ADAM: Malaysia wants you to know that its food is awesome. To that end, their government has recently launched a publicity campaign aimed at getting New Yorkers to think of going out for Malaysian just like they would think of going out for Chinese or Indian or Thai or whatever nationality it is they claim to be at P.F. Chang’s. So in a Navigeatin’ first, a country actually offered to take us out to dinner. We agreed to let Malaysia pay for the date, but swore there would be no untoward hanky panky, because we are ladies.
LAURA: Speak for yourself, Winer. I totally banged Malaysia. And it all went down at Laut, where we were mentored by professional wino Michael Green and had plate after plate piled upon us by chef and owner Kathy Wong. She explained that Malaysian cuisine is a multicultural mishmash of native Malay dishes with Chinese, Indian, Thai and even some Portuguese and Middle Eastern influences. That’s what happens when your nation is right on the Eastern Spice Trade Route and everyone wants a piece of the hot property.
ADAM: Our first dish, Roti Canai, showed how Malaysia got its Indian on. This flatbread is lighter, daintier and, dare I say, awesomer then the roti you’d eat in India. Kathy actually took us into the kitchen so we could watch her chef use four flicks of his wrists to flip a lump of dough into tissue paper thinness. (Progression of pics here, here, here and here.) The dough is then grilled and served with a curry sauce, the bite of which is nicely tempered with sweet coconut milk.
LAURA: We also got a taste of red snapper seasoned with belacan, a signature Malay ingredient made of fermented ground shrimp that’s been salt-cured, sun-dried and formed into a block of paste. Although uncooked belacan looks like a bar of chocolate, it smells like a post-game jock strap and is meant to be used sparingly. Cooking it kills the stench and the bacteria (raw paste is not meant for consumption), and just a dab adds a lot of texture and taste.
ADAM: Most Malaysian meals include some sort of Nasi, aka rice. The fish came with Nasi Lemak, which is rice that’s soaked in coconut milk before being steamed. Nasi Lemak is sweet and delicious and often eaten for breakfast. In contrast, our next plate featured a scoop of Nasi Goreng, fried rice that’s complexly spiced. It came paired with some wonderfully soft calamari alongside another one of Malaysia’s signature curry dishes, Beef Rendang (whole plate pictured below). Kathy told us it took her about two hours to prepare Beef Rendang because of all the spicing and cooking it required. Meanwhile, it only took us about 30 seconds to eat it. (We win!)
LAURA: We finished off our meal with black sticky rice and a tea-pulling ceremony, in which a showboat mixes tea with condensed milk and pours it in ridiculously long streams from one pitcher to another. Imagine Tom Cruise’s character in Cocktail without the booze (or suicide or Gina Gershon). Teh tarik, as it’s called, is so popular in Malaysia, they even do it in fast-food joints and hold competitions.
ADAM: Yeah, watching that tea-pulling had me giddy. Thanks for a great date, Malaysia! We’d have slipped your whole country some tongue at the end, but after all that eating, our mouths were tired.
15 East 17th Street (Flatiron)