Saturday 10 March 2012

Malaysia Canteen: Make Yourself a Malaysian Friend

After leaving school some years ago now, I spent a year living and working in Malaysia.  I had a great time, met some fantastic people and ate some wonderful food - my local restaurant, in a small town south of Kuala Lumpur called Mantin, served some truly delicious dishes.  Perhaps it is because there is less of a party atmosphere, but it has always confounded me why Malaysia is so often overlooked, both as a holiday destination and in terms of its cuisine. 

Most of the Malaysian food I have eaten in London has been a sad imitation of the wonderful blend of Chinese, Indian and traditional Malay dishes that make up dinner on the peninsula.  So when I heard that there was a canteen underneath the Malaysian High Commission serving up traditional food for its workers and Malaysians living in London, I was always going to go.

On my visit we shared a wonderfully tasty beef rendang, a prawn curry and some crispy fried anchovies.  The rendang (a slow cooked curry originally from Indonesia which has strong flavours of lemongrass, galangal and tamarind) was just like I remembered from Malaysia.  The prawns were juicy although the sour sauce was a little tough for me.  The anchovies were great.

We were on a roll now and ordered some roti canai - originally Indian, this has been adopted as Malaysia's national dish.  A crispy, multi-layered fried bread, normally served with dal, in our case it came with a thin curry- sadly not quite up to the Central Market next to the national mosque in Kuala Lumper.

Beef Rendang

Crispy anchovies.
Prawn Curry
Eating lunch took me back to being a 17 year old taking my first tentative steps into south-east Asian food (growing up the most authentic Asian food I had came in westernised restaurants in Edinburgh!) This place is great! A word of warning, though, in order to get in you must be accompanied by a Malaysian!  So find yourself a new Malaysian friend and head on down...

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