Ever think of things to buy from Malaysia to bring back home to your family and friends? From the cliché batik, key chains to pewter serving ware, have you ever thought of the cheap snacks and food you can grab from Malaysian hypermarkets and groceries? Here are a few of my favorite picks:
(Some items might not pass your country’s custom and immigration, so it’s better to check first before you buy)
3-in-1 Instant White Coffee:
Once, I’ve witnessed my friend stuffing her luggage with 3-in-1 instant white coffee before she left for a business trip to China. I asked her why, and she answered that she’s bringing for her Chinese business associates there. It’s their favorite souvenir from Malaysia.
Just last week, I was at Ikea’s café. A Taiwanese (I think) tourist grimaced at the coffee, then opened the luggage that she lugged along with her, and took out a sachet of instant white coffee. She added it into Ikea coffee, and drank it, satisfied. No offense to Ikea but this is just how popular Malaysian white coffee is.
It’s convenient, cheap with taste that rivals an RM18 latte
Recommended: Aik Cheong White Coffee Original for its aromatic bean taste.
You might think. Are they even as good as Japan’s Nissin or Korea’s Nongshim? To compare them, is like comparing apple, orange and grapes. Each is unique and all taste good in their own way.
If you like curry mee or asam laksa during your trip in Malaysia, how about bringing the taste back home?
Cintan Asam Laksa noodle, with springy al-dente noodles and aromatic spicy sourish soup.
My Kuali Penang White Curry Mee, comes with coconut milk powder to produce a creamy broth.
Maggi Chicken Noodle, best served by mixing in beaten eggs.
Bak Kut The Spices:
Bak Kut Teh is another specialty of Malaysian Chinese, and literally, means pork rib herbal soup. Two packs of these, plus pork ribs and meat, are enough to make a hearty herbal soup. Due to its warming properties, it’s our favorite soup when the rainy season arrives. The preparation instructions can be found at the back of the packaging.
(As the soup pack contains Chinese medicinal herbs, it might be barred from some customs.)
Recommended: A1 Bak Kut Teh
Curry and Spices:
Good quality spices and curry powder are aplenty and relatively cheap in Malaysia. Just drop by any hypermarkets and you will be spoiled with choices.
Recommended: Babas or Alagappas brand
Only if your custom permits, this is a crucial condiment for Sweet and Sour Crab recipe (in Singapore, they call it Chili Crab), together with ketchup. Even when we’re not cooking a crab, we basically dip anything with it – prawns, fried chicken, burgers, fries and the list goes on.
Recommended brand: Maggi
Kentucky Fried Chicken Seasoning Flour:
Yes, it’s named Kentucky, for its reputation that any chicken fried with this flour will taste very much like KFC. Not really. Derived from spices and herbs, it does make very good home-cooked fried chicken for me without fail.
Boh Tea is the largest black tea producer and number one tea brand in Malaysia. One of its clever innovation is packing the national drink Teh Tarik (pulled tea) into an instant pack. For another variant, try the Teh Halia (ginger milk tea) which is warming and a soothing solution to menstrual cramp.
Sarawak Black Pepper:
Sarawak (East Malaysia) produces one of the best pepper in the world, with its musky notes and bold aroma. I used to order from my Sarawakian friends, but these days, I can spot them in hypermarkets in Peninsula Malaysia.
Asam Pedas Paste:
One of my favorite food is Asam Pedas Fish, but it’s cumbersome to prepare. A good asam pedas needs a variety of aromatic spices and not forgetting the amount of chilies, onions and garlic that I will need to grind.
My short cut to a spicy bowl of appetizing asam pedas fish, is to simply buy this Adabi Asam Pedas Paste. Simply empty the paste into a pan (with depth), saute it for a minute, add in water and fish to cook.
I would highly recommend the Adabi brand. After trying out many other brands, this gives the closest taste to homemade asam pedas fish.
Dodol is a Malay sticky- textured dessert, made from mixture of rice flour, coconut milk and gula melaka or brown sugar. The process involves arduous and continuous mixing of the ingredients over the fire for a long time, before the liquid thickens to form the toffee like dessert.
Dodol is more easily found in Melaka in the local delicacies shops but I frequently buy my stock from Ayer Keroh R&R on North-South Highway.
Dodol can be an acquired taste, as it is very sweet albeit fragrant. Dodols that are packed in small pyramid shape were preferred for easier munching (lesser mess) and softer in texture. When buying, also look out for dodol in nice brown color, not black-brown which could mean they were charred.
I always recommend dodol in original flavor, as I dislike the durian flavored version.