I've been experiencing severe Malaysia homesickness lately. I grew up in London so Malaysia isn't technically home - but my mum's from Selangor and my dad's half Malaysian Chinese, so I spent many holidays there as a child, and think of it as a home away from home. I often find myself missing my family out there, the rush of heat that greets you the moment you step off the plane, and the legendary food. In Penang and the Selangor area, there is a glut of simply fantastic open-air cafés lined with street food stalls (and I'm sure the same goes for the rest of the country!) You pick the dish you want - whether that be a plate of sticky, spicy kway teow or a steaming bowl of addictively sour asam laksa - pull up a plastic chair, and get stuck in. And usually for about 40p a bowl - if that. Seriously amazing.
Malaysians love their food, and I'm sad to say that so far I haven't encountered anything quite like the real thing outside of Malaysia - even in London, a foodie destination in its own right and boasting restaurants with some of the best international cuisine in the world. But I came quite close during Malaysia Night, a celebration of all things Malaysian that took over Trafalgar Square one warm evening at the end of September.
In the environs of the National Gallery, the Fourth Plinth and Nelson's Column, I scurried around excitedly, sampling the wares of various Malaysian restaurants and cafes that had set up stalls in the Square.
The queues for the stalls were huge - it was Friday night in central London, after all - but finally I whetted my appetite with fish and chicken curries, stir fried vegetables and beef rendang.
On the stage, entertainers performed traditional Malay, Indian and Chinese dances and music - representing the multi-cultural nature of Malaysia, or 'One Malaysia' as they like to call it.
The square was packed with sponsors, from this car company [I know nothing about cars!] to Malaysian Airlines, Chinese supermarkets and Waitrose.
I was especially excited when I saw a roti canai mamak stall - my favourite! Roti canai is a flaky pastry made very light by pummelling and flinging it about, which incorporates lots of air into the dough (as you can see above!) It's then fried and served with a selection of curries. Sedaplah!
The curry wasn't as spicy as I'd have liked, but the roti itself was perfect and I enjoyed every bite.
Somehow the person taking this shot managed to focus on a man in the background instead of my beloved roti canai!
Repping the Lims.
And lastly, I wolfed down this slightly unphotogenic but utterly tasty coconut milk sago pudding, made rich and sweet with a layer of gula melaka (palm sugar) at the bottom.
I have to admit this wasn't the best Malaysian food I've ever had - the street food in Malaysia is a very tough act to beat and you honestly have to go there to experience it at its best - but I had a wonderful evening which managed to soothe my food cravings, at least for a little while! Thanks, Malaysia Night!