Five Signature Tastes from Five States in Malaysia (Part 2)

Five Signature Tastes from Five States in Malaysia
Us on Another State-Hopping Journey Across Malaysia To Unveil Signature Tastes

Malaysia is a foodie's haven that surprises even regulars and locals. Take your pick from across the states of West and East Malaysia. You will realise that there are signature dishes and culinary delights based on racial or ethnic groups and also as an evolution from the country's fascinating cultural mix.

Whichever you pick, you will surely enjoy a flurry of exciting tastes from traditional recipes that have outlived for generations. In this series of gastronomical discovery, you will be tempted with five more 'stately tastes' and continue your journey across another five states across Malaysia. Let’s hit the road and 'jom cari makan'!
PERAK: Ipoh Chicken Rice
Ipoh, the charming state capital of Perak, is a classic example of a Malaysian town with a long-established local signature dish. Take a drive across this city and you can't help noticing shops signs upon shops signs advertising Ipoh Chicken Rice. Yes, this is the signature dish Ipoh folks crow about and what north-south bound highway travellers often make a pit stop at Ipoh to savour. Basically, it is poached or steamed tender chicken served with white rice or chicken oil rice. Nowadays you have a choice of free-range and poultry farm chicken meat. Peppery soup, bean sprout and lots of light soya sauce accompany this local staple. Sounds simple? Not until your palate gets tantalised by the tenderly tempting, smooth and succulent chicken meat that melts with every bite.

JOHOR: 'Laksa Johor' (Johor's Spicy Soup Noodle)
Laksa has many variants and similarities across the states of Malaysia. But laksa found in Johor is distinctively one-of-its-kind. For a start, instead of the usual rice noodles, laksa in Johor uses spaghetti! History has it that the then Sultan of Johor upon his visit to Europe in 1866, the first Malay ruler to do so, loved pasta and asked his chefs to use it in laksa. Laksa Johor is time consuming in preparation, especially the gravy. Usually, the fish is used for the gravy but laksa Johor has prawns, dried shrimps, ikan parang (wolf herring) and ikan kurau (threadfin). Then there's the garnishing mix of cucumber, bean sprouts, daun kesum (polygonum) and daun selasih (Thai basil). To complete the serving there's the condiments of sambal belacan, calamansi lime and a sprinkle of pickled Chinese radish. That's not all, as a tradition, laksa Johor is best experienced with bare fingers!

PAHANG:'Gulai Tempoyak Ikan Patin' (Silver Catfish in Durian Paste)
Pahang is the state in Peninsular Malaysia most famous for its durians. Therefore, it is not surprising that a popular dish from Pahang has durian as a main condiment! 'Gulai tempoyak ikan patin' is a dish made with pangasius fish (a species of catfish) and a condiment of fermented durian. It could be said that the food preservation and flavouring properties of fermented durian was an accidental discovery in a state where this king of fruits is found in abundance. The durian flesh is mixed with salt and left to ferment for 3-5 days, resulting in a savoury and distinctively aromatic paste that has amazing culinary applications. The gravy, cooked with lots of other spices and no artificial flavourings, is stunningly yellowish and appetising. Whether you are a durian fan or not, you will be tempted to try this unusual, and yes, delicious local delicacy from Pahang.

SABAH: Tuaran Noodles
Why would a noodle be named after a town in Sabah? Well, history has it that the folks in the town of Tuaran wanted their homemade fried 'egg noodles' to be different when noodle cutting machines were introduced some 30 years ago. That name, Tuaran noodle, lived on and differentiated Tuaran's egg noodles from those of other towns in Sabah. Today's fusion must-try Tuaran noodle is best described as springy, savoury, fragrant, with an eggy and wok-fired after taste. Served with thick noodle sauces, slices of egg role, a dash of rice wine if you request and a choice of meat. Strand for strand there is none quite like Sabah's 'Golden Noodle'.

KEDAH:'Nasi Ulam' (Steamed Rice Mixed with Various Herbs)
The rice producing state of Kedah is called the 'rice bowl' of Malaysia and aptly one of the favourite dishes here is rice based. Named 'nasi ulam', this is a cooked local rice lavishly mixed with a variety of raw vegetables and exotic spices and herbs that transform rice staple into an interesting serving. What you will find on your plate is kaleidoscope of flavours that includes cucumber, ginger flower, dried shrimps, of course chili and topped with fried coconut gratings that give the rice a distinctive aroma and texture. Lime juice and palm sugar gravy are usually served as flavour enhancers. Nasi ulam, as it is basically rice, is eaten with other dishes or meat. Being healthier and time consuming to prepare, nasi ulam is often served on seasonal occasions such as during the fasting month. Indeed, once you have tasted it you would probably not want to eat plain rice.
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