By: Wei Qing Lim
I've been eating around 5 times a day since being back in Malaysia and it’s been a blast -- however, this has all come to a halt with the recent lockdown. While a lot of peace and quiet comes with being at home, I’ve really come to miss the hustle and bustle of hawker stalls. It might not be the smartest idea to write an article about Malaysian street food at 10 pm, but here are some of my favorites -- if you ever find yourself here, you’ll have to try them and let me know what you think!
1. Penang Assam Laksa
Assam Laksa is one of my FAVORITE foods of all time -- I genuinely think I came out of the womb loving this dish. It’s a rice noodle dish that is accompanied by a fishy, sweet, sour, spicy, and herby broth. While it may sound simple, it is anything but -- the broth is extremely flavorful and is the true star of the show. It’s made from a complex combination of bunga kantan (torch ginger), mackerel, dried tamarind, shrimp paste, and herbs. The toppings for Assam Laksa sometimes vary, but it’s usually served with sliced cucumber, sliced onion, pineapple chunks, and mint leaves. All of the different flavors work so well together, it’s impossible not to love.
While Kuala Lumpur has decent Assam Laksa, it hits different when you’re slurping down a bowl in Penang, a popular beach destination in the state of Perak. My family and I made it a point to take weekend trips up there during the summer, just to eat all of the good food. The best part is I can still enjoy it because it’s gluten-free! Yay!
2. Char Kuey Teow
Another classic! Malaysia is home to multiple amazing noodle dishes, Char Kuey Teow being one of them. Before I was gluten-free, it would always be my first meal after landing in Malaysia. Char Kuey Teow means “stir-fried flat rice noodles.” They’re soaked in a combination of light and dark soy sauces, and fried in a fire-hot wok, giving the noodles a smoky, almost charcoal-y undertone. A plate of Char Kuey Teow is usually served with bits of scrambled egg, shrimp, chives, bean sprouts, Chinese sausage, cockles, and a lot of white pepper!
It is so easy to devour at least two plates of Char Kuey Teow in one sitting, and there have been many instances where I would eat the dish twice a day -- I’m determined to make a gluten-free version that tastes half as delicious as it typically is!
3. Apam Balik
Apam Balik was my go-to street food treat whenever I visited my grandparents in the summer. It’s essentially a folded pancake-like snack with a filling inside. The fillings can vary from chocolate sprinkles to corn, but my favorite’s a classic Apam that is filled with ground peanuts! I would visit my grandparents in Taiping (another town in Perak) every summer, and while I was there, I loved going to the Pasar Malam (night market) to get my daily dose of Apam Balik before bed. My favorite ones are made by a 70-year old lady who’s been at the Pasar Malam for as long as I can remember-- she only makes small batches, so we’re sure to be early enough to beat the crowd.
I hope this was as half as enjoyable to read as it was to write. I am going to hunt for a snack now and hopefully dream of delicious food tonight!
As a little bonus, we attempted to make our very own version of Apam Balik with almond butter and chocolate sprinkles!
The Recipe - Apam Balik
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour (195 g)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar (25 g)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg (room temp)
1 cup warm milk (250 ml)
Unsalted butter, as needed
Traditionally chopped peanuts / creamy sweet corn, but you can get creative on the filling! (We used almond butter and chocolate sprinkles
In a bowl, mix all dry batter ingredients. Mix well.
Add in wet ingredients into the bowl and mix until combined and there is no lumps.
Cover with a cling film and rest for about 30 minutes to an hour in a warm environment.
Once the batter has rested, you should see many holes/bubbles and it should be double its size.
Melt some butter in a non stick pan (medium size). Spread the melted butter around the pan, make sure to get the sides as well.
Whisk your batter before you pour it into the pan. Swirl the pan to spread the batter around. Make sure to get some batter on the sides of the pan to create that thin crust.
Cover the pan and cook for a few minutes until bubbles are formed. Use low to medium heat.
Once bubbles are formed, the top of your batter should be cooked and you are ready to spread a a generous amount of butter. Add your choice of filling now
Fold in half and it is ready to serve :)