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Nov 3, 2006 03:48 PM

Thai and Malaysian? What are their differences?

To me, it's all related. But common sense tells me that it's possibly completely different. My question is, HOW?

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  1. Malaysian cuisine is a cross-pollination of indigenous Malay cuisine (which is closely related to Javanese) with the cuisines of Indian and Chinese immigrants. It includes both traditional dishes or variations thereon from all three, and fusion dishes.

    The Thai dish masaman curry could pass for Malaysian.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Native Malay cooking is a lot closer to the cooking in Padang than Java, although some of the more popular dishes from Java e.g. fried chicken, have diffused over. Nasi Padang (nasi=rice) is a common name for a genre of Malay food (curries are common) that is served with rice.

    2. Here is a great article talking about the nonya cuisine of malaysia, which comes from chinese immigrants adapting to the local ingredients.

      My favorite malaysian meal is a breakfast of teh tarik, a super sweet milky tea, along with roti canai, a flaky and chewy bread, similar to an indian parantha, which is served with a spicey curry sauce. This comes from the Indian immigrants to Malaysia.

      1. When I eat Thai food, I usually feel like I've had an exceptionally healthy meal.

        When I eat Malaysian food, I go nuts on the coconut and feel like I've had about 20,000 calories.

        It's probably my personal taste rather than the cuisines.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          That's true. Malaysian food is defintely on the heavy side, and can be pretty greasy at times. Last time i was in malaysia we ate almost entirely in indian places. but we had been in asia for a while and we ready for a change of flavors.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Although lots of Thai dishes contain coconut milk, particularly those from the south, which is closer to Malaysia, I think you're basically right. Malaysian food seems to incorporate more fried dishes, more sugar, more coconut and heavier sauces. Although I like Indonesian and Malaysian food every once in a while, I find Thai food far more complex and subtly spiced. I can't notice the subtle interplay of lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal and chiles in Malaysian food the way I do in Thai for example. I feel like a really good Thai restaurant might have a much larger and more varied menu, with more choices of meat dishes in particular. But of course this all might be because there are dozens if not hundreds of excellent Thai restaurants within 20 miles of my house, and only a few Malaysian, most serving simple homestyle fare. When I was in Malaysia, we ate a lot of Indian and Chinese food so I didn't get to taste a wide selection of purely Malaysian dishes.

            1. re: Chowpatty

              Go to Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan and close to the Thai border, to have complex, wonderful food that is very different from the equally delicious food served on the West Coast. Really good Ayam Percik is a very complex and delicious dish!

          2. Malaysia is famous for its hawkers foods, example chicken satay, Hailanese chicken rice and roti canai. A combination of three races of people, the Malays, Chinese and Indian plua a sub-culture called peranakans.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ianizukawa

              Peranakan cuisine is usually called nyonya or nonya. Chinese-Malay fusion.

              1. re: ianizukawa

                Peranakan cooking is largely a mixture of Hokkien and native Malay cooking; a good number of the dishes e.g. chap chye (mixed vegetables, literally) still retain their Hokkien names.

              2. There's a distinction between Malaysian food (food found in Malaysia, which would be cooked by any of the ethnic groups there) and Malay food (food from the native Malays).

                Malaysian food is a superset, and will consist of all sorts of dishes from the Southern Chinese, Indians, and native Malays. Hawker chow. Some of the Chinese and Indian stalls will serve dishes that may not be exactly the same in India (e.g. mee goreng) or China (bah kut teh).

                The combination of spices differ slightly and are used differently between Thai and native Malay cooking. For example, lime leaves and Thai basil are a lot more prominent in Thai cooking and lemongrass has a greater tendency to stand alone rather than be integrated in a curry. Coconut milk is used more often in Malay cooking, ground chilli is more prominent, as is belachan, a fermented shrimp paste. Of course this isn't a comprehensive comparison by any means, but some rough impressions of what I find more obvious.