Few inventions from antiquity survived the transition into modern day. The chopsticks is one such item. The sole means of feeding an entire region (China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam) for a few thousand years, the furor that arose from what is viewed as extreme disrespect to Chinese culture by a series of promotional video released by Italian brand Dolce and Gabbana depicting a Chinese woman attempting unsuccessfully to eat a giant pizza, a huge cannoli and a mountain of pasta with a pair of chopsticks is understandable, to say the least.
In Kuala Lumpur, a multi-racial city with a celebrated food culture that is as accepting as it is exciting, eating with a pair of chopsticks here is certainly a joy not to be missed. We feature some of the Malaysian capital’s most famous delicacies that one can best savour with a pair of chopsticks because, it’s quite simply twice the fun.
Dim Sums are fun with chopsticks! New age Chwee Cheong Fun served at Shang Palace @Shangri-la KL
Teochew Muay (Porridge)
Starting the day with Teochew Muay served at Lemon Garden @Shangri-la KL
Teochew porridge is a popular staple for breakfast as well as supper. As porridge is a lighter option than rice, many like to start their day with a light muay simply served with preserved vegetables or opt for a heartier version accompanied by dishes such as chye por (preserved radish) omelette. Although soft and runny, the best way to enjoy Teochew muay is to hold the hot bowl to the mouth and deliver the tasty gruel into it with swift movements of the chopsticks.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Hainanese Chicken Rice tastes better with chopsticks! Served at Botanica+Co @Alila Bangsar
The famous Hainanese Chicken Rice is often served with fork and spoon but eating it with a pair of chopsticks is a good test of how firm and intact the fragrant rice is. Not many people know this but slowly savouring this popular dish with chopsticks can also enhance the pleasure of its amalgamation of textures (succulent chicken, firm rice, crunchy bean sprout etc) as opposed to wolfing it all down with a spoon.
Carrot Cake (Char Koay Kak)
Breakfast staple char koay kak served at Entier @Alila Bangsar
This sizzling local favourite has many ways of preparation and the Penang way, which is also quite popular in KL, is to fry the radish cake with eggs, preserved radish and bean sprouts. A flavoursome savoury treat, it is quite a joy to pick up soft pieces of radish cake with a pair of chopsticks and enjoy its soft, full texture slowly.
Nourishing double boiled abalone and ginseng soup served at Shang Palace @Shangri-la KL
To many non-Chinese, it is probably surprising to enjoy a bowl of soup with spoon and chopsticks but hidden in every serving of lovely double-boiled soup, a Cantonese staple, are scrumptious delicacies that grant soups their wholesome taste and nourishment. Whether it’s a whole abalone or pieces of chicken, dipping them in chili padi laced soya sauce before eating them is all part of the enjoyment.
Scrumptious Peking duck served at Shang Palace @Shangri-la KL
There is a whole ritual involved to serving and eating the popular roast Peking duck but invariably the crispy skin is wrapped with pancakes and served with a sweet bean sauce and cucumber as well as scallions. The only way to pick these lovely parcels up is via the trusty chopsticks, which is a manageable task. Trying to wrap and pick up the fresh lettuce leaves filled with the leftover stir-fried duck meat with a pair of chopsticks however, will be daunting, to say the least.
Dainty dim sums, like this scallop and truffles siew mai, are served at Shang Palace @Shangri-la KL
There is a whole range of delectable parcels that make up the spectrum of Cantonese dainties known collectively as dim sums but most of them, however small and delicate, are enjoyed with a pair of chopsticks. The most challenging to pick up with chopsticks is probably the soup filled Xiao Long Bao, but to the uninitiated a regular siew mai would be a test too. But such is the fun of dim sum - it’s not just food but food that are served with culture.
Elegant serving of sashimi served at Zipangu @Shangri-la KL
Like the dim sum, it would be equally unthinkable to try and enjoy sashimi with anything but the hashi, or chopsticks. Known for their single minded dedication to the perfection of slicing and presenting raw fish, only a pair of chopsticks can deliver these beautiful morsels intactly into the mouth.
Perennial favourite, curry laksa is routinely served at Lemon Garden @Shangri-la KL
A popular dish that combines the Chinese love of noodles with Malaysia’s love of spices and lemak (coconut cream), this spicy savoury soup is often paired with yong tau foo (stuffed beancurd and vegetables) although it is mostly served with just fish cake, boiled eggs, chicken slivers and fried bean curd. While it may be potentially messy to attempt to eat this dish with a pair of chopstick for the uninitiated, the lovely flavours of this noodle dish is worth the try.
Durian pancakes are a new sensation served at Shang Palace @Shangri-la KL
Malaysia’s most famous fruit has been elevated to the ranks of dainty pastries and frothy cakes as patissiers in the country are continuously experimenting with ways to incorporate the pungent fruit into Western confections. A popular version now making its rounds at Chinese restaurants is the simple durian pancake with creamy fresh pulp wrapped within tender pancake skin. Fork or chopsticks, this is not a treat that everyone is going to be able to stomach.
Colourful kueh kuehs like this Pulut Panggang, are served during tea time at Horizon Club @Shangri-la KL
The ultimate culinary expression that combines the most inventive talents of the Chinese, Malay and Peranakan (local-foreigner culture) people, kueh kuehs are sweet confections that are made from rice, flours, natural dyes, coconut milk and a myriad of other tempting flavours that result in a rich kaleidoscope of local desserts much loved by all and sundry. They are also versatile when served, and one is free to enjoy them with fork, spoon, chopsticks or just fingers.