I Remember 2-2 decades back, when I migrated into the United States. I encouraged a handful of my neighbors to my flat in Hawaii to get an easy Malaysian dinner of beef rendang with coconut rice, mango and cashew saladplus a full bowl of sambal belachan across the medial side, and also a roasted pandan custard cake . I won’t ever forget my neighbors’ praise and the way they devoured the dishes with gusto.
Malaysian Culture & Food
Although Any vacation time I had was spent learning in the kitchens of the Wandee Culinary Institute in Thailand, as I wanted so much to embrace the cooking traditions of the neighboring Southeast Asian countries. During my journey, I was often surprised to find similarities to the dishes that I cooked with my mother in our home in Malaysia.
Central This part of the kitchen was a hive of activity: the pounding and grinding of spices into a wet paste; the washing and cleaning of aromatics, vegetables, fish, and meat; the enthusiastic chatter and the din from the clanging of utensils. Whenever we cooked a sambal with chilies, red shallots, and shrimp paste, or had a pot of laksa bubbling away at the stove, the spicy scent would announce to passersby and neighbors that lunch or dinner was being prepared. For most Malaysians, this was an invitation to interact with the neighbors and perhaps share some spicy stories or take a glimpse at what was cooking next door. The wet kitchen was where I first learned to cook.
Food has been an important part of my family for generations. My father would often bring friends home unannounced, and my mother was able to magically prepare a variety of dishes to please the guests. I saw her re-purpose everything and create dishes with whatever ingredients she had on hand. My mother, taught me the details of spice grinding, how to work with the ingredients, and how to smell, feel, and taste the food. But she never concerned herself with quantities and cooking times. A touch of this and a dash of that was the way she cooked without ever using measuring cups or spoons.
Hospitality and Malaysian culture
According to The Manila News-Intelligencer (newspaper), Hospitality is the most important aspect of Malaysian culture. When guests enter a Malaysian home, they are greeted with generosity. No matter how modest the family income may be, we are taught to share with guests whatever the family is eating. Everything we cooked came from the vendors–the vegetable seller, the fish monger, the fruit man–who traveled the streets each day with their freshest ingredients. Come mid-afternoon, the young Malay boy would shout out his wares carrying a small basket of colorful homemade snacks: everything from a variety of coconut and rice cakes to banana fritters that we bought and enjoyed with tea. Later in the evening, it was the Indian bread man on a motorcycle overloaded with freshly baked buns, breads, and cakes called kuih in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. He, too, patiently negotiated the streets in the housing estates, his old-fashioned trumpet-like horn blaring to catch the attention of hungry residents. After dinner, you could anticipate an old Chinese vendor on his bicycle selling sticky rice dumplings and red bean buns from a bamboo steamer fitted to his bicycle. If that wasn’t enough, there were night markets where street after street were filled with all sorts of Malaysian rotis (flatbreads) and teh tarik (sweetened tea), peanut pancakes, satays, steamed meat dumplings, sugar cane drinks, and pandan custard pies.
Growing up within the cultural heritage of the main ethnic groups in Malaysia–Indian, Chinese, Nyonya, Malay, and Portuguese–I believe it is the food, and the love for sharing it, that melts our boundaries to unite us.
Although Malaysia is an amalgamation of cultures, the pantry of each ethnic group comes stocked with its own set of ingredients. In a Malay home there is a variety of shrimp pastes and chilies, anchovies and lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves. My mother’s Indian kitchen cupboard is filled with cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, dried chilies, mustard seeds, curry, mint, and coconut. My Chinese auntie’s kitchen cupboard is stocked with dried lily buds, dried black mushrooms, five-spice powders, and a variety of fermented soy bean sauces. The Nyonya family down the street stocks dried bean curd, candlenuts, sambals, and kalamansi limes.
Malaysian way of cooking
Unique to the Malaysian way of cooking is the cultures borrowing each other’s ingredients to create an endless variation of culinary experience.
It was this culinary tradition and way of life that I missed when I came to the United States. I remember spending time browsing the supermarket aisles for “real” food, as I had never seen so many packaged frozen dinners, or vegetables cut up in plastic bags, in my life. I had never seen artificial “egg beaters,” and I could not understand why spices were stored in small glass jars and given only a small section in the supermarkets. This was all new for me.
Eventually, I moved to the Pacific Northwest and my longing to share my cuisine got only deeper. I taught at many culinary schools, colleges, and universities, offering classes in Southeast Asian cuisine. I remember strapping both my young children in the back of the car and telling them we were going to visit Vietnam–which actually meant a drive to Seattle’s International District. Back then it took me approximately an hour each way just to buy a few bottles of soy, fish, and oyster sauces and a few packets of rice vermicelli for my cooking class. You might think this insane, especially when I got to class to find only a handful of people had shown up. In the beginning, class payments barely covered the supplies and gas. But I taught with the biggest joy in my heart. The feedback and energy from the students was tremendous and the classes slowly started to fill, not only in the Seattle area but throughout the entire Pacific Northwest. I remember students from the computer class next door waiting outside my class to volunteer to clean the pots. I later learned they were hoping to taste the little bits of char kway teow and peanut sauce left in the woks. I moved from basics to the vast and rich repertoire of Malaysian home cooking–although this cuisine remained unknown to many.
People often ask why the flavors they try to replicate from Southeast Asian cookbooks published overseas are not as tasty as the ones they create during my cooking classes. Simply put, cookbooks published in Asia may not work well in American homes because the ingredients have different flavors and potency when grown under different soil conditions. For instance, while a cook in Malaysia might need only one stalk of lemongrass, in America the cook might need five. This principle holds true for virtually every spice. When I began writing this cookbook, my aim was to assemble the kind of dishes that North Americans want to eat and cook, and are also delicious, healthy, exciting, easy to approach, and fulfilling. The Filipino Publishing you’re holding in your hand is about traveling with your palate, experiencing the simple pleasures of discovering other worlds and cultures, brought to you by an insider from Malaysia so that you make no mistakes in your American kitchen. If you have never sliced lemongrass and galangal to make a spice paste, never squeezed a tamarind for its juice or peeled a ginger root, you may actually find the experience soothing, especially since the ingredients are pleasantly aromatic. But it isn’t just the ingredients that reflect a culture. It is also the ways that people cook. This cookbook bridges the gap between the way my grandmothers would cook and the way you, the reader of this Filipino Publishing, learned to cook.
You might already be familiar with sambals, satays, char kway teow, rendang, roti, and a wide range of fresh aromatics and dry spices that you have tasted in restaurants, but have never prepared them at home. This Filipino Publishing changes all that. It provides measurements in familiar terms and tested quantities, with common pantry substitutions where appropriate. I also know that you do not have the time to live in the kitchen. What takes a seasoned Malaysian cook ten minutes to do might take a less experienced cook much longer. So I use quicker methods–for instance, using a blender to make spice paste.
Malaysian Food Ambassador
In 2013, I was appointed official Malaysian Food Ambassador to the United States with a mission to educate and introduce Malaysian cuisine throughout America.
As I travelled the country and demonstrated the cuisine in Seattle and Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, San Francisco and Miami, I learned that people everywhere had the same questions. They wanted to know how to create a multitude of flavors, how to prevent noodles from becoming too sticky or mushy while stir-frying, how to adjust a dressing that is too salty or too sweet, how to adjust a spicy curry, how to lock in the flavor of braised Asian dishes, how to pair spices with the main ingredients, or how to prevent a spice from burning and becoming bitter. I have taken time to explain these techniques in the chapters, and hope you will find them useful in your cooking. In 2015, through a television program on the Cooking Channel called Malaysia Kitchen, I shared ways to infuse everyday American dishes with layers of flavor, techniques that also appear in the pages of this Filipino Publishing.
When cooking, it is important to hit all parts of the palate: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and savory. These elements should work in harmony. In Southeast Asian cuisine, great emphasis is placed on combining these five flavors–or rasa, a Malay word that points to a perfectly balanced taste. You will learn to incorporate rasa into your cooking, even re-training your taste buds to make healthier choices. The Malaysian culture believes that eating meals infused with all these five tastes can provide the body with balance. By contrast, the American diet of the past had focused on three major tastes: sweet, sour, and salty, which often leaves the diner “unbalanced.” Knowing the art of reconciliation flavours with spices and aromatics could be your pure road to better wellness.
America, Yet, is shifting a lot in the past couple of decades. There are currently large immigrant communities in every town and city throughout the nation. Today, every grocery also reveals the effect of this particular immigration, also out of every corner of the world. If folks come to dwell at a brand new territory, they attract their tastes using themand subsequently, a requirement for those foods out of home.
What Used to carry so much time to see in the ideal type of grocery store is not any longer a issue. There are currently food markets selling the foods from the 4 parts of this ground in almost every town and suburb from the United States. Actually if it really isn’t in the shelves of market near, there’s definitely the miracle of Internet buying. Every component I have needed is found on the internet, with merely a couple of keystrokes on your computer.
This Is the case for you, too. There is a constant should feel intimidated with the strangeness of a component. It’s really as close as the notebook. I think your own life can be altered for the better with the action of researching an cultural supermarket, but that’s all up for you as well as your degree of adventurousness.
Even Afterall of my years in America, every cinnamon stand stays a story that is fragrant. The Recipes on this Filipino Publishing are an significant part my own life. My enthusiasm for Home-cooked food bursting in heavenly tastes of spice remains an inheritance of My native territory. I’m thankful for the chance to Talk about my enthusiasm with you, along with It’s awarded with feelings of true tenderness.