Indians, especially from the state of Tamilnadu & Kerela, were migrated to Malaysia during the British colonization period. They were primarily moved by Britishers to work for the rubber estate and tea plantation. Today, they form the third largest ethnic group in Malaysia after the Malays and the Chinese. Along with people, Malaysia was introduced to its colorful cultures such as flamboyant temples, fancy sarees, and spicy flavorful cuisine. Over time the Indian dish prepared in Malaysia evolved with Malay and Chinese influences becoming Malaysian Indian Cuisine.
Every Indian ex-pat misses two things in any foreign land that is his Indian diverse culture and exotic food. Nothing can replace the love for chai, biryani, golgappa, and samosa from an Indian’s heart. Malaysia has its own version of Indian food which has evolved with Malaysian flavor but still has Indian roots and can definitely satisfy your cravings. A typical Malaysian Indian dish is overloaded with curry leaves, whole and powdered spices (garam masala), crushed coconut or coconut milk which gives the dish a distinguished aroma.
Banana leaf: With rice at the center and various accompaniments like vegetable sides, pickle, papadam, sambar, rasam, salad, fried chicken or fish; it’s a feast in itself and those different curries served with it is a treat for your eyes and hunger. (eat with your hands to bring best out of a banana leaf meal.
Mamak restaurant: Mamak (Indian Muslim) dishes have a distinctly Malaysian style. It is available throughout the country and particularly offers a wide range of food and some of the restaurants are open 24 hours a day. So Malaysia is a place where you can never sleep empty stomach. They serve a buffet-style meal where you can choose rice or nasi biryani along with curries like chicken, mutton, beef, fish fry, squid or vegetables. Such eateries are also called as nasi kandhar.
Biryani: Biryani is called nasi biryani in Malaysia which is much more than just rice. The use of pandan leaves to add fragrance to the rice definitely gives it a Malaysian twist. Besides that, the rice is cooked separately without the meat. It is quite popular in many casual mamak eateries and often enjoyed with meat curries, eggs and vegetables as per your choice separately.
Chettinad cuisine: Chettinad cuisine is originated from the Chettinad region of Tamilnadu and available at specialized restaurants. the traditional cooking style of Chettiar community is different from the predominantly vegetarian fare of Tamil cuisine as it is heavily based on spiced meat preparation. A liberal quantity of tomatoes and onions along with grounded spices are used to thicken the gravy dishes.
Teh Tarik : Teh Tarik (pulled tea) is the Malaysian version of chai (milk tea), which is widely available in any restaurant, outside stalls or mamak corners. It’s made with strong black tea along with condensed milk. The pouring process of “pulling” the hot beverage during preparation makes the top layer bubbly. And yes it’s the national drink of Malaysia.
Curry puff: curry puff is the Malaysian version of samosa. It comes with curried potato or minced chicken filling inside the hot crispy pie. The shape doesn’t resemble samosa but the taste does. It goes well with a hot cup of teh Tarik.
Roti canai: Roti canai or roti paratha is an Indian influenced flatbread prepared in Malaysia, which is a variation of paratha. It is served searing hot with dal, chicken or fish curry, chutney. It’s an all-time favorite for the locals as well as foreigners. And there are different versions of it like roti tisu (very thin) , roti telur (egg), roti pissang (banana), roti milo.
Fish head curry: fish head curry is an Indian dish with some Chinese influence. The head of red snapper is stewed in a tangy and spicy Kerala style curry with some vegetables like lady’s fingers, tomatoes, and brinjals. Tamarind juice and a certain amount of coconut milk are used to give the gravy a sweet and sour flavor.