Open Houses, the best places to enjoy Malaysian cuisine in Kuala Lumpur
Open Houses are an integral part of the Malaysian culture where different communities come together to share food under a single roof.Updated: Jan 10, 2020 17:38 IST
Standing on the lush green lawns of the Istana Negara (the official palace of Yang di Pertuan Agong, the present monarch of Malaysia), I dig into a piece of Chicken Satay. A juicy, soft chunk of meat perfectly marinated and dunked in the ubiquitous peanut sauce, it instantly dissolves on my tongue, leaving a plethora of flavours on my palate. I am distracted by the smell of some Rendang cooking a few feet away and quickly skip on to check on it. No, this isn’t one of Kuala Lumpur’s famous street food markets, but it is an Open House where people from all walks of life come together, share food and the joy of festivals.
These Open Houses are an integral part of the Malaysian culture where different communities come together to share food under a single roof. As Malaysia is quite a diverse community made up of Malays, Muslims and even some Hindu and Christian minorities, these Open Houses help people from all these communities to come together and rejoice. Our guide, Aspliza tells us about her childhood memories as we get on our bus to get to our destination. “Food and festivals are two things that Malays like quite a bit”.
So much so that most of them head back to their homes every time the festive season comes around. Aspliza herself heads back to her home (just like most of the Malaysians leading to a nickname for this mass exodus, balik kampung) at least 3 days beating the crazy jams on the way to help her mother and grandmother help prep up the giant smorgasbord of dishes: Rendang, Rice, Satay and many other dishes for people from nearby homes to come and enjoy the Open House.
Although Open Houses were a traditionally rural concept held on a smaller scale, today the capital city of Kuala Lumpur hosts gigantic versions of these, some of which are even hosted by the Prime Minister and the King. These gigantic showpieces not only showcase the hospitality of the Malaysians but also their culinary prowess. Though Eid is the major festival when these Open Houses happen, it has readily trickled down to the Diwali, the Chinese New Year and even Christmas. These Open Houses also helps boost tourism, as it opens up the local’s houses to the tourists allowing them to have quite a unique experience.
Now let’s see why Malaysian food is so famous all over the world. Sitting at the confluence of a major trading route, Malaysia has been populated by immigrants from China, India and the Middle East. As their cultures intermingled, so did their skills and flavours, creating a whole lot of new dishes. As most of these immigrants used to work throughout the day, they used to eat outside, from small street-side restaurants. Today it is typified in Mamaks, restaurants that stay open all day and serve out a potent mix of flavours. We duck into one such Mamak where we dig into some of the local grub on offer.
Although the menu is vast and covers more than 300 dishes, the best way to order is to take a look around. The restaurant is a visual treat as hundreds of curries lie behind glass counters. There are meats of each and every kind along with a tandoor and grill to roll out the rotis and kebabs. All around me, I find people of varying ethnicities sitting with their partners and colleagues tucking in platefuls of noodles, rice and a curry of some sorts.
The restaurant also doubles up as your neighbourhood grocery stocking up on cigarettes, candy and some other knick-knacks. We order some of the Goreng Paprik Seafood, a single bowl meal with chicken and seafood served on top of sticky rice and topped off with a spicy Indonesian curry. The Roti Canai Curry, on the other hand, features a spicy Mutton curry along with a flaky multi-layered Malabari style Parotta. We end our meal along with some of decadent Kuih Dadar (coconut shavings stuffed in rice crepes).
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