Malaysian Food


What is Malaysian Eurasian Food?

Malaysian Eurasian FoodIn 1511 Portuguese Naval Admiral Alfonso d'Albuquerque serving under King Manuel I of Portugal and his flotilla of 18 ships sailed into Malacca. The ruling sultan of Malacca, Sultan Mansur Shah, put up a severe struggle but the strong force of the Portuguese armada prevailed - and Malacca was made a Portuguese colony and settlement. In the days  before refrigeration, when food was preserved with salt, especially for the long winter months in the West, spice from the East was a very valuable commodity most sought after. Malacca, on the Malayan Peninsula was a strategically located natural harbor in the Straits of Malacca, a major hub of the Spice Trade. The favorable trade winds that blew in the region and it's longstanding successful trading links with China, India and the Middle East attracted the attention of the Portuguese merchants. For the next 130 years, Malacca formed one of the three key points, with Goa in India, Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, giving Portugal the control over the main Asiatic trade routes. However in 1641 Malacca fell to the Dutch who took over control from Portuguese, as the main European trading power in the region. In the 18th century the British began to show their naval prowess in the area exerting control in this thriving trade area. After a power struggle, a Treaty was signed in 1824 with the Dutch and Malacca eventually came under British control.

One major legacy of the Portuguese, the first of the European colonial settlement in Malacca, was the emergence of a unique community. A century and a half of intermarriages between Portuguese settlers and local women, led to the a mixed race of European Asian, Eurasians, who identified themselves as Kristang meaning Christians. This community of Portuguese Eurasians adopted the religion, language, custom and culture of the Portuguese and also it's cuisine. Portuguese settlers in Malacca, having sailed the world's oceans in their quest for precious spices and goods, had long since acquired a taste for spicy food. Portuguese country cooking took on a regionally spicier taste using local ingredients. The Portuguese Eurasian dish Debel Curry or Devil Curry is it's most famous. Lots of chilies, especially dried chilies, are used in the making of this fiery hot dish - hence it's name!

Being a predominantly seafaring community akin to the fishing community of Portugal, many of the Portuguese Eurasian's food condiments are fish and seafood derived like Pickled Salt Fish [Acar Ikan], Pickled Fish Roe, Cincaluk or Cencaluk [tiny baby shrimp sauce], dried Karing-Karing [dried threadfish] and the ubiquitous belacan [also spelt belachan or blacan], dried shrimp paste, a specialty of Malacca, reputed to be the best.

However, Eurasians in Malaysia are generally referred to a community of people with mixed parentage, Caucasian and Asiatic. This includes later colonial occupants, after the Portuguese, of the Dutch and British. A diversity of cuisines has inevitably proliferated from this colorful historic and ethnic tapestry. Eurasian food, in general, is an amalgamation of  European cuisines - Portuguese, Dutch and British especially British East Indies, with local ingredients and influences by  Malay, Indian, Chinese and Nyonya styles of cooking.

While some of the Portuguese Eurasian dishes are named in English, many have Portuguese names; and even names whose origins can be traced to the travel routes of the Portuguese. Dishes like Porku Sal Pementer, Sal means salt and Pementer is a Latin family name. Porku [porr-koo] is a word that can be traced to a pro Roman language, porkus in Latin; also in Maltese language porku is a word meaning pork. Some Portuguese Eurasian style dishes are classic Portuguese country cooking like Portuguese Baked Fish using local fish and ingredients. Many dishes of the Portuguese settlers were also inspired by the Portuguese maritime routes and their other colonies. Dishes like Chicken or Pork Vindaloo and Salt Fish Pickle originated from the Portuguese colony of Goa in India. The Portuguese had a strong link to Benin City, the capital of Edo State, a powerful Kingdom in the southern coast of Congo present day Nigeria. Tahu Brangku Fugar [Tahu is tofu in Malay], Brangku in Portuguese dialect means white and Fugar means stir-fried in Portuguese dialect. The word Fugar also means icing or confectioner's sugar, used for local palm winemaking. The word Fugar can also be traced to a place, a Portuguese colony in the southern coastline of Nigeria, where in the North lies a terrain of pastoral beauty called Kukuruku Highlands. Kukurukuku is heralded in an old Portuguese folklore song sung for generations by Portuguese Eurasians in Malacca. Lobak Tempre de Bredu - Lobak is radish in Malay, Tempre means tempered in Spanish; tempra also means spice paste and Bredu means vegetables; the word Bredu can also mean sword brother or sister in Portuguese dialect. Other local Portuguese Eurasian dishes are Curry Bobra [Pork Spareribs Curry], Pesce Curry Mangga [Pesce is fish in Spanish and French, Mangga is mango in Malay] and Porku Tambreneu [Tamarind Pork]; tambreneu meaning tamarind in Portuguese dialect.

Then there are Eurasian dishes inspired by the Dutch and British. Bergedel, which are potato patties with ground beef, can be traced back to the Dutch influenced islands of Batavia, today's islands of Indonesia. While other Eurasian dishes are British East Indies imports like Mulligatawny Soup - Spicy Chicken Soup) - the word Mulligatawny originated from the Tamil word Milagu-Tannir meaning Pepper Water. There is the famous Kedgeree or Khichri - Smoked Haddock & Curried Rice, a very popular British East Indian meal, usually served as breakfast. A dish called Semur which evolved from a classic Goan dish called Sorpotel or Sarapatel, believed to have originated from the Portuguese Sarrabulho, which is a kind of Pork Stew with curdled pig blood and Cabidel or pork giblets. Nowadays Semur is made using beef tongue and stewing beef. It is often cooked and enjoyed during Catholic religious festivals or special occasions. Other popular Eurasian dishes like Brown Beef Stew, Pork Chops, Fish & Chips, Oxtail Stew, Chicken Pot Pie, Scotch Eggs, Shepherd’s Pie, Tuna Mornay and Salisbury Steak are traditional recipes from the British Isles, taught to their local housekeepers or amahs as they were called, by early British colonists. 

Local Malay, Indian, Chinese and Nyonya neighbors have also inspired many dishes in the Eurasian kitchen. Satay Celup or   Satay Dip is Malay influenced, wooden stick skewers of prawns, squid, cockles, pork and vegetables are dipped and cooked in a pot of hot bubbling Satay sauce. Other Eurasian dishes are influenced by it's Chinese neighbors like Pomfret Juliana [hot and sour Pomfret], Teem with Pork Trotters or preserved Chinese Mustard with pork trotters, Pork Ribs Soup Eurasian-style with potatoes and carrots added instead of Chinese vegetables. One can easily spot authentic Eurasian food in Malaysia by its cooking style, Portuguese names and the word 'Eurasian' as a prefix, such as Eurasian Mee or Eurasian Noodles and Eurasian Nasi Goreng or Eurasian Fried Rice. Other popular dishes cooked in Eurasian households like Chicken Buah Keluak [Chicken with a local fruit], Babi Pongteh [Stewed Pork] and Chicken Kapitan are inspired by the close proximity of Peranakan neighbors and Nyonyas housewives.

Afternoon Tea or High Tea - is a daily ritual adopted by the Eurasians from the British tradition of teatime. Finger foods, snacks and sandwiches such as cucumber, watercress, sardine and prawn sambal sandwiches are served. Snacks such as Curry Puffs, Pineapple Jam Tarts, Treacle Tarts, Tea Scones and Marbled Jelly are served together with a piping hot pot of English tea. Sister Dot’s Chocolate Cake, Macaroons, Bread Pudding, Banana Cake and Sherry Trifle are also popular desserts.  Rich Fruit cake, Marzipan Icing Cakes and Christmas Pudding are made for special occasions.




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What Are Malaysian Eurasian Dishes?

Devil Curry : Portuguese Devil Curry is a rich and fiery hot dish, made with mustard powder, turmeric powder, vinegar, candlenuts and lots of chilies - hence it's name! Chicken, pork and occasionally wild boar, is used to make Devil Curry. Try it with fresh Blue crabs [Mud, Stone or Dungeness crabs] for a superb Devil Crab!

Pork Vindaloo : this famous dish made it's way from the Portuguese settlement of Goa in India. The meat, usually pork or chicken, is marinated in blend of hot chilies, ginger, garlic and other spices. Mustard seeds are popped before cooking the meat in hot oil. Vinegar adds moth-watering tang to the dish. Mountains of steamed rice can be consumed with this hot & tangy dish!

Malaccan Black Pepper Crab : Uncommon in an Asian recipe, butter used in this dish reflecting the Portuguese influence in Malacca. With the butter, lots of coarsely ground black peppercorns also goes into this dish. The result is a deliciously mellow black pepper sauce, not unlike Steak Au Poivre. Blue crabs, Mud crabs, Stone or Dungeness crabs are simply scrumptious in this sauce!

Prawn Bostador : Bostador in local Portuguese dialect means 'slap' as one is slapped with fiery hotness when eating this dish! Garlic, shallots, candlenuts, turmeric powder, belacan [also spelt belachan or blacan] and lots of chilies goes into the making of this dish.

Pickled Salt Fish : Salted fish similar to Bacalao or Salt Cod - is pickled in a blend of garlic, ginger, vinegar, spices and tamarind. It's usually served as an appetizing chutney or accompaniment to a meal.

Tuna Mornay : Canned tuna has never been so lovingly smothered in a creamy cheese sauce and baked. Reminisce of old British colonial days, this casserole dish is much loved and usually made on special occasions.

Granny's Meatball Curry : Meatballs in a coconut curry sauce made lovingly by Granny - an old-fashioned hand meat grinder was used to mince the meat... I don't think she will mind if store ground beef is used. Fresh packaged 'meatloaf' meat is also excellent for this dish.

Pork Rib Soup : Pork spareribs are simmered and flavored with onions, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and black peppercorns. Potatoes and carrots, sometimes cabbage and green beans are added to this flavorful broth. This is one soup that is cooked daily in some Eurasian homes.

Ham Hock Curry : Smoked ham hocks, usually imported as meats are rarely smoked in Southeast Asia, are cooked in a curry. Chunks of smoked ham hocks are simmered for hours until tender and falling off the bones. Subtly smoky in flavor, this is one of Daddy's specialty dish!

Itik Tim : Duck & Salted Vegetable Soup - this soupy dish is made with duck, usually roasted duck, sour plums and Kiam Chye [salted Chinese Mustard Greens, also called Sour Mustard. A great dish to eat with steamed rice when you want to take a break from hot spicy foods.

Curry Feng : Pork Mince Curry - Christmas is not complete without Curry Feng. It is best eaten after being refrigerated for a day or two. This dish is made with pork, pig liver or innards. It is wonderful eaten with crusty French loaf.

Cincaluk Sambal : Baby Shrimp Sauce - tiny baby shrimps preserved in brine, is a favorite Portuguese relish, sold in bottles. An acquired taste, cincaluk [also spelt  cencaluk], is usually savored as dipping sauce or condiment, by mixing it with fresh chilies, shallots and lime juice. An excellent accompaniment to grilled or barbecued fish - Ikan Bakar.

Malaysian Chicken Curry : is a typical chicken curry cooked in almost all Malaysian homes. This basic recipe uses a Made in Malaysia Meat Curry Powder. It has just the right blend of spices for an authentic 'Malaysian-tasting' curry! Some ingredients may vary - Eurasian homes might add carrots, more potatoes or a dash of Worcestershire sauce.


Malaysian Fish Curry : is a typical fish curry cooked in almost all Malaysian homes. This basic recipe uses a Made in Malaysia Fish Curry Powder. It has just the right blend of spices for an authentic 'Malaysian-tasting' fish curry! Some ingredients vary - Eurasian homes might cook with fresh tomatoes, tomato paste or tomato puree, vinegar, unripe mangoes and coconut milk.



What Are Malaysian Eurasian Desserts?

Curry Puffs : similar to Mexican or Spanish empanadas; or Indian samosas, puff pastry is cut into rounds and folded over a filling of curried ground beef, potatoes and peas. An egg wash is brushed over the tops giving them a beautiful golden brown color when baked.

Pineapple Jam Tarts : a pastry tart, topped with home made pineapple jam - made from locally grown fresh ripe  pineapples. A popular 4 o' clock teatime treat and a must-have during the Christmas season.

Sugee Cake : a 'pound cake' made with semolina or cornmeal mixed with slivers of roasted almonds. A favorite at teatime - I love dunking mine into a nice cup of hot milky tea!


















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