I was told to try Nasi Lemak, a richer Malaysian version of the Bakuteh, Penang Laksa, Clay Pot Char Kway Teow, and Curry Mee during our trip to Malaysia by legendary gadget blogger extraordinaire, Michael Josh of Gadget Match.
I consider him an authority on Malaysian gastronomy (he knows the place so well that IMHO, he should write a guidebook). I knew his opinion on how I wanted to eat and drink through our essentially 1.5 day trip in Kuala Lumpur would be invaluable.
The beverage geek in me had to ask him though: “What would you say is a quintessential Malaysian drink?”
He answered, “Teh Tarik… And you have to get them to make one for you live”.
So, I set out on my hunt for the drink.
Somewhere in between Kuala Lumpur’s Heritage Walk (where the I <3 KL sign is located) and Central Market, I found this little open-air canteen that served food to locals.
After negotiating with the kindly old lady for significantly less rice than she initially intended to give (I got her to go down from “enough to feed an army for two weeks” to “good for one plump Pinay”), serving myself spicy beef rendang and what looked to be their version of our laing, I asked, “Can I please have a Teh Tarik?”
She looked at me funny and asked incredulously, “Teh Tarik?”
I realized why she found my request odd: In the heat of lunch hour, I actually asked for hot milk tea, prepared by pouring a concoction of hot black tea and milk (condensed and/or evaporated) from one container to the other, back and forth at a height, creating a froth and thoroughly mixing the beverage.
It was ridiculously beautiful, but it was hot. In order not to leave me panting, I ordered a bottle of water to go with my lunch, had the Teh Tarik for dessert, and ended up paying a measly 7RM (or about 79.16PHP, or 1.65USD) for my meal.
Theoretically, similar rules apply for Malaysian food and wine pairing as with Filipino food, but Malaysian cuisine involves a lot more fragrant spices and less red meat. So, assuming I decided to have wine with Malaysian cuisine, I would probably stick to crisp, slightly sweet white wine.
The best alcoholic drink to pair with Malaysian food, however, is good old fashioned beer.
I opted out of exploring further in the evening (a total #titasofmanila cop-out moment) and decided to eat in the hotel. I ordered the Malaysian national dish (a breakfast staple for dinner… Because I can), the Nasi Lemak, and had it with a pint of Tiger Beer.
I decided on this combo because the spicy sambal called (nay, screamed) for something significantly more refreshing than wine. The dish’s gentle but multitude of flavors would not have wanted anything overpowering, either. I also find that pale lager beers go great with Asian food.
I specifically ordered Tiger Beer in the hopes of being very local*. Its origins can be traced as far back as the time that Singapore was still part of Malaysia. After Singapore left the Federation, Tiger’s head office stayed in Singapore, but one of its breweries remained in Malaysia.
One of my interesting discoveries in Malaysia is the region of Ipoh. I knew I had a preference for this region’s style of white coffee (see here), but I did not know it was a region in Malaysia (yay for learning something new!). I also found out that the reason it’s so sinfully creamy is because the beans are roasted with palm-oil margarine.
I knew I couldn’t leave Malaysia without having some white coffee, so at the last possible minute (think airport on our flight out), I had one in one of their famous Old Town Coffee chains.
What is your favorite food and beverage combination? Cheers!
*Cheat Sheet: I find that when I’m stumped for food and beverage pairing ideas, I try to think of beverages indigenous to the region the food comes from. It can be Escargots de Bourgogne with Chablis (both from Burgundy), proper Chilean empanadas with Carmenere, sisig with San Miguel Beer, or with Tiger Beer.