Culinary Legacy Of
Chinese Food In Malaysia

Chinese food in Malaysia is derived from mainland Chinese cuisine but has been
influenced by local ingredients and dishes from other cultures, tough it remains distinctly Chinese. It is known as the richest and most diverse culinary cuisines and heritages in the world.

Rice, which is hail from southern China, remains one of the critical parts of much of Chinese food in Malaysia. Wheat based products including noodles and steamed buns (predominantly used in northern China) are preferred when eating out. Soup is usually served at either the start of a meal or at the end of a meal.

Chopsticks and flat-bottomed spoon (made of ceramic) is the primary eating utensil in
Chinese culture. The usage of wooden Chopsticks in the old times has been replaced with a more environmentally eating utensil, such as plastic and bamboo. Others chopstick made of expensive material such as Ivory and Silver have fast gain popularity among the Chinese community in Malaysia. On the other hand, disposable chopsticks made of wood/bamboo have all but replaced reusable ones in small restaurants and hawker centre.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Dim Sum
Bah Kut Teh
*Photo's by Flickr

The usage of knives and forks at the table is considered barbaric by the Chinese culture as these utensils are regarded as weapons. It was also considered ungracious to have guests work at cutting their own food.

For most of the dishes, Chinese food is prepared in bite-sized pieces (e.g. vegetable, meat, doufu), ready for direct picking up and eating. Fish are usually cooked and served as a whole, with diners directly pulling pieces from the fish with chopsticks to eat, unlike in some other cuisines where they are first filleted. This is because it is desired for fish to be served as fresh as possible.

For every Chinese meal, each individual diner is given his or her own bowl of rice while the accompanying dishes are served in communal plates (or bowls) that are shared by everyone sitting at the table, a communal service known as "family style" in Western nations. For hygienic reason, an additional spoons or chopsticks has been made available to accompany the dishes, thus preventing a person's individual utensils (which might have traces of saliva) to touch the communal plates.

Cold beverages are believed to be harmful to digestion of hot food, so items like ice-cold water or soft drinks are traditionally not served at meal-time. Besides soup, if any other beverages are served, they would most likely be hot tea or hot water. Tea is believed to help in the digestion of greasy foods. Some of the popular Chinese Food includes:

  • Bak Kut Teh - A soup cooked with herbs, garlic and pork ribs which have been boiled for many hours. In some towns, additional ingredients include sea cucumber and abalone. In Penang, most of the Bah kut teh seller has added some Chinese herbs to increase its flavor and taste.
  • Yong tau foo - It is a soup dish with Hakka origins but is accepted by Malaysian all races. Fish balls, fish cake, shrimp and vegetable are preselected first by customer before it is being served.
  • Hainanese Chicken Rice - Steamed chicken served with rice cooked in margarine or chicken fat and chicken stock and chicken soup. The rice is usually served in a bowl or a plate but in Malacca (a historical town), the rice is served in the form of rice balls.
  • Kway chap - Teochew dish of rice sheets in dark soya soup, served with pig offal, tofu derivatives and boiled eggs.
  • Yau Zaa Gwai or Eu Char Kway - Is Cantonese doughnut, a breakfast favorite eaten like a doughnut--with coffee, or as a condiment for congee. The name itself is of some interest to history buffs as it translates into "greasy fried ghosts".