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Hong Kong
- Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
- Mumbai, India
- Rome, Italy
- Tel Aviv, Israel
- Sydney, Australia
- New Mexico, Mexico
- Portland, US
- Dubai, UAE
- Chicago, US
- Seoul, South Korea
- Berlin, Germany
- Paris, France
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Los Angeles, US
- Palermo, Italy
- Tokyo, Japan
- New Orleans, US
That’s right, no Malaysian city in the top 20 or the entire list! Apalah…
Needless to say, the publication of this list had Malaysians (and even some Singaporeans!) up in arms! Many were quick to point out that the findings did not necessarily reflect the actual sentiment of travellers because those who were surveyed were mainly business travellers and corporate travel agents.
Others argued that there was a difference between “hawker centre food” and “street food”. In general though, most Malaysians agreed that omitting our top foodie spots like Penang, Ipoh, and KL from the list was an absolute travesty!
So, for the benefit of those at CEOWorld and the people they interview, TripZilla Malaysia is here to introduce to you the top 10 best culinary delights in Malaysia!
1. Nasi Lemak
Malaysia’s version of nasi lemak is cooked in fragrant coconut milk to give it a deep aromatic flavour and topped with crunchy fried anchovies, peanuts and telur rebus (boiled egg). Most importantly, it is served, often in a cute little banana leaf packet, with gloriously sedap spicy, sweet sambal! It’s no wonder it’s our national dish!
Oh, the sweet, juicy, tender meat of satay is to die for! A staple in almost every pasar malam in Malaysia, this humble yet awesomely delectable delight is one of the most addictive street foods in Malaysia! Grilled to a crisp over a charcoal flame and dipped into tangy peanut sauce, there’s no better representation of Malaysian comfort food! Don’t you agree?
3. Kacang Pool
This Johorean classic is another truly amazing dish which reflects Malaysia’s cultural diversity. Toasty bread spread with butter is paired with a savoury stew made of fava beans, minced meat, green chilies, lime slices and topped with a fried egg with a runny yolk! Just talking about it makes my mouth water!
Also known as gado-gado or Indian rojak, pasembor is a hearty “salad” which consists mainly of shredded cucumber and turnip, fried bean curd, crispy crackers, prawn fritters, bean sprouts, boiled eggs and, sometimes, marinated squid. This crunchy dish is a favourite throughout the day, especially when topped with its distinctive spicy sweet sauce!
5. Fried Oyster Omelette (Oh-Chien)
This scrumptious, juicy delicacy made its fame in Penang and is one of the most beloved snacks/dishes by locals and tourists alike! Just imagine, fresh batter, juicy oysters, and eggs being fried over a smoky flat girdle! Can you hear the sizzle? Or is that your tummy rumbling?
This savoury Malaysian salad epitomises the mutli-racial background of Malaysia like no other. Consisting of fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers and guava, in addition to bite-sized pieces of tofu and Chinese fried dough, rojak is typically tossed in a tart dressing made from sugar, chili, shrimp paste and lime juice. It is then topped with generous helpings of crushed peanuts. The perfect afternoon snack!
7. Ikan Bakar ala Portuguese
Now this one’s a bomb! The fish is often grilled over an open charcoal fire or girdle and doused with spicy chili paste and lime juice and served with a shallot cincalok (a slightly sour paste made of fermented small shrimp) dipping sauce. The meat is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and it has a real smoky flavour to it. This is actually one of my favourite street food!
We Malaysians love laksa and make it so well that there are actually many different versions of this dish throughout the country! My favourite though, being a Penang boy, is Penang Assam Laksa, especially the one sold at Air Itam (locals will know what I mean -wink-)! The balance between the savoury hot broth and minty herb is perfect for the rainy season! It was even voted one of the best street foods in Asia by Reader’s Digest!
9. Char Koay Teow
When you think of char koay teow, PROPER char koay teow, just remember two words: wok hei. For those not in the know, wok hei is Cantonese that can best be translated to smokiness. That’s because the best CKT is fried in a wok over a charcoal flame which gives it its distinct flavour.
Finally to wash it all down, you have to try cendol! This world-famous dessert uses coconut milk as the base ingredient for taste. Add to that a few chunks of ice, some jelly noodles, red beans and gula melaka (palm sugar) and you have a dessert which many people literally queue up for (such is the case for some cendol stalls in Penang).
Guys, that’s literally only just the tip of the iceberg! Malaysian food, with its cultural diversity and heritage has so much more to offer and definitely belongs on that list! What do you guys think? Are you satisfied with that list by CEOWorld?