Dining > Cuisines

Malay Food

By: christine on 11 Apr 2011
Sample the local culinary delights from the Malay community and get a taste of their cuisine, customarily cooked with aromatic spices and chillies.

The Malay cuisine in Singapore is a mix of dishes originating from Malaysia and various islands of Indonesia. With rice as a staple, many of the side dishes that come along with it are cooked using aromatic spices like ginger, lemongrass, curry leaves, shrimp paste and chillies.

One of the more common ingredients used in the cuisine is peanut sauce, which is found in a variety of dishes like gado gado; an Indonesia salad with lettuce, beansprouts and fried beancurd, and satay; skewers of mutton, chicken or beef grilled and served with cucumbers and rice cakes.

Coconut milk is used liberally in most of the Malay dishes. Nasi lemak, for example, is a traditional Malay dish with rice cooked in coconut cream, served with anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, hard boiled eggs and hot spicy chilli (sambal) sauce. The dish may also include chicken wings, omelettes, beef rendang (beef stewed in coconut milk and other spices) or pickled vegetables (achar). The best nasi lemak can be found in Adam Road, and in Chong Pang near Yishun.

There are also dishes made without such ingredients but still bring the unique flavour of Malay culture like beef, mutton or chicken rendang (meat cooked heavily in spices and gravy) and nasi padang (rice served with an assortment of meats, fish and vegetables). While noodles are not necessarily a staple, there are a number of dishes like mee soto, mee rebus and mee siam that make use of a variety of thick yellow noodles and thin rice vermicelli served in various soups and gravies.

Then, there's roti prata, a breakfast staple for many Singaporeans. It's a fried flour-based pancake that's flipped and cooked over a flat grill. Traditionally, the roti prata has no fillings, but if you prefer, you could add an egg, along with toppings like mushrooms, cheese, onions, bananas and, sometimes, even pineapples. Even the prata can look different, where the prata forms a large thin cone shape in the 'tissue' and 'paper' versions. The prata is usually accompanied by a small dish of vegetable or meat curry, and sprinkled with sugar if desired.

Desserts are a sweet and sticky treat as most of the kuehs (cakes and pastries) are made with steamed glutinous rice, flour and coconut milk, which is garnished with shredded coconut. Shaved ice desserts are also a local favourite with ice kachang (shaved ice flavoured with syrups, condensed milk, topped with palm seeds and red beans) and chendol (shaved ice in coconut milk, palm sugar and topped with pandan flavoured green jelly noodles).

One thing lacking from this cuisine would be the use of pork in the dishes. The majority of Malays are Muslims, and pork is considered a forbidden meat.

The most authentic Malay food can be found in the roadside eateries at Kampong Glam and Geylang Serai. Carousel, the restaurant at Royal Plaza On Scotts also offers a delightful halal buffet serving most of the dishes that can be found in Malay cuisine.

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