Important Herbs and Spices Used in Malaysian Cooking

Posted by Hexa Food Sdn. Bhd. on May 18th, 2016

Malaysia's unique culinary tradition is mainly influenced by its rich history as one of the most important points in the spice route. Its cuisine may resemble those of neighbouring Asian countries like Singapore, the Philippines, and Brunei, but it is also heavily influenced by the Malay, Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Javanese culinary cultures. Malaysian cooking is a beautiful fusion of flavours from all of Asia. If you want to whip up these dishes at home—from noodles to rice dishes, as well as some desserts and snacks—you need to but some of the most important herbs and spices (coarse and ground) used in Malaysian cuisine.

Nasi Lemak, the national dish, is distinctively made with chili, belacan, and onion.Chili pepper isamong the most important ingredients in many other Malaysian cooking. Capsaicin and other related chemicals collectively known as 'capsaicinoids' are the substances responsible for the intensity of chili when added to food or ingested. The quality of the chili and can drastically affect the taste of your dish, so be sure to buy them only from trusted manufacturers of traditional Malaysian spices.

Apart from chili, here are some of the other important herbs and spices used in Malaysian cooking:

  • Turmeric – For thousands of years, turmeric has been used in the Middle East and East India to add colour and flavour to food. This aromatic bright yellow powder comes from the rhizome of a plant, which belongs to the ginger family. It adds a unique kick and a peppery flavour to Malaysian cooking.
  • Coriander – This aromatic Mediterranean plant comes from the parsley family. Its seeds offer slightly spicy flavours while the strong-smelling leaves offer a fresh citrusy taste. Coriander is ideal as a garnish or as a flavour enhancer.
  • Fennel – This is an herb known for its mild and distinctive fragrance and tang, which is similar to anise and liquorice. Like coriander, Fennel belongs to the parsley family, but it is a bulbous vegetable with wispy, tall, and fronded top similar to a dill. The bulb is the part that is used for cooking.
  • Pepper – Pungent dried or ground peppercorns are used as spice to add a spicy kick to most Malaysian dishes.
  • Cumin – This spice provides a sharp, earthy, slightly bitter, and warm zest.
  • Cinnamon – Warm and sweet, cinnamon also lends a woody aroma to dishes.
  • Mace – Derived from the exterior coat of nutmeg, this spice is typically used to preserve meat and fish dishes. In Malaysian cooking, mace refers to a highly pungent type of nutmeg that offers notes similar to pepper and cinnamon.
  • Cloves – These are the pink unopened flower buds of the clove tree. They are picked by hand once they are pink, and then dried until they become brown. The aromatic spice is distinctive for its strong and pungent smell. They can be used ground or whole, and they add a uniquely sweet, aromatic, and warm savouriness to certain Malaysian dishes.
  • Cardamom – This is the aromatic seed comes from a ginger-like plant and it is used in mild and spicy-hot curry blends. Also known as the 'Queen of Spices', it offers the most intense flavour, even in minimal amounts.

Malaysian cooking also uses mixed spices that are typically made of mustard seeds, urid dhall, fenugreek seeds, and fennel seeds. These mixes can be used for meat dishes, soups, and fillings. A typical package of mixed herbs will contain sage, thyme, parsley, sage, marjoram, basil, and oregano. It is important to use herbs and spices in proper amounts and at the right time to achieve an authentic Malaysian flavour.

About the Author:

This article is written by Eddie, who is the sales manager at Hexa Food Sdn. Bhd. It is HALAL and HACCP Certified food manufacturing company that supply herbs, spices and seasoning products in Malaysia at affordable rates.

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Hexa Food Sdn. Bhd.
Joined: April 18th, 2016
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