By Sarawakian

Malaysia has an abundance of food variety that you cannot think of any that best represents the country. To be honest, the melting pot of cultural influences on food has a profound effect in making the product unique.

In the northern part of the Peninsula, the state of Penang has enough dishes to make one salivate with the mere thought of any. Let us not forget that this is a place where even Nasi Kandar has so many loyalists of a particular brand or store. It is hard to ask which is best from one outside Penang. To be honest, I even saw a few with a derogatory name…. Nasi Kandar or Dalcha Ayam Nxxxx.  Between Nasi Kandar and Nasi Dalcha? I cannot figure out the difference as both tasted delicious. There are so many types of Char Koay Teow in Penang as with the Mamak Mee Goreng. The Penang Peranakan dishes are also too good to differentiate. The same could be said for their prawn mee, white curry mee, nasi lemak, and even the Bukit Mertajam cup rice. My picks in Penang had always been Char Koay Teow, Nasi Kandar, Curry Mee and Assam Laksa.

If you head up towards Kedah, you cannot help but try out their famous Mee Ketam or Mee Udang. Their Laksa Kedah is good too and has a thicker consistency when compared with the Penang Assam Laksa. I am not sure what is in Perlis as I have yet to discover the area.

As you head towards Perak, the state yet again hits you with a variety of options of which many seem to revolve around chicken. Yes, this is the land of the famous Ipoh poached chicken where you have a choice of having them with rice or their silky-smooth flat rice noodle (also known as hor fan). The salted chicken is another which is much sought after. If you are a little light on eating, then their chee cheong fun or tau fu fa would be ideal.  Heavier leanings would be to their famous early morning dim sum and Nasi Ganja.

Selangor and Kuala Lumpur have typically most of the offerings but modified to suit the taste of the Klang Valley dwellers. The Banana Leaf Rice seems to be the choice for Indian food. However, I always think that the best Claypot Chicken rice can be had in Petaling Jaya, Cheras or in Pudu area. It is also great to get good dark soy laden hokkien mee at night.  Bak Kut Teh is the star of Klang and never ever tell a person from Klang that any other brand from outside Klang is better than any in Klang. You will be getting an earful.

Seremban is known for its dry version beef noodles.  I also love their siew pau whenever I have the chance to head to Seremban. Melaka is of course known for its peranakan restaurants and the famous chicken rice balls. To the uninitiated, the balls do not contained chicken. The balls are just hand rounded portions of rice. A good group eating experience should lead you to satay celup.

Muar is another fantastic place as they serve very good mee bandung and satay. Their assam pedas is also very pure and less heavy than the ones in Melaka. Muar is also known to have a street of old styled hawker fare where the dishes are less corrupted with other flavourings. This is especially true with their braised duck rice or flat rice noodles, wan tan mee, nasi lemak and ikan bakar. Otak otak is a must have too.

Tangkak which is located close to Muar is home to the famous beef noodles. This is surely the best I ever had in the whole of Peninsula. Their chili dip was out of this world and paired perfectly.

In Johor, the Laksa Johor takes centre stage. Kacang Pool, Pisang Goreng, Mee Ganja aka Mee Rebus and Stulang Laut Fried Rice are other favourites. Lontong and old school bakeries in the heart of Johor Bahru.

The east coast pf the Peninsula brings you a tantalizing offering of dishes form Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. The must have in Kelantan is the nasi kerabu and laksam. Their budu in my opinion is also good. Terengganu has wonderful solok lada, keropok lekor and sata. In Kemaman, the population seems fond of the Hainanese Kopitiams which served every walk of life. The food in the east coast predominantly revolves around seafood. In Pahang, there are great places for seafood too. Nasi Dagang in its pure form along with fresh seafood restaurants dignifies the towns.

If you have ever been to Sabah, you would surely have heard of Tenom pork rolls, Tawau Egg noodles, Tuaran Mee and their fish noodles. There are also curious desserts like their famous UFO tarts which looked like cow dung. These are in addition to the many seafood restaurant around too. Do try marinated raw fish in a dish called Hinava. In Kota Kinabalu, they are also famous for their Sang Nyuk Mee and Ngiu Chap.

Sarawak is a region known for its Sarawak Laksa. The 2nd dish close to this is the Kolok Mee. If you travel further north towards Sibu and Miri, you would find that Kampua Mee dominates. In my opinion, the two dishes which would likely be considered special are the Tomato Mee and Belachan Bee Hoon. You can never get these anywhere else. Sarawak does not have a dim sum place which resembles any in the Peninsula but there are very good sio bee around. Other dishes which would be a great experience are the manok pansuh, midin, mani chai fried vermicelli, kacangma and umai. Umai is like Sabah’s Hinava and is made of raw fish seasoned with acidic fruits.

Malaysia has so much to celebrate. The artistry where our food comes from along with the creative interpretations, surely would make Malaysia a gastronomic destination. We have so much more than any of the other Southeast Asian countries. We should celebrate food. Let us not fight about our heritage. Embrace diversity. Celebrate diversity.