East Eats West: Popular Western Food in Malaysia

Malaysians love their local food, there’s no doubt about it, but once in a while, they do enjoy sinking their teeth into Western fare as well. In fact, due to the popularity of Continental cuisine, local food lovers can satisfy their cravings at a variety of eateries, from road-side stalls to fast food outlets, and casual to fine dining restaurants. While a “Western meal” can be something as simple as a bowl of mushroom soup eaten with garlic bread, or toast served with baked beans, a frankfurter and scrambled eggs, the nation’s most well-known Western dishes have got to be Chicken Chop, Lamb Chop, Beef Steak and Fish and Chips.

In most restaurants, which offer both local and Continental dishes, these will definitely be on the menu. The local variety of Chicken Chop, consists of a deboned or partially-deboned chicken leg, which is either grilled, or breaded and then deep fried. The Lamb Chop and Beef Steak, on the other hand, features tender cuts of meat, such as lamb shoulder and beef tenderloin, which are grilled to seal in their juices. The meat is best served hot, with either a brown mushroom sauce or black pepper sauce, accompanied by either fries or mashed potatoes and coleslaw or a salad.

Fish and Chips restaurants are a national institution in the United Kingdom, and in Malaysia, the dish has its fair share of fans. Here, the fish fillet is dipped in batter and deep fried, and served with a helping of fries and a dollop of tartar sauce. Besides tangy tartar sauce, a range of other Western condiments have made their way into local kitchens. Worcestershire (pronounced woos-ter-sheer) sauce, mustard and ketchup, are but a few that have become popular locally. These sauces, however, don’t provide Malaysians with the kind of heat that they love, so it’s common to see Western food being enjoyed with generous amounts of chili sauce.

While sizzling steaks, savoured in a nice restaurant, is a decadent experience all its own, who doesn’t love the humble burger and hot dog? Their simplicity, mobility and deliciousness is a winning formula, as there are numerous fast food outlets serving burgers and hot dogs in Malaysia. The best of them, however, can be found not in a popular eatery, but at road-side stalls! What’s so special about them? Well, firstly, the patties and frankfurters are made by local manufacturers. They are grilled on a hot plate, by a guy dressed in t-shirt and jeans. Underneath a fluorescent bulb, powered by a generator, he assembles the burger or hot dog with shredded cabbage and generous amounts of chilli sauce and mayonnaise. The result… a hot and messy, but heavenly bite!

Speaking of heavenly bites, what about that Italian favourite – pizza? While the pizzas found locally aren’t like their European cousins, they’re no doubt filling and satisfying to the last bite. Malaysians tend to favour thick or stuffed crust pizzas that are bursting with flavour, and this includes the occasional curry, rendang or sambal topping. Besides pizza, locals have some to know and love that other Italian staple – pasta! The most popular types of pasta here are spaghetti and lasagna, while the most popular sauces are bolognaise (meat-based tomato sauce), marinara (tomato sauce with seafood), carbonara (creamy sauce) and aglio olio (garlic and olive oil).

The spread of Western dishes doesn’t end there, however, as now Swedish, German, Tex-Mex (Texan Mexican) and Spanish restaurants have also become hugely popular, especially in the Klang Valley. Whether the cuisine served is authentic to their country of origin, or prepared with a local twist, Continental food offered in Malaysia promise wonderful flavours that will satiate the appetites foodies from all corners of the globe!