Last weekend I had the opportunity to celebrate Malaysian independence at the Merdeka carnival. It was very similar to carnivals in America: rides for the kids, music, booths selling various items, and lots and lots of food. The event was held at the Malaysian Rubber Board’s gorgeous estate just north of London and hosted by the High Commission of Malaysia London.
My first impression? Everyone was so incredibly friendly and outgoing. It was as if I was attending someone’s birthday party as a guest; people were dancing and singing, carrying on friendly chatter in the background. Generally speaking, the country of Malaysia consists of three groups: the Chinese, Malay, and Indian. Each were represented in the food and entertainment. One minute there was a Chinese dragon dancing amongst the crowd, the next, Indian dancers captivating the audience with their coordinated dance moves to vibrant Bollywood music.
And the best part? The food! While I had some difficulty pronouncing most of the dishes, everyone was so friendly in helping me decide what to have for lunch. I ended up with Nasi Kerabu– this colorful salad with blue rice, roasted chicken, a stuffed pepper, and a boiled egg. It’s a traditional dish from Kelantan, an Eastern state of Malaysia where my co-worker grew up, so it came highly recommended. It had a nice balance of flavor (not bland or too spicy) and I liked that it was almost two meals in one: rice with chicken and a salad.
To drink I had a tea called Teh Tarik, which now is a new favorite drink. It’s a warm, creamy, sweetened tea that tastes like heaven. The closest thing I could relate it to was a properly brewed chai. Basically, Teh Tarik is made by combining brewed black tea and condensed milk and the drink is then “pulled” by pouring tea from one container to another. This is quite the theatrical performance as it’s pulled in an upwards motion and transferred from one container to another– it’s so fascinating to watch! This is repeated multiple times, adding a frothy-ness to the drink along the way. I definitely going to make this at home, so I’ll keep you all posted.
My Malaysian co-worker could see how happy I was enjoying all the festivities and began to explain how the dishes were prepared. Traditional dishes, like the ones at the carnival, require time and proper ingredients. But she said not to worry, I could bring these flavors home and she handed me a couple of Brahim’s sauce packages. I knew this was the beginning of a flavor adventure. Up next: recreating Malaysian food in my own kitchen!
Until next time, Mo
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