Looking for a food destination near Kuala Lumpur? The multicultural state of Selangor surrounds the capital, offering an accessible destination for culinary discoveries amongst its diverse communities of Malaysians with Javanese, Banjarese (Banjar), Chinese and Indian heritage, to name the majority.
Javanese cuisine figures greatly in the state’s gastronomic landscape, especially in Javanese-Malay villages where visitors can try them at local restaurants, markets and homestays (Visit the official website for a list of recommended homestays in Selangor). Javanese cuisine is the cuisine of the Javanese, a major ethnic group in Indonesia, more precisely the province of Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java. Compared to other cuisines from Indonesia, Javanese cuisine is relatively sweet because of the generous amount of gula jawa (palm sugar) or kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) used in the food.
Through the Eat Travel Write Selangor Culinary Adventure, I discovered what the state has to offer for food lovers. Here are three wonderful Javanese delicacies that you must try when you visit Selangor:
One of the best things I tasted at the district of Kuala Selangor was pecal or pecel, a traditional Javanese salad consisting of mixed vegetables in spicy peanut sauce dressing, usually served with steamed rice or cubed ketupat (hanging rice). I enjoyed this dish because of its appetizing balance of cool vegetables like cucumber, mung bean spouts and kangkong (water spinach) smothered with the mild heat from the slightly sweet peanut-flavored sauce of samba pecal. The soft, sticky cubes of ketupat were a perfect match with the rich salad.
More of a snack than a dish, rempeyek are Javanese savory deep-fried crackers made with peanuts, peas or other ingredients bound by crispy batter, which is made of rice flour, egg, coconut milk and water, and seasoned with salt, anise and coriander. Interestingly, a small amount of lime is also added to the batter mixture to enhance the crispiness of the crackers. I’ve tasted this snack on previous trips to Indonesia, and I find them really enjoyable to munch on, especially the variety with peanuts.
A team challenge got the participants of our media tour cooking rempeyek at the Kampung Sungai Sireh Homestay in Sabak Bernam district. The secret was finding the right consistency for the batter, and mastering the right technique in pouring the batter into the oil-filled wok.
A wonderful dish we had for our final dinner at Kampung Sungai Haji Dorani Homestay – one of the top homestays in the country – was a generous feast of nasi ambeng or nasi ambang. It’s a heavy meal consisting of white rice topped with chicken curry or chicken cooked in soy sauce, vegetables, fried noodles, some salted fish, fried coconut floss, and other side dishes. Our version also had some rempeyek. A popular Javanese meal, especially in Javanese-Malay communities in Selangor and Johor, it is especially served during festivities on a banana leaf-lined tray and enjoyed together by four to five people.
We had the opportunity to assemble nasi ambeng ourselves and serve them for everyone to enjoy in the traditional Malay way, that is, partaking in the meal on a mat on the floor and consuming it with our hands. Don’t you think food tastes a lot better when shared? Why not discover nasi ambeng and other Javanese dishes of Selangor with your family and friends on your next trip to Kuala Lumpur!
This blog post was made possible through Eat Travel Write Selangor Culinary Adventure, a media trip held last June 11 to 14, 2015 in Selangor, Malaysia. The event was organized by Tourism Selangor and media coordinator, Gaya Travel Magazine.