Monday Meal Review: Malaysia


Ava presses the back of the spoon on the rice, smashing it down into the banana leaf.

She looks up at me and smiles.


“Looks good!” I say, watching her sneak a bite of the par-cooked rice before adding another spoonful to the cone.

Later, when we eat dinner, Ava wolfs down three sticky rice towers – taking care to balance each one on end first.

There are so many fun foods for kids in this great, big world. There’s no reason to get stuck in a processed junk food rut. These towers of coconut rice (called lemang) from Malaysia are a great example. Making them captivated little Ava, just two and a half years old, for a good hour, helping me, watching me, and playing with her finished work of art.

The joy on her face is so beautiful. So much more sublime than what a little piece of candy can bring – that’s the kind of joy that fades almost the second she pops it into her mouth.

There’s something about playing with our food that makes it so much better.

Don’t you think?


Coconut Sticky Rice in banana leaves (Lemang) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Yes, it tastes amazing. Yes, the coconut milk gives the rice an almost buttery texture. But, best of all? This fun recipe got me, Ava, and Mr Picky – all three of us – to play with our food. (Keith was even inspired to make a smiley face on his – can you see it?)

He was very proud of himself.

What I liked least about this dish:

Not much. Even though it seems like it would take a lot of work to make these, it really doesn’t – they come together very quickly. Just like anything, it just takes a little getting used to.

Beef Rendang [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

The flavor of this curry is absolutely outstanding. Ava loved it except I added a few too many chili peppers for her taste – I had to pick some of the sauce off of hers to make it more mild (a trick I learned when we cooked Bhutan). Mr Picky said that the more he ate, the more it grew on him. By the end of the meal it was a favorite, with one exception…

What I liked least about this dish:

… he wished that I had ground the spice paste down to a smoother consistency. He wasn’t crazy about the bits of fibrous lemongrass (although I didn’t mind it at all).

Toasted Coconut Paste for Curries (Kerisik) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

This was a fun seasoning paste to make. I love that it just uses one ingredient – coconut –  and that it comes together in less than twenty minutes (blending it only takes 3 minutes). I also like that 12 oz of coconut makes a full cup, which means I can use it several times, for several curries, before needing to make another batch.

What I liked least about this dish:

As I processed the coconut in my food processor there were a few little puffs of steam that escaped. The processor gets the coconut very hot as it spins, so it is important to stop every 30 seconds or so and give it a stir (and a rest). Still, you’ll be done in less than 2 minutes of processing. Easy, peasy.

Ava’s Corner:


  1. The picture of Ava with her mouth wide open, ready to attack the Malaysian rice tower, cracked me up completely! She’s a very lucky girl. 🙂

  2. Terence says

    I’ve been following your blog for a long time. I’m happy that you cooked Malaysian food. My parents were born in Malaysia. I visit Malaysia and Singapore nearly every year to see relatives. Singapore’s cuisine is very similar to Malaysia but with more foodcourt.  Here is a list of some of my favorite Malaysian/Singaporean foods:
    Nasi Lemak-A rice dish served with several side dishes (cucumbers, fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, hardboiled egg, and sambal sauce), the quintessential Malaysian breakfast dish
    Nasi Goreng (fried rice)
    Mi rebus (noodles with a spicy curry like gravy)
    Satay (grilled meat on sticks)
    Rojak (can be a mixture of fruits (cucumber, pineapple, jicama), beansprouts with deep fried tofu and youtiao, with a dressing of water, belacan, sugar chili, and lime juice, it differs depending on the location
    Roti Canai-Indian influenced flatbread, round and flat, always eaten with a curry sauce
    Keropok (shrimp crackers)
    Kuih (small steamed pastries, comes in many shapes and colors)
    Teh tarik (milk tea)
    Char kway teow (unhealthy flat rice noodles with soy sauce, and shrimp, still love it though)
    Hainanese Chicken Rice
    Hokkien Mee (yellow noodles fried in thick black soy sauce)
    Kaya toast (sweet coconut and egg jam)
    Popiah ( rolled crepe spring roll style (stuffed with vegetables, shredded tofu, turnip and carrots)
    Wonton Mee (Chinese noodles with dumplings)
    Otak-Otak (a specialty of my mom’s hometown Muar, fish cake grilled in a banana leaf wrapping)
    Cendol (Smooth green rice noodles in chilled coconut milk and gula melaka (coconut palm sugar)
    Ais kacang (Sweet corn, red beans and cincau (grass jelly) topped with shaved ice, colourful syrups and condensed milk)
    Yam pot (fried taro in the shape of a pot with carrots, onion, peppers, chicken inside)
    Meat is popular (Chicken, Beef, and Pork for non-Muslims) as well as seafood (once tried a fish in tomato sauce with pineapples!)
    Favorite fruits include Durian (spiky, green, with mushy yellow insides, a pungent smell that often disgusts Westerners), rambutan (red and furry, inside is similar to lychee), mangosteen (dark purple, soft sweet white insides), lychee, mango, longan (similar to lychee as well, with light brown skin), guava (green, crisp, an import from Central America), Jackfruit (green, kinda similar to Durian, yellow inside that’s rubbery, my favorite tropical fruit)

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