In the heart of Malaysia’s culinary tapestry lies a rich and flavorful tradition that has been lovingly passed down through generations, creating a harmonious symphony of tastes and aromas that have stood the test of time. Malaysian cuisine is known for its diverse influences and distinctive flavours, and has been an integral part of the nation’s cultural identity. But as the world evolves and palates broaden, a captivating transformation has taken place—one where local, traditional comfort foods have gracefully embraced the winds of modernisation.
Nestled within the shelves of contemporary bestsellers and classic novels, Red Red Botak Head serves local dishes with creative and playful twists.
Combining pasta and shoyu eggs with Japanese eel fillets, the Unagi Laksa is one of the restaurant’s highlights. This dish is immersed in a hearty laksa broth specially curated by the chef to complement the unagi.
Imagine a plate of Ondeh-Ondeh, a pandan infused ball of dough filled with gula melaka and rolled in grated coconut. Now, envision an elevated twist where this humble kuih is artfully crafted into a choux, better known as cream puff. This bestselling pandan choux is not only piped with pandan pastry cream and gula melaka, but it also bursts when you take a bite, just like how the original would!
Location: BookXcess, Level 6, The Gardens Mall, Kuala Lumpur
Bijan is a modern restaurant that specialises in Malay cuisine, with their menu ranging from kampung dishes to everyday favourites.
The appetisers include finger-foods that are well-known and loved by many: Popiah Goreng, crispy deep-fried vegetable spring rolls; Cucur Udang, deep-fried prawn and vegetable fritters; and Satay.
The Gulai Lemak Daging Salai dengan Jantung Pisang is among some of the noteworthy and innovative items on the menu. In this dish, banana flowers are simmered in a creamy turmeric gravy and finished with tender slices of chargrilled Australian sirloin.
Location: 3, Jalan Ceylon, Kuala Lumpur
One experience that most Malaysians share is an “open house”, inviting family and friends to our homes during the festive season. OpenHouse aims to emulate the warm hospitality of welcoming guests into your home, dishing up recreated traditional household recipes and unique creations.
Sample the Umai Prawn Borneo, the restaurant’s reinterpretation of umai, a popular traditional dish in Sarawak. Prawn ceviche is tossed in calamansi juice and wrapped in betel leaves with ginger flower, cili padi, dried shrimp, and nuts– a little package of bright and refreshing flavours.
Sambal, a spicy dipping sauce made by pounding chillies and other ingredients in a pestle, can be unique to each state and region; even families pass down their recipes through generations. So, there is no doubt that OpenHouse has a variety of sambals on their menu. Among the selection are Temu Pauh, sambal infused with a green mango scent from a ginger-like root; Lengkuas; Tempoyak, flavoured with fermented durian and aubergine; Isi Rong; Kepayang, featuring the black jungle nut; Kulat Kukur; and Neraka.
OpenHouse also serves dishes like Pais Barramundi (barramundi wrapped in lerek leaves and baked with turmeric, shredded coconut, and chilli padi), Laksa Johor (spaghetti with white mackerel meat, shrimp, and vegetables), and Nasi Lemak Beef Rendang.
Location: G9a, Bangsar Shopping Centre, Kuala Lumpur (temporary)
The Cultural Heritage dinner menu at ATAS features elevated Asian favourites with original and inspiring combinations of locally harvested and heirloom produce.
The dinner commences with a symphony of sweet and savoury flavours in the form of cucur Kapitan and mud crab sambal with hints of petai, served with soya milk loaf bread and pandan butter.
There is also a Japanese Squid Kerabu that incorporates fresh flavours from caramelised pomelo, an umbra vinaigrette, mint, and 48-hours salted duck egg yolk; and a Mentaiko Otak-Otak made with blue mackerel and aged mimolette cheese.
Asam pedas, a classic Malaysian dish, gets a unique approach as it takes centre stage as the main course in the form of a risotto. This risotto is made with sakura shrimp, blue belly shrimp, paku pakis, and winged beans.
A delicate and meticulously crafted dessert emerges as the menu unfolds to a sweet conclusion. Each bite of the heirloom carrot and nutmeg ice cream dessert is a homage to Chef Mandy Goh’s Penang roots, intertwining the flavours of nutmeg, gula melaka, and calamansi.
Location: The RuMa Hotel and Residences, Kuala Lumpur
Experience Malaysia’s rich flavours with a menu that takes you through some of the nation’s iconic dishes.
The Tour of Malaysia begins with dishes such as the Fish Cracker, a crunchy ball of anchovies and fermented chilli, inspired by lekor; and distinctly garlic and truffle-flavoured charcoal-grilled baby corn served with glazed kulim oil. There is also the 0.00% Yeast, a bread-like dish made of tapioca and fermented black beans served with a green chilli emulsion for a little kick.
For the mains, guests can choose between barramundi, also known as Asian sea bass, marinated with the flavours of turmeric and bird eye chilli, or a lamb rack served with a roasted garlic puree and a longan reduction.
Dessert features Kuih Loyang, a deep-fried festive cookie. Beta’s take on Loyang Vol. 3 involves a white chocolate outer shell and filling the kuih with a red bean before coating it with fragrant, toasted sesame seeds.
Location: Cormar Suites, No. 20, Jalan Perak, Kuala Lumpur
With each bite of modern Malaysian food, you become a witness to Malaysia’s culinary story being retold in captivating and unexpected ways. This evolution is not a departure from tradition, but a celebration of it—a testament to the adaptability and creativity of Malaysian chefs. It is a journey where the past and the future intertwine, and the flavours of Malaysia continue to captivate hearts, old and new.
Written By: Chloe
Edited By: Ruby