It’s undeniable that Singapore and Malaysia have amazing local fare that’s hard to match anywhere else on the planet. Both countries have their own signature styles of preparing some of these dishes, and it’s an ongoing tug-of-war battle to decide who does it best. But there are some dishes where Malaysia emerges a undisputable winner.
There’s just no better place to get them than across the Causeway.
Here are 5 dishes where the Malaysians hit the right spot.
1. Lok lok
You may have seen roadside stalls hawking this in Johor Baru, or along the famous Lorong Ah Lor stretch in Kuala Lumpur. Lok Lok (which means “to boil” in Cantonese) offers a wide variety of skewered foods which are either boiled in a steamboat pot or grilled or fried to perfection and then eaten after being slathered in dipping sauces. There are a few lok lok places in Singapore which have sprung up recently such as Zao Lek Lok Lok at Paya Lebar Kovan Community Club but nothing beats the original.
2. Chili Pan Mee
Some call it Pan Mee while in Singapore, it is known as “Ban Mian”, which means “flat noodle” in Mandarin. But the Malaysian variety comes with roasted chilli flakes which you are more than welcome to add if you feel like it, unlike Singapore Ban Mian’s which typically comes with sambal or chilli padi. The difference in taste is dramatic. Perhaps the most famous Chilli Pan Mee originates from Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee, a shop in Kuala Lumpur’s Jalan Dewan but even they’ve wised up and opened a shop in Singapore along MacPherson Road to cater to the demand.
3. Penang fried kway teow
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this dish has its origins in Penang. While we may be familiar with the hawker-style char kway teow Singapore has to offer, the Penang variety is somewhat different. For starters, it uses only flat rice noodles instead of mixing it with the yellow wheat noodles as the Singapore version does. It is also lighter in colour, comes with prawns instead of cockles, and has that inimitable “wok hei” or “wok’s breath” flavour. If your taste buds are watering already, Penang’s the place to go to sort out that craving – because no one else does it better.
4. Bak Kut Teh
Singapore boasts an abundance of stalls selling bak kut teh (meaty pork ribs in a peppery or garlicky broth) with a line of them dotting Balestier Road, but the Malaysian variety is just different. For starters, Malaysian bak kut teh tends to be herbal and not peppery, it can be served soupy or dry, and usually comes in a claypot along with other ingredients like mushrooms and pork liver all tossed into the mix.
5. Ramly burger
First introduced in Malaysia in 1979, the Ramly burger comes with a choice of either a chicken or beef patty. In recent years, it has made an appearance in Singapore typically at pasar malams (night markets) but purists swear that the ones sold in Malaysia just taste better. We can’t explain it.