Excellent cookery book for beginners and experts alike
Malaysian Food by Norman Musa
Malaysian food could be as big as Thai in the UK, but has never had the same cachet. Odd, considering that the mixture of Chinese cooking techniques, South-East Asian spicing and diverse ethnic influences is a very appealing one. Yet Malaysian food tends to be relegated to a chapter in a round-up of South-East Asian cuisines, or the curries of Asia, with very few first-rate cookbooks dedicated to Malaysian cooking.
While this self-published, full-colour paperback is not produced to the very highest standards, it’s good at capturing a feel for the food. It also fills a gap for a Malaysian cookbook that’s enticing to look at, readable and has recipes that are relatively easy to make.
Author Norman Musa runs the well-regarded Ning restaurant and cooking school in Manchester, England and so much of the intro and anecdotes refer to this and his upbringing in Penang. But the meat of the book is recipes. Methods for classic dishes such as beef rendang are simplified versions, easier than most.
The kari nyonya recipe we made was easy to follow, took barely an hour to make, and the results were citrus-fresh, similar to a Thai curry. There’s even a recipe for teh tarik – ‘pulled tea’, made with condensed milk and poured from a height – which travellers who have visited Penang will remember fondly.
Historical context that details the complex influences behind the varied cooking of Malaysia – the traditional Malay food, the South Indian community, Indian Muslim (‘mamak’) cooking, the cuisines of the immigrant Chinese communities, and the Nyonya cooking of the Sino-Malay intermarriages – is not differentiated, or explained in any depth. But this is not a book of food anthropology, it’s a recipe book. Use it as such. You can find it online for around Dhs75.