Malaysia is and will always be a food lovers paradise, but even more than that it is the best Southeast Asian country for culture-travel!
The place is a mix of kinda European cafe culture and tropical rustic. The people are warm and friendly, and loves to tell a good story. And live music showcase the incredible talents of musicians from all around the country. Many cultures coexist here so the food reflects all the authentic cuisines and countless fusion cuisines. The country is vast and biodiversity is a massive part of its charm – due to the wet tropical climate, and the presence of great diversity of habitats. These habitats include the seas, rivers, forests and mountains.
Malaysia is so awesomely affordable too, when it comes to bang for your buck – about $3.30 Ringgit for $1.00 Canadian dollar.
I have been to Malaysia many times, but that first time will always be ever so special; below is a glimpse into my first trip to Malaysia.
Flying from Vancouver to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur was very exciting for me as I watched exotic names popped up on the moving map, names I had only glimpsed on Google and in written articles, I was now soaring over.
On my arrival in at Kuala Lumpur International Airport; the heat assaulted me for a humid minute before my body-memory, from my own tropical upbringing, adjusted itself to embrace the blissful warmth of Malaysia. Big, shady lush green trees waved about under cloudless blue skies, birds flew everywhere. The interior of the taxi allowed me cool comfort while I watched sprawling landscapes of palm oil plantations slid by.
When we were checking into our hotel, I looked across the street to see a line of monkeys traversing the top of a bright green fence holding back a lush city park. The hotel we chose was surprisingly affordable, and clean; it is also well located, and very quiet. Damas Suites is connected via an overpass (glass-enclosed bridge) to the thriving day and night scenes of Hartamas mall.
We opted for our first lunch in Malaysia, at Malabar Palace Restaurant where they serve up authentic Kerala fare. The place is a hidden gem on the edge of Hartamas Mall, the restaurant is tucked up beside a busy street lined with taxis. Once seated it felt like a preamble to a jungle with the greenery on the street untouched by bulldozers.
We sat on the tiny verandah amidst old growth trees with the scents of the tropics thick around us. Nature-hued and cosy, hot and sweltering with soothing breezes wafting through the foliage. We ordered the grilled fish; thin slices of fresh fish rubbed with a masala that was more aromatic than spicy-heat. The seasoned fish was seared in coconut oil then placed on a bed of sizzling tandoori vegetables. For another vegetable dish we ordered okra in a tomato and tamarind sauce, the sauce was vibrant with sautéed just-picked tomatoes and loads of mirepoix okra. The fish, okra and steamed rice were delicious tasting of the symbiosis of land, water and sun. Service was impeccable at this restaurant, something you will not find in most eateries in Kuala Lumpur. Overall it was a bit pricy for Malaysian dining but it was totally worth the visit.
Breakfast of a local in Malaysia. I cannot end this post without speaking a tiny bit about Nasi Lemak, a dish originating in Malay cuisine that consists of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in a pandan leaf. It is the breakfast in Malaysia, where it is considered the national dish of the country. The best thing you can indulge in first thing in the morning, the most surprising and delicious of all things breakfast is Nasi Lemak. This dish is typically the way to start the day, and wow! Fragrant coconut scented rice topped with a ladle-full of sweet-gentle Malaysian chicken curry, 1 sliced hard-boiled egg, paper thin slivers of crisp cucumber, a tablespoon of fresh-roasted peanuts, a few crisply fried anchovies, and the piece de resistance…spicy umami-rich sambal pungent with fermented shrimps, chilies and garlic. This dish hits all the right notes – sweet, tangy, spicy, crispy, tender and fragrant as heck.
Check out the people and menu at my favourite chill-spot, Friendship Cafe Plaza Damas…they are awesome people and serves up the best Nasi Lemak. Oh, and if you want a simpler breakfast ask for “The Canadian” named after me:-)
The Hotel: Plaza Damas
Located in: Plaza Damas 3
Address: 63, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Phone: +60 3-6203 2333
The Restaurant: Malabar Palace Hartamas
Located in: Hartamas Shopping Centre – Main Lobby
Address: Ground floor, Hartamas Shopping Centre – Main Lobby G8 & G9, 60, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia