Malaysia’s multiculturalism is unrivaled thoughout South East Asia – and is reflected in its cuisine. Host Merrilees Parker begins her journey on the Malaysian peninsular with the native Orang Asli people of Kelantan. They teach her how to hunt with a blowpipe and cook dinner in a bamboo trunk. She then heads off to the stunning Islamic East coast to cook a rich curry using freshly caught mackerel. She finds strange and delicious fruits in the markets and – after Friday prayers - shares in the sweet and savoury delights cooked on the streets.
In the ancient spice capital of Melaka, Merrilees cooks up a storm with fiery Laksa Soup in the style of the Nyonya, then visits a Portuguese settlement and wolfs down Devil’s Curry. In the Cameron Highlands, 5,000 feet above sea level, there is a notable English influence. Merrilees picks tea on the Boh Plantation and samples Mrs. Chong’s famous scones with homemade strawberry jam.
The island of Penang is Merilees' next stop. Here she joins a street vendor, stir-frying Char Kway Teow on a hand cranked charcoal barrow. Penang is a festive destination and she joins 10,000 Chinese pilgrims for the Vegetarian Feast of the Nine Emperor Gods. In Little India, the smaller festival of Dussehra means more vegetarianfood to be tasted, but this time with an Indian flavour. Having sampled spicy betel leavesand sweet pulled tea, she tries her hand at making the delicate fried bread known as Lacy Roti.
The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is one of the fastest growing cities in South East Asia and fortunately Malay culture is not being lost in the rush to modernise. Merrilees finds 2 chefs who use traditional Malay cooking traditions in a modern fine dining style that is set to rival the great cuisines of the world.
Finally, on the paradise island of Langkawi, Merilees joins the Ramadan celebrations with a feast of delicious sweetmeats before learning how to make Beef Rendang in the jungle home of the charismatic chef, Shukri Shafie.