By Ida Abhari
My summer as an intern in Southeast Asia, broadly, and Malaysia, specifically, taught me a lot of things, ranging from the serious, like the intricacies of refugee resettlement, to the surprising, like the importance of food culture in Malaysia.
Malaysians, whether Chinese, Indian, or Malay, take eating very seriously. Everyone warned me that eating out in Malaysia would be cheaper than buying groceries and cooking. Since I really enjoy cooking, I didn’t want to believe them, but after several grocery trips and hundreds of ringgits (Malaysian currency) later, I was forced to admit that eating out was infinitely more desirable.
Malaysian cuisine is rich in flavors. The most ubiquitous dish is nasi lemak, a dish consisting of rice steamed with coconut milk and pandan leaves, served with fried chicken and a boiled egg. Malaysians don’t pronounce the “k” in nasi lemak, and I was also surprised to learn that nasi lemak is also often eaten for breakfast, albeit in smaller portions. Another ubiquitious and delicious food, roti canai (pronounced with a “ch”), is a flatbread cooked with copious amounts of oil and can be filled with eggs, onions, or other savory or sweet fillings.