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Li Xuan

August 12th, 2022

A melting pot of flavours: London’s best Malaysian restaurants

1 comment | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Li Xuan

August 12th, 2022

A melting pot of flavours: London’s best Malaysian restaurants

1 comment | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Malaysian food remains a large mystery on the map of cuisines, and I should know that because I am Malaysian. Although our neighbour, Indonesia may house a lot of culinary treasures, many of which are also found on our menus, I believe we have an edge. As a multicultural country with European colonial history, our ability to incorporate a cacophony of cultures (Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab, Middle Eastern and those of numerous indigenous groups), our cuisine has been dubbed as “rojak”, literally translated as “mixture”. Malaysian food caters to everyone so if you’re looking for vegetarian or halal options you’re in luck. Our flavours are a sum of many different parts with a unique combination of sweet, sour, rich and spicy, unlike any other country’s cuisine. If your stomach is rumbling, fret not, as I take you on a Malaysian gastronomic journey around London.

Sambal Shiok

One of the few chefs or owners in the UK, Mandy Yin’s path to the culinary industry was not a traditional one, having come to the country to study law only to realise that her real passion lies in food. Launched in 2013, the Malaysian-born Chinese champions her Peranakan and Nyonya heritage and takes inspiration from everything she ate during her childhood of growing up in Kuala Lumpur, our country’s capital city. She also cites her mother as her biggest influence and has since written a book that includes over 90 recipes although she mixes them up and puts a new slant on them. Moreover, the restaurant also houses rice plates of the largely unfamiliar indigenous Sarawakian Iban tribe in London and the Chinese region of Fuzhou. Despite having to deal with the most stringent of food critics she has received great praise, even from the likes of Jamie Oliver.

Laksamania

Headed by Chef Danny Tan who hails from humble beginnings in the rural Malaysian state, Kelantan. His culinary career started in big hospitality names like Genting Highlands and the Shangri La. In 1987, he moved to the UK to further his career and his latest venture in the heart of London is a dedicated laksa bar that houses almost every single version you can think of. Laksa is known for its noodle and chicken, prawn or fish supplement in a spicy rich coconut broth with sour tamarind paste. Beware, these dishes are not for the lightheaded!

Roti King

The go-to place for everything roti – the flaky, buttery breads that originate from Indian cuisine thanks to Tamil immigrants as a result of colonialism, cultural assimilation and the nation’s pluralist palate. Ask for roti canai in Mumbai or Chennai, the supposed town that gives rise to the second half of the dish’s name and many will think you’re speaking a different language. Indian dough is typically formed on a flat surface whereas roti canai is flipped and spun in the air akin to making pizza. Talk about finesse.

Rasa Sayang

As you step into this place, you are instantly transported to a chic kopitiam (our version of a coffeehouse) with its distinct ceiling fans and intricate colonial architecture-inspired floor tiles coupled with homely tableware. You are also spoilt for choice as the menu has everything from seafood to noodles. If you prefer something watery go for the wat tan hor which incorporates eggs to create a silky and golden gravy or if you want something drier opt for a char kway teow. Add a bowl of jasmine or coconut-infused rice to dilute your salty palate with a plain yet intense aromatic bang. On the menu is also Malaysia’s national dish, nasi lemak.

Normah’s Place

Affordable yet authentic. A story of hardships that led to a passion for cooking which translated into food for the soul. Probably the Malaysian version of nonna’s cooking in Italy, these home-cooked dishes are full of love. Indulge in classics like the tender and juicy beef rendang or whole assam pedas; seabass in a fiery sauce with a hint of sourness.

Satay House

A second-generation family restaurant since 1972, making it one of the oldest Malaysian restaurants in town is best known for its seasoned, skewered and grilled meat served with a mouthwatering peanut sauce. If you’re looking for something more niche try kangkung (water spinach), a local vegetable or rojak (remember this word?) buah, a soft and sweet yet crunchy and acidic. There is also a good selection of classic Malaysian drinks and to end it all you can opt for the pisang goreng (crispy fried bananas) or ais kacang which is a delicious mixture of shaved ice, syrup, jelly and red beans.

So when you’re thinking of eating something other than plain old pasta or bangers and mash, these restaurants have your back. If you’re Malaysian and craving the flavours of home, be sure to head to one of these places that do a spectacular job of making you forget that you’re in a foreign city. You’ll find that the 6,500 mile distance becomes a bit more bearable.

About the author

Li Xuan

A Malaysian Borneo native studying MSc Environment and Development. Given my multicultural upbringing, I speak 6 languages which is partly why I chose the LSE and its very international student body! I'm also a R'n'B/soul/jazz fanatic.

Posted In: London life

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