To understand the vibrant melting pot that is Malaysian cuisine, you should look no further than a map of Southeast Asia. The country — divided into two land masses (Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo) — sits relatively equidistant between India and China. So over time, both cultures played a role in shaping the Malay culinary heritage. Throw in a healthy dose of Portuguese and British colonialism, and you’ve got one very interesting eating scene.
Statistically, the current ethnic breakdown is roughly 50% Malay, 25% Chinese and 7% Indian. But, really, when you’re eating in one of Malaysia’s major cities like Penang or Kuala Lumpur, you will find a wide range cooking like fiery chili crabs, airy roti cani used to scoop up complex vegetable curries, wok-fired sizzling noodles and the national condiment sambal — a blend of chili, calamansi lime juice and shrimp paste. Over the last couple of years we’ve written about Malaysia with particular vigor. We’ve profiled the crazy desserts and published recipes for sambal and rendang. Chefs have visited and returned with wild tales. Here are some of our favorite travel stories and recipes.