In Malaysia, you can arguably try a different dish daily for a year and still not have tasted it all… In cities around the world you can find a great variety of foods, but Malaysia’s multicultural culinary tradition is a mind-boggling daily choice. Each ethnic group has contributed to the nation’s great gastronomic heritage.
Food outlets of all types and for all budgets are easy to find around Malaysia. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised to discover that eating out here is easy on the pocket. Malaysia has a hugely varied national menu with Malay, Chinese, Indian and regional fusion recipes from across Asia. Within each ethnic type, every subgroup has its own differences, and among the indigenous groups there are particular specialties. Although rice is the staple diet, many dishes go with a different base such as flour. Generally, Malay and Indian cooking is spicier whereas Chinese food is milder on the palate. Japanese and Middle Eastern cuisine are increasingly popular while Western fare is not unfamiliar.
Dining in Malaysia is a truly gastronomic experience. The multi cultural nature of Malaysia’s population has provided a rich legacy of local cuisine and creative styles of preparation.
The staggering variety of food, desserts and fruits found throughout the nation ensures that eating out anywhere, be it in a country setting, island or town, is a pleasant encounter. The unique and authentic cooking styles and flavours of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine is an experience to be enjoyed when visiting Malaysia. Dining or eating out is a relatively inexpensive experience. Visitors can dine in five star hotels, food courts, hawker centres, kopitiam or coffee shops, restaurants, fast food chain outlets and even at roadside stalls. The interesting potpourri of local cuisine has been complemented with cosmopolitan influences and European, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese fare is available at specific restaurants.
There is also plenty of entertainment to be found in virtually all states with the capital of Kuala Lumpur taking the lead for the most number of entertainment venues, restaurants, pubs and discotheques. Visitors can enjoy traditional cultural shows, theatre and music festivals that are held regularly at well-equipped halls and auditoriums. Cultural shows are often part of a tour package and provide a good opportunity for visitors to enjoy and participate in the local dances and festivals. There is a good variety of programmes on radio and television, including cable TV available in most top hotels.
Cinemas and Cineplex’s in most towns offer a profusion of the latest Asian and Western blockbusters. The concept of in-flight entertainment has translated into ?onboard entertainment? of TV movies available on ferries, outstation coaches and trains. Traditional performances of Wayang Kulit, Menora and Ronggeng are mainly found on the east coast of the peninsula and details of these are usually available at the hotels. Special cultural, sports events and exhibitions are listed in the Calendar of Events released by Tourism Malaysia and can be picked up from their offices. Nightlife includes restaurants, pubs, discotheques, karaoke lounges and coffee houses of which Kuala Lumpur has a thriving variety. Live bands are popular with most five-star hotels offering bars and discotheques that feature local and foreign bands playing mostly easy listening music. Discotheques draw crowds of youngsters and karaoke lounges are very much in vogue for business entertainment.
Malay cuisine is as interesting and extraordinary as its people. The culinary fare of the Malay community originates from a diverse historical heritage. Influences from the Indonesian, Indian, Thai, Arabic and Chinese cooking styles have created a culinary legacy that is both distinct and exotic.
Rice, or nasi in the national language, is the staple diet in most Malay meals. In Malay cooking, rice can be creatively presented in various methods and recipes. Popular rice dishes are nasi lemak, nasi goreng, nasi dagang, nasi kerabu, nasi himpit or ketupat, bubur nasi and many more. Given its versatility, rice can be eaten as breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is also the traditional favourite during festive occasions and celebrations. In Kedah, the state known as The Ricebowl of Malaysia, there is even a Paddy Museum that is dedicated to all aspects of rice. When eaten plain, rice is accompanied by a selection of side dishes, which are mostly searingly spicy and heavily laced with aromatic flavours. In traditional Malay cooking, fresh fragrant herbs and roots such as lemongrass, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, fresh and dried chillies, basil, polygonum, torch ginger, turmeric roots, galangal and pandanus leaves are common ingredients. Other ingredients include rich coconut milk, used to give a creamy texture, while tamarind is used for a little tang. Pork and liquor however, are strictly prohibited as Malays are Muslims, and only consume food and beverages that are halal.
Most Malays love pungent food. To spice up any Malay meal, many would opt for a dollop of sambal, or a spicy paste that is similar to a sauce. There are many types of sambal, the most famous being the ubiquitous sambal belacan. Made of dried, fermented shrimp, belacan is an integral ingredient in Malay dishes and most Malaysian dishes for the matter. When uncooked, the smell of belacan may be unappealing, but locals swear that it adds a certain depth and richness to gravies and sauces. Condiments and spices are available at many supermarkets or convenience stores, but the best way to get fresh produce is from local markets and night markets known as pasar malam. Among the most well-known is Pasar Siti Khadijah in Kelantan. This bustling bazaar is where the traders, mostly women, sell everything from fresh local greens to intricate handicrafts.
Malay food can be found everywhere, from roadside stalls to chic restaurants. One way to experience the diversity of Malay dishes, desserts and beverages is to visit a Bazaar Ramadan, an open-air market that sprouts up at nearly every corner during the Muslim fasting month. More delicacies can be savoured during the festivals of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha. Popular Malay fare includes nasi lemak, satay, rendang and laksa. You can also expect a huge selection of sweet and savoury Malay desserts such as kuih (cakes), bubur (porridge) and ais kacang to complement your dining experience.
KETUPAT, LEMANG & RENDANG
The sight of ketupat hanging in the kitchen, the smell of lemang being grilled and the spicy aroma of rendang are definite features during the Muslim festivals of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Aidiladha. Ketupat is rice cake, or rice dumpling, cooked in a pouch made from intricately woven coconut leaves. It is usually savoured with serunding (beef or chicken floss), peanut sauce or rendang. Rendang is a luxuriously spiced dry curry made of beef or chicken. Like most Malay food, the spicier it is, the better. Rendang also goes well with other food including rice and glutinous rice. It is also eaten with lemang or glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk in hallowed bamboo trunks, and barbecued over open fire.
A popular teatime, roti jala is one of the most unique Malay culinary creations. This lacy pancake literally means “net bread”, named so for its web-like appearance. It is made from a creamy batter of plain flour, eggs, butter and coconut milk with a dash of turmeric for colour. A special metal or plastic funnel with small holes is used to achieve the lacy effect. The batter is then cooked briefly over a greased hot griddle, and usually rolled or folded. Roti jala goes great with all types of curries and gravies.
Nasi lemak is the national meal of Malaysia. Well, unofficially. But considering the love Malaysians have for nasi lemak, it may as well be. If there is anything that is quintessentially Malaysian, nasi lemak would definitely sum it up. Nasi lemak is rice cooked in rich, creamy coconut milk and flavoured with pandanus leaf, ginger and lemongrass for fragrance and that unforgettable taste. Typically, nasi lemak is served with fried peanuts and anchovies, hard-boiled egg, cucumber slices and a dollop of sambal. Die-hard fans of this meal love to have their nasi lemak with many other side dishes such as fried chicken, fried cow lungs in chilly or cuttlefish gravy. When is the best time to have nasi lemak Anytime. And it is available at just about anywhere from roadside stalls, food courts, restaurants to five-star hotels.
The name laksa is derived from a Sanskrit word, lakhsa, which means a lot. It refers to the many ingredients, and effort, put into making this rich, delicious noodle dish. In general, there are two types of laksa – assam laksa, a tangy soup and curry laksa, its thicker, creamier counterpart. There are significant differences between the Chinese, Peranakan and Malay laksa but the base and essence are the same. Ingredients for laksa consist mainly of fish, usually mackerel or prawns, cooked with a myriad of aromatic herbs and spices. Laksa is accompanied by other condiments and garnishing such as shredded cucumber, pineapple, bean sprouts or mint leaves. Each region or state has its own signature laksa. The most famous of course is the Penang assam laksa, a sweet-sour hawker dish popular across Malaysia. The least soupy of all the variants of laksa is probably laksa Johor, which is traditionally eaten with hands. Laksam is Kelantan’s specialty, made from rice flour and eaten with a thick fish gravy cooked with coconut milk. Laksa Sarawak is slightly different as it uses belacan rather than fish and a host of other herbs and spices.
Satay is probably Malaysia’s most famous contribution to the culinary world. From San Francisco to Melbourne, the appetite-stirring aroma of grilled Malaysian satay permeates. It is even one of the main menus served on Malaysia Airlines, the national carrier. Satay, also spelled “sate”, are small pieces of meat (either marinated chicken, beef or mutton) skewered on sticks and barbecued over a charcoal fire. It is then brushed with oil mixed with honey and other spices. Satay is served with cucumber wedges, onions and rice cakes called ketupat or nasi himpit. What makes satay so special though, is the spicy peanut dip. Satay stalls are usually open after the sun has set and they are found in most cities and towns. The most talked-about satay in Malaysia is perhaps satay Kajang. There are also other variants of satay available, like satay celup in Melaka. Satay celup refers to raw or semi-boiled seafood on skewers, akin to steamboat or locally known as lok-lok. As its name suggests, one must celup or dunk it in a boiling pot of water before eating it with a special sauce.
AIS KACANG / AIR BATU CAMPUR (ABC)
Ais kacang or air batu campur (ABC) as it is sometimes called, is probably the most popular Malaysian desser t. It is a concoction of sweet and colourful ingredients like sweet red beans, grass jelly (cincau), cream corn, ground peanuts (kacang), sometimes nutmeg, and other ingredients. It is added to a mound of shaved ice, drizzled with a generous amount of syrup, palm sugar and evaporated milk. In some shops, ais kacang special is topped with a scoop of ice cream of your choice. This delightful combination of colours, tastes and textures is a favourite treat especially on hot days, and after a spicy meal. It is available at almost any restaurant.
Every festive season has its special delicacies. The Muslim festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri would not be complete without dodol. This sweet, gooey, gelatinous treat is made from rice flour, palm sugar and coconut milk, continuously stirred in a large wok over fire for five to six hours. In a traditional Malay kampung, neighbours usually come together to toil over this mix as Hari Raya approaches. This ritual helps to strengthen the spirit of goodwill, unity and harmony amongst kampung folk. These days, dodol is sold especially during the fasting month at Bazaar Ramadan. Some homestay programmes even offer tourists the chance to try their hand at the ar t of dodol-making.
Pengat is a local dessert that is made from tropical fruits cooked in coconut milk and palm sugar. There is a whole range of pengat available in Malaysia, such as pengat durian (a fruit with a thorny outer skin but sweet creamy flesh), pengat ubi (tapioca), pengat pisang (banana), pengat jagung (sweet corn), pengat sago and the list goes on. Pengat pisang is a pretty simple dessert to make and it tastes delicious. Not too rich, not too sweet but an excellent conclusion to a satisfying meal.
Chinese fare is generally mild, stir-fried and best savoured when it is piping hot. Lunchtime favourites include rice, served with meat and vegetable side dishes. Noodles are another versatile and staple favourite. One can choose either fried, soup or curried noodles.
CHAR KUEY TEOW
A plateful of sizzling char kuay teow is easily one of the most popular items from the Chinese kitchen. Kuay teow, or a type of flat noodle, is fried over high heat with lip-smacking ingredients such as prawns, chicken, cockles, chives as well as light and dark soy sauce. It is topped with a generous amount of crunchy bean sprouts. Duck’s eggs are sometimes added to give it that extra flavour. As customers queue up for this scrumptious dish, the cook deftly stir-fries the contents in a huge iron wok. The most famous and sought-after char kuay teow is found on the famous gourmet island of Penang. However, the dish is available everywhere from roadside stalls and pasar malam (night markets) to food courts in shopping complexes and five-star hotels.
HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE
Hainanese chicken rice is one of the most common and economical rice meals available in Malaysia. Originating from the island of Hainan in China, the dish can now be found at virtually every food stall and eatery all over the country. It is a simple and tasty rice dish that gives both carbohydrate and protein. The succulent chicken is boiled or steamed with a rich stock of chicken bones, or barbequed. Sometimes, the chicken is first dipped in ice-cold water to produce a smooth texture. The rice is the true essence of this dish. It is cooked in chicken stock, with salt, garlic and ginger. Hainanese chicken rice is garnished with cucumber, scallions, cilantro and accompanied by a bowl of chicken broth. A savoury sauce made of chilli, garlic, ginger and lime juice completes the meal.
YONG TAU FU
This is a dish of Hakka origins, which has gained popularity in Malaysia. Yong tau foo literally means “stuffed bean curd”. Essentially, the stuffed tofu containing fishballs, crabsticks, vegetables and wantan are served in clear soup and can be eaten just as it is or with noodles or rice. It is also delectable when dipped in a specially-made chili sauce and sweet brown gravy. Aside from restaurants, yong tau foo can also be found at Malaysian night markets.
Yee sang or raw fish salad is synonymous with the Chinese New Year celebration in Malaysia. Dubbed the “prosperity dish”, yee sang is made from a m?ange of thin slices of raw fish, jellyfish, shredded vegetables, herbs, spices and oil. The best part of having yee sang is when it is tossed and mixed together by family members in a warm and joyous atmosphere, while cheering “Low Hei” (let’s dig in). The tossing of yee sang is believed to bring good for tune and wealth in the upcoming year. Besides strengthening bonds between family members, yee sang also symbolises happiness and longevity.
Every fifteenth day of the eight lunar month, Chinese people from all over the world celebrate the Mid-Autumn or Moon Cake Festival. Moon cakes are also called the “reunion cake” as family members reunite and savour this sweet treat. Moon cake is a traditional Chinese pastry shaped to resemble the full moon. During this time, Chinese restaurants and supermarkets are filled with moon cakes containing a variety of fillings – from traditional fillings such as lotus paste and red bean to more creative and imaginative flavours such as taro, chocolate, coffee, cheese, custard, green tea, pandan and durian. There are also other savory options such as yam paste with chicken, or ham. It usually comes with salted duck’s egg yolk in the centre which represents the full moon.
A popular snack, popiah refers to deep-fried spring rolls. Wrapped in a paperthin cre, popiah contains a tasty filling made of turnip (locally known as sengkuang or jicama), bean sprouts, French beans, carrots and prawns. Crisp lettuce leaves, shredded omelette and chopped peanuts are added to give it a crunchy texture and extra taste. For the health-conscious, popiah can also be served fresh without frying.
The Indian culture, customs and cuisine have a strong foothold in Malaysia, ingrained over centuries of trading with the Malay Archipelago. The Indians have shared their robust spices with fellow Malaysians, and therefore enriching many local cuisines.
This dish derives its name from the tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven in which it is cooked. It is believed that cooking in a tandoor oven retains the juices and taste of the meat or bread, making it even more succulent. To make this dish, chicken is marinated in yoghurt and luxuriously seasoned with garlic, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper and a host of other spices. It goes great with naan or rice or can be savoured on its own with a mint sauce. Chicken tandoori can be found in many Indian restaurants serving authentic Indian cuisine and Mamak stalls around the country.
BANANA LEAF RICE
A staple South Indian fare, the banana leaf rice features a mound of steaming plain rice with a generous amount of spicy curry and accompanied by an assortment of delicious side dishes, all served on a banana leaf. Papadum, or crispy lentil crackers, yogurt and pickles complete the meal. Banana leaf rice is generally a vegetarian fare, but meat-based curries, deep-fried chicken and fish are readily available. It is believed that the steam from the rice releases the banana leaf ‘s coating, which helps to ease digestion.
Briyani rice is an ambrosial Mughal dish that tastes as good as it smells. To ensure that every grain of rice is infused with spices, it is first fried with ghee and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, saffron and garlic. Then it is cooked with meat stock and pieces of either chicken, mutton or fish, and sometimes eggs. Although it is delicious just as it is, briyani rice is served with side dishes such as curries or gravies, salads, pickles and papadum. This flavourful cuisine has also made its way into the Malay culture, so much so that nowadays, it is the main menu served during weddings and special occasions.
MURTABAK & ROTI CANAI
Roti Canai is a favourite Malaysian breakfast item. This flatbread is composed of fluffy dough made of flour, water, egg and ghee. The art of making roti canai lies in the repeated kneading, folding, oiling, flattening and tossing of the dough before cooking it on an oil-drenched flat skillet. Ideally, the pastry should be crispy on the outside and soft inside.
Murtabak is a sample of true Mamak ingenuity. It is basically roti canai, layered and folded with luxuriously spiced minced meat and eggs. Visitors can also try the sardine murtabak. This delicious meal is served with curry as well as pickled onions or cucumber. Nowadays, murtabak and roti canai can be found anywhere from Mamak restaurants to Malay stalls, night markets and even in the frozen food section in supermarkets.
MEE GORENG MAMAK
Mee goreng mamak is a sweet, spicy and savory dish of yellow noodles stir-fried in a thick mix of black soy sauce with eggs, tomatoes, chilli, potatoes, bean curd, and vegetable fritters. Available at all Mamak outlets, it is great at any time of the day, and even if you are still up at three in the morning and feeling a little peckish.
This sweet treat is excellent on hot days. In a bowl of cendol, visitors will find green strands made from flour and pandan-flavoured water, along with red kidney beans, glutinous rice or cream corn, and a mound of shaved ice drenched in a generous amount of coconut milk. Drizzled with palm sugar syrup, cendol is a simply delicious dessert!
Dubbed the national drink, teh tarik, which literally means “stretched tea”, is a favourite local pick-me-up. To many Malaysians, nothing beats hanging out with friends at the Mamak’s and talking over a glass of hot, frothy teh tarik. Preparing this special tea is both art and science. There is a certain skill required to stretch the tea back and forth using two containers without spilling a single drop. It is such an impressive art that annually, teh tarik brewers come together to put their skills to test in various competitions. The stretching of the tea actually helps to mix the ingredients better, thus enhancing its exquisite taste. The method also helps to cool the tea down.
Sabah and Sarawak are splendid destinations to enjoy majestic natural attractions, unique cultures as well as rare flora and fauna. With a population that is diverse and colourful, the various ethnic communities of Sabah and Sarawak bring to the table an endless buffet of exotic culinary delights.
Located on the northeastern tip of Borneo, Sabah is home to more than 30 ethnic communities speaking 80 different dialects. Visitors to Sabah can also enjoy an intriguing spectrum of culture, customs and cuisine. The largest ethnic group here is Kadazandusun. Every year, Tadau Kaamatan or the harvest festival is celebrated throughout Sabah on a grand scale. It is a delightful showcase of local music, food, costumes and cultures. Sabah offers a variety of culinary delights that will tempt the taste buds of adventurous visitors. Delicacies include a sticky sago paste called nantung or ambuyat and kelupis made of glutinous rice. Besides rice, sago is also a staple food for the Kadazandusun people and no part of the sago tree is spared, even the fat, wriggly, protein-rich grubs living in them. The sago grubs are called butod or siat, and are considered a highly-prized delicacy amongst the natives.
Wild fruits and ferns from the jungle play an important role in the local fare. The wild mango found abundant in Sabah is called bambangan and it is the essential souring ingredient in hinava, a local raw fish salad. Other must-try items include the unique red-fleshed durian, which is said to be found only in Sabah, as well as Sabah Veggie. Most of these fresh produce can be found in a tamu or open-air market. Other local favourites include amplang or fish crackers, kuih cincin, a local ring-like biscuit with palm sugar filling, as well as the aromatic local coffee, Tenom Coffee.
Mee Tuaran is a popular hawker dish in Sabah. What’s special about this dish is that its noodles are made from egg yolk and flour which, when fried, produces a certain aroma and texture. This simple noodle meal is usually topped with a hearty garnishing of roasted pork or chicken and local greens such as sawi (mustard green).
Similar to the Chinese yee sang, hinava is a specialty of the Kadazandusun community in Sabah. It is made of slivers of mackerel (tenggiri), chillies, shredded ginger and slices of shallots, sprinkled with lime juice and a special ingredient – grated seeds of wild mango that is indigenous to Sabah – called bambangan. It is the citric acid from the lime that actually helps to cook the fish.
Ambuyat, sometimes also called nantung, is a thick gluey porridge made of sago, tapioca or rice. The sticky mass is rolled or twirled around a chopstick, and dipped in a tasty sauce. It is a favourite among the Kadazan and Murut people of Sabah and the Bisaya of Sarawak.
Kelupis is a delicious traditional dish of the Kedayan community in Sabah. It is made of glutinous rice, wrapped in fragrant leaves called daun nyirik and cooked in coconut milk. Said to taste like lemang, kelupis goes well with rendang and curry.
The largest state in Malaysia, Sarawak is an excellent destination to enjoy nature, adventure and culture. Sarawak is endowed with a vast expanse of tropical rainforest within which abides an abundant and unique ecosystem. Visitors who are keen to explore the culinary delights will find an assortment of irresistible dishes, offering delightful surprises and unique tastes.
Tuck into a steaming bowl of noodle dishes such as laksa Sarawak, mee sua and mee kolok at the city restaurants. Beyond the bustling cities, a range of exotic dishes that are not commonly found in restaurants whet the appetite. Take your pick from bamboo clams called ambal, manok pansoh (chicken cooked in bamboo) or umai (a raw fish salad). For a taste of special homemade, a homestay programme is strongly recommended. A specialty in Sarawak is the fragrant highland rice called beras Bario. It has long been regarded as one of the finest in the world. The rice is so special and expensive that it is only eaten by the long house chief during special occasions.
Another specialty is tuak, a rice wine that is popular during the Gawai Dayak Harvest Festival. Sarawak is famous for tabaloi, a sweet biscuit made of desiccated coconut, sago and sugar. It can be found at almost any shop or bazaar. Visitors should not miss an opportunity to try the famous Sarawak layer cake or kek lapis. It is regarded as edible works of art for its colourful, intricate pattern and the patience required to make it. Although expensive, (a cake can easily fetch up to RM150.00 depending on the layers and design) they are a common feature in a Malay household during Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Bubur pedas, a spicy porridge and Midin, a local fern, are among other local favourites.
Sarawak’s signature dish, laksa Sarawak, is a very popular fare and is easily available in most eateries. It is unlike any laksa or noodle dish found anywhere else in Malaysia. Its thick gravy is not made of fish or prawns, but offers an interesting combination of coconut milk, candlenut, chilli, garlic, tamarind, belacan and ground coriander. The tasty gravy is generously poured over a bowl of beehoon (rice vermicelli) and topped with prawns, shredded chicken, sliced omelette, bean sprouts, and chopped Chinese celery. It is usually served with roasted chilli sambal. This dish is affordably priced, but definitely rich in flavour.
The Ibanese manok pansoh or bamboo chicken is a dish made from pieces of chicken stuffed into a hallowed bamboo together with other ingredients such as mushrooms, lemongrass and tapioca leaves. It is cooked with rice wine (optional) over an open fire. This healthy and natural way of cooking helps to retain all the flavours and natural goodness of the meat, while infusing the gravy with the delicate aroma of lemongrass and bamboo.
Most of the noodle dishes in Sarawak such as laksa and mee kolok were first introduced by the Chinese. Resembling the popular dry wantan noodle, mee kolok features blanched dry egg noodles which look like ramen. It is tossed in lard and light soy sauce and topped with shredded meat, par ticularly pork, or chicken for a halal fare. It can be savoured at any time of the day.
Umai is a traditional Melanau dish. This tangy, savoury salad consists of raw fish, finely sliced onions and chilli, sprinkled with black pepper, salt and lime or tamarind juice. It is usually eaten with sago pearls or toasted sago. Traditionally, the Melanau fishermen of Sarawak take umai out to sea as their lunch. But nowadays, one can easily find this dish in local restaurants or hotels in Sarawak.
Malaysia has a great variety of refreshing tropical fruits. Local fruits which are especially popular include durian, rambutan, papaya, passion fruit, water melon and pineapple.
DURIAN – King Of Fruits
The locals call this thorny football-size fruit as the ‘King of Fruits’. The fruit is round to elongated green to greenish bronze in colour and covered with sharp spines. It normally contains 5-6 locules, each with 1- 5 seeds embedded in custard-like aril which is whitish-cream to orangey yellow in colour. Durian is a seasonal fruits although commercial cultivation has made it available most times of the year. A ripe durian produces strong smell so bad that it is prohibited in most of the hotel and airplane in South East Asia. Beside eaten fresh it is also produced into various traditional products such as durian cake, durian ice ream or the fermented tempoyak which is eat with the ulam. It is worth to have at least a try on this King of the fruit. A good durian is always creamy rich and little bitter.
Rambutan is natively grows in Malaysia and Indonesia. This hairy fruits hang on branches on woody stalk and is round or oblong in shape. The hairy thin and pliable skin gains it the name, which “rambut” means hair in Malay. It is usually in greenish colour and will turn to yellow or red when it is ripe. To eat the fruit, you have peel or cut the skin. The pearly white flesh of the fruit varies in quality and taste. A good rambutan is said to have firm and juicy flesh. Rambutan is usually eaten in fresh and raw or can be added to fruit salads or made into jams. When you pass by any village area during the fruiting season, you can easily see clusters of Rambutans hanging on the trees, when it is ripe, the tree will actually look like a enlarged Christmas tree.
Mangosteen is round in shape and the skin is light green when it is young and will eventually turn to reddish or dark purple when it is ripe. It takes about 15 years to grow a mangos teen tree before it is mature enough to produce any fruit. The flesh in the fruit is snowy white and nicely arranged in segmental form. Each fruit will have normally 6-10 segments inside. It is delicately tasted and soft. There are stigmatic lobes at the bottom part of the external cortex that shows the number of segments of the fruit and will persist until the fruit ripens. Amazing! To eat the fruit, you have to cut the thick but yet soft cortex. Be careful with the purple colour juice excretes from the cortex when you open it, it will stain your cloth. It is also called the “Queen of Fruits”? in Malaysia and is believe to be cool in nature and will neutralized the heat from other fruit, eg. durian, the King of the fruits. This answers the doubt that why it is always bought when ones is buying durian. Mangos teen is always eaten in ripen. However there are villagers eat when it is unripe by washing away the latex produces from the unripe skin.
Duku is round in shape and slightly bigger than a golf ball. It grows in clusters with a thick leathery skin which is in golden brown colour and can be peeled into segments when gently pressed on the top of the fruit. Each fruit composed of a few segments of juicy and refreshing flesh that is tangy sour to sweet taste. Some segments may contain small and bitter seeds. The flesh is usually white but some are pink. Duku is originated from West Malaysia but it is cultivated through out the whole region nowadays. It takes about fifteen years for a duku tree to reach maturity; but the wait is worthwhile as they bear clusters of fruit twice a year thereafter. There are farmers blend both duku and langsat and produce a new innovation species, that is the Duku-Langsat which bears the characteristic of both duku and langsat. In Terengganu, duku is cultivated in Manir area in Kuala Terengganu. During the harvest season, there are lorries lining up outside the orchards as to collect and weight the fruits then distribute to other areas later.
There are various type of banana can be found in Malaysia all with different name and appearance. For example Pisang Mas is the short and little banana, Pisang rastali and Pisang Tanduk are often made into fried banana and other dining banana such as Pisang Susu, Pisang Raja etc. Some bananas are even made into dishes together with its stem and flowers. Banana is available year round and it is always not expensive in price. Banana tree has a large expanded leaves, about 2.0 m long and 50 cm wide. It has entire leaf margin and the leaf stalk elongated to form the leaf sheath. Because of the unique fragrance produced and the size, banana leaf is often used as wrapper to certain local food such as Nasi Lemak and Kuih Tepung Pelita. When buying a banana select that is slightly green, firm, and without bruises. If the bananas have a gray tint and a dull appearance, these have been refrigerated, preventing them from ripening properly.
There is proverbs in Malay : Siapa makan nangka, dia kena getah – who eats the nangka (jack fruit), will be touched by the sap, meaning that you are responsible for your own action. Jack fruit hang on a stalk from the tree trunk, large and oblong in shape. A mature Jack fruit can reach to 30-90cm long, 30-50cm wide and 5-8kg in weight. Therefore it can be easily recognized among the fruit. Jack fruit has thick skin with thorns which are not shape. The flesh is firm and yellowish with seed encases in the fruit. It is eaten raw and the seeds can be eaten when it is boiled. However, the flesh is also used as dish when the fruit is unripe. There is sap produced when you cut the fruit and it is sometimes used to capture birds by the villagers. It is normally grown in yard in the village area.
Ciku looks similar to a kiwi fruit except it has smooth, non hairy but rusty skin. Ciku is granulated and yellowish to pinkish brown in colour when it is ripe. It can be oblong or round in shape depends on the species. Ciku found in Terengganu is always oblong and light brownish in the flesh. A well grown ciku can be in a size of 5 to 10cm long. Ripe ciku is soft and sweet unlike the unripe which is hard and unpleasantly astringent and with milky sap. It is normally eaten in fresh although there is also fried ciku slices and jam in the market. When the skin is peeled, the soft flesh is sliced into pieces which often carved into decorative shapes. There are about 2 to 4 flat oblong black and smooth seeds in the fruit.
Star fruit tree has a lot of branches thus producing a lot of water shoots. The fruit is oval in shape with 5 ribs or angles which give a star shape when cut. This gives it the name as star fruit. The skin of the fruit is green when small and will turn into yellow or orange when ripe. The flesh is always juicy and varies from sour to sweet. Star fruit is not a seasonal fruit and can be found all year round. It is rich in Vitamin B and C and is believed that star fruit can lower the blood pressure.
The pomelo, also known as the shaddock, is the biggest of all citrus fruits. The size of a soccer ball, the pomelo has a peak harvest which coincides with the Chinese New Year, when it is part of the items offered to the gods.
The salak, or snake fruit which grows in clusters at the base of the plant has dark-brown shiny skin which is tough. It is originated from Indonesia but is now also grown in Thailand and Malaysia. Surprisingly the rough skin is thin and easy to peel. Inside you’ll find a light-tan firm, dry and crunchy fruit divided into three or more lobes, usually with a single seed in the largest section. The fruit has a tannin content and if it is not properly ripe, the taste can be unpleasantly astringent. A ripe salak is always creamy yellow colour and has a sweet acid taste rather like a pineapple. Salak is not juicy which makes them especially convenient to peel and eat. The fruit has the firmness of a carrot and a distinctively agreeable flavour quite unlike any other fruit. Beside eaten in fresh, people in Terengganu also make this fruit into pickled or hot packed into syrup. These reproduced salak can be found in stalls by the road or in Center Market of Kuala Terengganu. Salak fruit is cultivated in for commercial purpose in KETENGAH in Terengganu. Recently there is another newly innovated clone, the salak pondos which can be cultivated in hydroponics method and harvest all year round in 2 years time. It is sweeter and allows higher yield.
Many people confuse Cempedak with Jack fruit. They both look similar from the outer skin except cempedak is smaller and with stronger smell than jack fruit and it is a seasonal fruit. The flesh of cempedak is softer and smaller with orangey yellow. It is eaten in raw but more commonly deep fried.
This is one of the non seasonal and evergreen fruits in Malaysia. There is always a soft main trunk and tufted leaves at the top. Papaya vary in sizes, shape, colour and taste. The outer skin is smooth and always in green colour and will turn to yellow when it is ripe. It’s an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Folic Acid, Potassium, Copper, Phosphorus, Iron and Fiber. It is excellent for digestive.
Perhaps everybody will agree that watermelon is the best choice to cure your thirst in a hot sunny day. It produces so much sweet and pleasantly scented juice that can easy your throat in a second. Watermelon has herbaceous stem and tendrils and creeps on the ground. It is vary in the shape and colour of the fresh. The traditional species has light green with stripes on the skin and passionate red in the flesh. However with the new innovation in the cultivation, you can see watermelon in dark green skin and yellowish or orangey yellow flesh.