FEATURE: How do Malaysians start their day?
KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/ANN) - Malaysians start their day with some fuyoh breakfasts
We go through a huge number of nasi lemak bungkus, roti canai, kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs every morning. Here are a few other favourite fuyoh breakfasts around the country.
At first glance, the dish looks just like the Malay laksa you find in the other northern states of Kedah and Penang. But if you’re looking for traditional Perlis laksa, head to the port town of Kuala Perlis. At Laksa Kak Su Kuala Perlis on Jalan Siakap 1, fresh house-made thick rice noodles are served in a fishy gravy along with “ulam” such as julienned cucumber, onion, chillies and daun selom. Although it’s a personal preference, a true “laksa kola”, as it’s known locally, is often eaten together with a pulut udang panggang or kuih spera (like a curry puff but with a savoury grated coconut filling) that’s split and steeped in the gravy. It makes the kuah thicker and more delicious.
Most Kedah denizens swear by the quality and flavour of the mee rebus in their home state, and it is so popular that it is often eaten anytime of the day, including breakfast. Even Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is said to be a fan of northern-style mee rebus. The dish typically uses yellow noodles that are coated in a thick, and often spicy gravy made from beef, shrimp and sweet potatoes. Other toppings can include tofu, fish cakes, bean sprouts, hard-boiled eggs, fritters and sometimes fresh prawns too. A good toss of all the ingredients will yield satisfyingly robust flavours and multi-dimensional textures. One of the most popular mee rebus eateries in Alor Setar is Restoran Mee Abu.
Chee Cheong Fun
While its name (literally “pig intestine noodle” in Cantonese) may put some people off, these steamed flat rice noodle rolls are a favourite in Penang. The island state has its own version of chee cheong fun, unlike any other elsewhere in Malaysia. The rolls are cut into short cylinders and served with condiments such as thnee cheo (a sweet dark-red sauce), hae ko (black, prawn paste sauce), huan cheo chiau (chilli sauce) and oil, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. People in Penang all have their favourite but you can’t go wrong with the stall outside Seow Fong Lye Cafe on Macalister Lane. Be prepared to wait for your order.
Ipoh Kueh Teow
It’s been said that the best hor fun are from Ipoh – thanks to the fresh spring water from the mountains that is used to make the flat rice noodles. Hawkers here have concocted their own special stock – made with pork and sweetened with prawns – to complement the smoothness of their hor fun. The noodles are garnished simply with lightly-poached shredded chicken and blanched prawns, with chives to liven up the dish. For a fix, your best bet is Ipoh institution Thean Chun Coffee Shop (aka the Hall of Mirrors), which also does excellent pork satay and caramel custard. For halal breakfast favourites, head to Restoran New Hollywood in Canning Garden, Ipoh. And don’t forget to wash it all down with a cup of Ipoh white coffee.
Yong Tau Fu
This Hakka dish is a mix of fish, meat, vegetables and tofu. Traditionally, only tofu cubes were stuffed with a paste of fish and pork, and then deep fried or braised. Vendors later created and started stuffing vegetables like bittergourd, ladies’ fingers, chillies and brinjals. Along with the stuffed ingredients are fish and meat balls, and also fried tofu skin. The dry version of the dish is enjoyed with chilli and sweet sauces, but the ingredients are also served in a clear soup. Side dishes such as chee cheong fun and rice are optional.
You’re advised to get to Alfiyah Lontong Jawa Asli in Kampung Baru early because there’s a queue even at 7.30am. The nasi impit (cubes of compressed rice) lontong is drenched with a coconut milk and turmeric-based gravy cooked with a variety of vegetables, like cabbage and turnip along with condiments such as fried tempeh, fried tofu and boiled eggs. For those who like a little heat, there’s also a sambal to add to the mix. An addition that’s highly recommended is fried beef lung. It’s sliced thinly and fried until very crisp so that even in the broth, the pieces remain crunchy.
A favourite breakfast among locals is curry rice. It’s a simple dish but people who love it say it reminds them of home. The light chicken curry is served on white rice with braised soy sauce pork. Putting both curry and stew together is a winning combination. The best place for it is Malim Jaya Curry House, which serves nothing else but curry rice and side dishes like egg in soya sauce and stir-fried cabbage. They’re generous with the gravies and will flood your plate – it looks a little sloppy, but diners don’t mind! No wonder this establishment has been around for more than 50 years.
Originally named apam daun rambai because it is wrapped in the fragrant leaves of the rambai tree, this traditional steamed sweet kuih is now generally known as apam Johol for the place in the Kuala Pilah district where you are most likely to find it as a breakfast or teatime dish. The apam ingredients are simply wheat flour, yeast, water and palm sugar, formed into a dough and steamed. When cooked, the top of the light brown apam splits. Apam Johol is commonly eaten with savoury pairings like sambal tumis ikan bilis or rendang. For a sample of this kuih, head to Apam Johol Station in Kuala Pilah.
Satay Pagi Muar
In the royal town of Muar, satay is a breakfast tradition that defies all known culinary practices elsewhere in Malaysia. Here, locals often head to breakfast haunts like Restoran Haba or ZZ Satay Warisan to get their fill of chicken or beef satay. Sometimes satay made out of tripe (the lining of a cow’s stomach) is also available. Have it with sides like soto (a meat and vegetable broth) or lontong and nasi impit. Although the smell of smoke will no doubt linger in your hair and clothes long after you leave, this is certainly a delicious way to start the day!
Pahang is Malaysia’s durian country, so it’s only natural that the king of fruit would be the inspiration for many favourite foods in the state. At Yik Kee Restaurant in Bentong (which is where most of the durian comes from), you’ll find durian bomb, tart and cake. Have them on their own or as part of the shop’s dim sum spread. The eatery has also come up with new offerings such as durian soft serve ice cream and pancakes to appeal to the younger crowd.
Nasi dagang is to Terengganu what nasi lemak is to the peninsular west coast states. This coconut milk-rich rice dish is one of the most popular breakfast dishes in the state. Here, nasi dagang is a combination of white fragrant rice and white glutinous rice. It’s served with a curry made with ikan tongkol, a tuna species fished off the coast, and simple side dishes of acar timun and a hard-boiled egg. Well-known nasi dagang seller Mak Ngah, a stall in Kampung Bukit, Kuala Terengganu, has been around for over 60 years. Highly recommended is also Kak Pah’s stall at the Batu Buruk food court.
For the Kelantanese, breakfast simply isn’t complete without rice, which explains the popularity of the iconic nasi kerabu. The rice salad may come with serunding ikan (fish floss), a variety of herbs (an absolute must is daun kesom) and finely sliced vegetables, as well as kuah sambal tumis. Side dishes include keropok, salted egg, budu, solok lada (stuffed green chilli) and fried fish or chicken. Other variations are nasi kerabu hijau (made using different herbs), nasi kerabu kuning (dyed yellow with turmeric) and nasi kerabu hitam that uses daun mengkudu for flavour and colour. One of the most popular places to get your fix is Kota Baru favourite Kak Ma Nasi Kerabu.
Sabah has all sorts of noodle dishes that are unique to the state so it is common for Sabahans to eat it for breakfast. One of these is fish noodles. At Jong Fa Pai in Kota Kinabalu, the noodles come with meaty chunks of fish in a fish-based broth (clear or with milk) along with tofu, preserved vegetables and tomatoes. Wan Wan outlets serve a halal version. Another favourite breakfast noodle dish among Sabahans is ngiu chap, which is Hakka for mixed cow. Expect practically every single part of the cow in this dish. Beef balls, tripe, tongue and tendons are must-haves in ngiu chap, and some people add liver and other innards.
In Kuching, Choon Hui Cafe was a favourite of the late Anthony Bourdain who featured Sarawak laksa in his television shows No Reservations in 2005 and Parts Unknown in 2015. The travel documentarian and TV personality called the dish the “breakfast of gods”. It consists of rice vermicelli, shredded omelette, cooked prawns and strips of chicken in an aromatic broth, with sambal and lime served on the side. The star component is the laksa paste, a blend of up to 20 ingredients like shallots, galangal, dried chillies, and ground spices like coriander seeds, star anise and nutmeg. Other recommended Kuching restaurants that serve Sarawak laksa are Mom’s Laksa @ Gita (halal) and Golden Arch Cafe.