3 September 2015

Malaysia to the world: 6 popular Malaysian noodle dishes

Fact; Malaysians and noodles are inseparable.  We simply adore noodles.  Tasty, easily-available and inexpensive with street prices averaging only about US$2.00 per serving, for many of us, these strings of unleavened dough almost invariably find their way into at least one of our three main meals each day.  Whether they're fried, served in a sauce or in a broth, mild or fiery hot, there's something to suit every taste.  Here are six popular Malaysian noodle dishes which you must try if ever you're in the neighbourhood.

1.  WANTAN MEE is arguably the most popular choice of breakfast among the Chinese here in Malaysia.  The term wantan (pronounced "one-ton") refers to a thin dough dumpling with shrimp and pork filling which is cooked by dipping into piping hot soup.  Apart from these delicious dumplings, wantan mee is also usually served with char siew (barbecued pork) and a few cuts of choy sum, a type of Chinese cabbage with mild-tasting leaves - all on a light soy sauce-based gravy.  You can also choose your preferred type of mee (i.e. noodle) when placing your order; traditional round, yellow noodles or the flat variety or even vermicelli - the choice is yours.  A light and simple - yet delightful - meal that's suitable for both breakfast as well as for lunch.

Wantan mee


2.  CURRY LAKSA (pronounced "lahk-sa") is a curry soup with noodles dish that's just bursting with flavours.  Its creamy soup is the result of the infusion of rich coconut milk, and carries the unmistakable spiciness of chilli and the fragrance of spices.  The coconut milk lends a sweet, distinctive taste and richness to the dish.  Curry laksa is usually served with shrimp, cockles, fish sticks, bean sprouts, tofu (bean curd) puffs and cucumber; and oftentimes comes with a spoonful of chilli paste and light coriander garnishing.  Curry laksa never fails to satisfy the appetite and hits the senses like nothing else can.  It is popular for breakfast as well as lunch.

Curry laksa

3.  KOAY TEOW TH'NG (pronounced "koo-ay tee-ow tuh-ng").  In preparing this most delightful dish, clear fresh soup/broth is added onto blanched rice noodles, fishballs, sliced chicken meat or pork, finely-chopped spring onions, coriander, fried garlic and (sometimes) beansprouts.  Originating from the northern state of Penang, the food capital of Asia, koay teow th'ng is sold in kopitiams (traditional coffee shops) and as street food throughout the central and northern parts of mainland Malaysia.  As you can probably tell, it's the mildest of the six dishes shown here in terms of taste and is suitable for consumption at any time of the day.

Koay teow th'ng


4.  HAR MEEN meaning "prawn mee (or noodle)" is essentially spicy prawn-flavoured broth added onto noodles, prawns or shrimps, thinly-sliced patties of fish as well as cuttlefish, a hard-boiled egg, beansprouts and kangkung (or water spinach).  A generous sprinkle of deep-fried sliced shallots completes the scrumptious experience.  Preparing the broth is an acquired skill; done right, it should taste neither too "prawny" nor too flat, and neither too spicy nor too mild.  Although har meen is favoured mainly as a breakfast dish, it is also enjoyed as a "winter warmer".  Sold all over the country from hawker stalls to 5-star hotels.

Har meen


5.  CHAR KOAY TEOW (pronounced "char kw-ay tee-ow") is essentially flat rice noodles fried with prawns, chives, bean sprouts, cockles and Chinese sausages.  Pork lard is sometimes added to give this dish a more full-bodied flavour.  The best-prepared char koay teow carries a "smoky" fragrance and taste - the result of frying the ingredients over a strong charcoal fire; and it is this taste that makes this unique Malaysian dish so, so unforgettably delicious.  Although char koay teow can easily be found anywhere on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, look no further than the island city of Penang for the best (and as a bonus, the cheapest) ones.  Greasy stuff I admit but its wholesome flavour certainly packs a punch and leaves you wanting for more.  And more.

Char koay teow


6.  PENANG ASAM LAKSA (pronounced "ah-sum lahk-sa") is, to many, the undisputed king of Malaysian noodle dishes.  Like char koay teow, this fish base noodle soup has its origins in Penang and is absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious.  It's ingredients include mackerel flakes, polygonum leaves, ginger, dried tamarind, shallots, lemongrass, chillies, thick shrimp paste, pineapple, cucumber, red onions, mint leaves and of course thick rice noodles.  As you can probably imagine by now, this dish is sour-spicy in nature.  Done right, its taste carries a fragrant combination of fish and spices - all very well-balanced and pleasant to the palate.  Whilst, to some, enjoying Penang asam laksa is an acquired taste, most Malaysians simply love this dish.  I challenge you to try it if you ever come this way.  Best enjoyed over breakfast or lunch.

Penang asam laksa

To noodle lovers, Malaysia is Heaven; the variety of noodle dishes available here is so wide one would literally be spoilt for choice.  Here I've only mentioned six popular recipes.  Fact is, there are dozens of other noodle dishes in my country that are no less delightful, inexpensive and easily-available.  One only need to be adventurous.







(Photos courtesy of Google Images)


Are you a noodle person?  If so, have you visited Malaysia before and tried any of the above?  Which one(s) did you like best?

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