On Food Fusion


1. I remember asking one of the Istana hotel concierges on the best Indian curry house in town. The answer was Betel Leaf restaurant, Lebuh Ampang, KL. It was on June 28th, 2010 when I accompanied Emeritus Prof Barry Nocumber, a distinguished Australian scholar, and professor who was with me examining post-graduate student in child psychiatry, we went to this restaurant.


2. It was a busy weekday; precisely in the late evening. The restaurant was situated on the first floor of the seasoned row of shophouses. Outside, it was raining. The one-way street was clogged with buses and taxis. Many people were waiting for the transport as the bus stop and taxi station were located just in front of the shophouses. We were chatted excitedly about ourselves and the exam that we had just attended to.

3. It was there that we ate pulao rice, served in a stainless plate with banana leaves, papadom, chicken curry, and vegetable. Interestingly, Indian curry houses serve foods using stainless metal dishes. Malays, to the contrary, feel awkward eating curry from periuk. Following tradition, banana leaf rice is somewhat acquainted with South Indian cuisine. The food that we ate had a lot of pepper, chilies, spices and curry leaves.

4. The North Indian cuisine (pic, below) such as briyani is taken with creamy sauces and of course, not being served using the banana leaf. I was informed that the North Indian dishes tend to taste less spicy because the milk, cream or yogurt content helps tone them down. This was confirmed when I tested the best Hyderabad biryani.

5. Mamak restaurant, on the other hand, serves cuisine of Indian-Muslim food; a culinary assimilation of Indian and Malay rempah curry. The curries are unmistakably Indian but the nasi lemak and roti canai are typically Malaysian.

6. Interestingly, the mamak restaurant near my vicinity has incorporated sweet flavor in the cooking, in order to attract local customers.

7. Ayam madu and ayam masak kicap, I think, are definitely the fusion of local tastes and definitely not authentic Indian foods. Take a look at Malaysianized roti canai. It has many variations such as roti pisang, roti telur, roti sardin and roti kon.

They are surely food of Indian-Malaysian fusion.

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