Broadening my culinary horizons

For no rhyme or reason whatsoever, I’ve never had Malaysian food. I’ve never been to Malaysia, never been to a Malaysian restaurant, never cooked Malaysian food, don’t have a Malaysian cookbook in my collection of 200+ cookbooks.
So when I was invited to attend a “Taste of Malaysia” event sponsored by the Malaysia Kitchen Program, I was all in. And I am now a Malaysian food convert!
Not that it was a difficult conversion. As I learned from Malaysian Food Ambassador Christina Arokiasamy, teaching chef, spice expert and author of The Spice Merchant’s Daughter (which NPR named as one of 2008’s top 10 cookbooks), Malaysia was the geographic center of the 15th century spice trade, and as such became “a unique melting pot” of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking styles. Well, I love Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisine, so loving Malaysian cuisine was pretty much a forgone conclusion.

After learning a bit about the various spices and aromatics that help define Malaysian cuisine, we were treated to a cooking demonstration from Arokiasamy and a flavor-packed, taste bud pleasing multi-course menu.

Roti with curry (crispy Indian-style bread with curry potato dipping sauce)
Skewered lemongrass chicken and beef satay, served with peanut sauce, onions and cucumbers:

Char Kway Teow (wok-fried fresh rice noodles with shrimp, chives, bean sprouts and belachan):

Malaysian chili sesame prawns (wok-tossed jumbo prawns with Lingham’s Chili Sauce and curry leaves):

Curry Laksa (rice noodles with spicy coconut broth and flavored with mint, ginger flowers and lemongrass):

Belachan string beans (stir fried with shrimp paste and chilies) and black pepper lamb:

Brahim’s Beef Rendang (beef braised in Brahim’s signature Rendang sauce with lemongrass and coconut) with coconut rice.
Teh-Tarik (Malaysian pulled tea) and young coconut panna cotta (Malaysian provincial style coconut panna cotta in a whole young coconut):

The food was divine, and what made me appreciate it even more was that Arokiasamy, who is from Malaysia but who lives in Seattle most of the year, prepared the food in the authentic style of Malaysia. That is, the kind of food you would get if you traveled to Malaysia and steered clear of the touristy areas. This was real Malaysian cuisine, and it was fabulous. (Happily, I have a Malaysian restaurant to check out: Arokiasamy recommends Malay Satay Hut, which has locations in South Seattle and Redmond.)

I’m never one to turn down a good goodie bag, and this was a particularly good one. It included a bottle of Lingham’s Hot Sauce, a package of Brahim’s Indonesian Rendang Sauce, a twin pack of Asian Meals’ Malaysian Black Pepper Sauce, samples of several Boh Seri Songket teas, several recipe cards (including a few for dishes we were served) and (drum roll please) a copy of The Spice Merchant’s Daughter. I can’t wait to delve into it and bring a taste of Malaysia to my own kitchen.
Disclosure: I received this lovely meal and gift bag free of charge, but it was my decision whether (and what) to write about the event, and, as always, my opinions are wholly my own. I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate program, so if you happen to buy your own copy of this cookbook after clicking on the embedded link, I might earn a few cents.