One of the highlights of visiting Malaysia is being able to indulge in the cuisine. Because of Malaysia's geographic position and climate, the cuisine contains many unique fruits and vegetables and the cooking style draws influences from diverse regions. During our trip to Borneo, we explored open markets, food stalls, local coffee shops and restaurants.
Malaysia's cuisine has been shaped by many generations and culinary ideas and ingredients shared from the surrounding regions. Some dishes such as mee goreng (fried noodles), satay and nasi goreng (fried rice) are internationally known. While in Borneo, we found the "fried bee hoon" to be quite popular and the seafood salad wrapped in banana leaf was a delight!
Is Malaysian Food Spicy?
The food is known to be spicy due to the liberal use of locally grown chilies. However, they vary in size and taste (some are mild, others hot). Belacan is a shrimp paste which is pressed into a block and sun-dried. Although very pungent while in a raw state, when it is cooked the aroma mellows and a depth of flavor to a dish is the result.
Coconut is another typical feature of Malaysian cuisine. All parts of the coconut are used in cooking; water, oil and milk. They are used in savory noodle soups and sweet coconut crepe deserts. There is also nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a tasty coconut beverage.
The tasty vegetables that you will typically find in the markets are amaranth (bayam), bean sprouts (taugeh), brinjals (terung), bitter gourd (peria), bok choi (sawi), cabbage (kobis), choy sum, cucumber (timun) but as can be seen in the open market photos, there are many more.
King of Fruits
Because of Malaysia's tropical climate, fruit is also grown year-round. Many varieties
are common such as banana, jackfruit, papaya, mango, pineapple, watermelon, and of course the king of fruit - DURIAN! You will know this fruit from miles away, as its smell can carry.
Durian is a fruit that many people love to hate or truly love. In Malaysia, it is quite popular. During our visit in July, it was not in season, but is abundant in April and May. If you want to sample the Durian without the smell of the pungent raw fruit, we recommend the freeze dried Durian which can be purchased on Amazon. The consistency is unique, and has a creamier consistency than other fruits.
Malaysian Appetizers and Deserts
Another feature of Malay food scene is kuih, which are usually bite-sized foods. Examples include sepi - crispy folded coconut-flavored wafer biscuits.
For desert, we try Kochi is a glutenous rice dumplings filled with a sweet paste, shaped into a pyramid-like and wrapped with banana leaves. We liked the sweet pancakes and fried bananas served at the open market in Serian in Southern Sarawak.
Flavors and Herbs
I have visited Malaysia and Singapore many times and noticed some differences in Sarawakian cuisine. It is less spicy, and the flavors seemed more subtle. Since it lies on the north coast of Borneo, there is an abundance of fresh seafood and natural herbs like turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, lime and tapioca leaves.
Cuisine Steeped in Traditions
During our visit to a traditional Iban longhouse, pepper was being dried in the sun. Rice is a staple and Nasi aruk is a traditional Sarawakian Malay fried rice dish. In addition to fish, chicken, pork, beef are stapes. Popular dishes in Sarawak are kolo mee, sayur midin belacan, tomato mee, linut and ayam pansuh.
Top Dish to Try!
If we have to recommend one Malaysian dish to tempt your palate it is the Laksa Sarawak. Famous travel chef, Anthony Bourdain endorsed the Laksa Sarawak, a dish with noodles served in an aromatic spiced coconut milk soup, topped with shredded chicken, omelet, bean sprouts, prawns, and garnished with coriander.
We hope you have the opportunity to travel here and experience the sights and flavors of this region.
On this trip, we journey to a place where tropical wildlife, jungle rivers, and flowing waterfalls share the land with some of the rarest mammals on earth. It is one of only two places on earth where you can spot the endangered orangutan in the wild. It is a place that will challenge you with its adventure and bring you back to nature with its landscape. It's time to visit the road less traveled in Sarawak on the island of Borneo, Malaysia.
Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia and our adventure combines eco-tourism with relaxation. The island is divided among three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north, and Indonesia to the south.
On this trip, we visit the Malaysian state of Sarawak where we explore the Kuching, the state capital. One of the best ways to experience the region's nature is by longboat, which have been used for centuries. We ride along the lake in Batang Ai, a national park known for its extensive tropical rainforest. The boats zip across the waters like speedboats mixed with the tranquility of a canoe.
Next, it's time to get up close and personal with the region's jungle landscape. We take a canopy walk through the jungle treetops, which includes several suspended bridges high above the forest ground.
Set on the edge of the worldâs most ancient rainforest on the mystical island of Borneo is the Aiman Batang Ai Resort & Retreat, inspired by the architecture of the traditional Iban longhouses. The resort provides the ideal getaway for those seeking a one-of-a-kind escape that is adventurous yet fully relaxing at the same time.
To get to the orangutang wildlife reserve, we arrive via kayak along the swift-flowing river in Kampung Danu. Kayaking in the Borneo Highland area is truly a fascinating way to be surrounded and intimate with Mother Nature and an ideal introduction to rural Sarawak. It is also a fun-filled activity to see the stunning scenery of massive rocks among pristine river.
Finally, we reached one of the most unforgettable experiences in our travels - a chance to view one of the most endangered mammals in the wild. We visit the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, an orangutang sanctuary where we encounter the orangutans in their natural habitat. This wildlife center was established in 1975 to care for the orangutans previously held captive as illegal pets, injured, or orphaned in the rainforest.
The moment when we see the unmistakable orange great apes, it inspires a collective "awe" from the group. Everyone marveled in silence as we watched the orangutans effortlessly climb and swing through the treetops, feast on bananas, and lounge in the jungle. Their expressions and behaviors were so human like. Today they are critically endangered, which makes it such a special treat to see them up close.
Orangutans can live 35-35 years! We watch as an older orangutang eats bananas while the younger ones swing through the trees like a trapeze! Their balance is remarkable as many of them hang on by one branch.
To sum up our trip, a quote comes to mind:
It's better to look back at life and say "I can't believe I did that" instead of "I wish I did that".
âThis was the trip to do something different. It was a chance to go to a land less traveled and experience nature unlike any other. Sarawak Borneo opened our eyes to the purest nature, rarest mammals, peaceful wilderness, and of course, the Malaysian hospitality. We hope you get a chance to experience it very soon.
Malaysia is home to over 30 million people and is a country filled with diversity in cultures, food, and cityscapes. During my trip to Asia, I made a stop over in Kuala Lumpur, the modern and unique capital city. Upon landing, I noticed the Malaysian flag everywhere - people carrying flags, flags on buildings, flags along the streets. I thought - wow this is a very patriotic place. Then I realized it wasn't just a normal day - it was Merdeka Day, or independence day! What are the chances that I land in Malaysia on this special holiday? Malaysia was celebrating their 60th anniversary of their independence from British rule.
With only 24 hours to spare in the city, I wanted to catch the Merdeka celebrations and hit the city's top highlights: the Batu Caves and Petronas Towers. Check out the behind the scenes video:
1. Merdeka Day
On Merdeka Day, August 31st, we woke up to the sound of military planes flying over the city. A group of fighter jets flew in unison across the unique cityscape.
2. Batu Caves
The Batu Caves are one of the most unique sites, easily accessible by the metro. We took a 30 minute metro ride from KL Sentral directly to the Batu Caves, a sacred Hindu site that features limestone caves and mischievous monkeys. As soon as I exited the metro, it felt like we were in India. Outside the cave is an Indian market, which is a feast for the senses. It smells like incense, there are fresh coconut stands, people making durian crepes, mukukku (an Indian snack), marigold flower necklaces, among many other shops.
The caves are accessible by a large staircase, lined with many mischievous monkeys. There are so many monkeys that we have to dodge them as we climb up to the caves. Finally, we reached the cave entrance - which was dark and filled with Hindu deities. It was magical and mysterious.
3. Petronas Towers
The Petronals towers are the Iconic symbol of Kuala Lumpur and the tallest twin towers in the world. The towers have an impossing, gun metal grey color that dominates the skyline. At one point, they were the tallest buildings in the world, but that title was taken by the Taipei 101, and other buildings. There is an observation deck, but it has extremely limited availablity of about 1000 tickets per day, and it is time slotted. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance. Otherwise, you can enjoy the towers from the outside, which includes a large water fountain and park.
Next, we take the train back to the airport - off to other adventures. Terima Kasih Malaysia!
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.