A Malaysian Stir-Fry

By Habeeb Salloum

From time immemorial, the tropical, lush-green Malaysia has been a trading center where the peoples of Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Arab world, and, later, Europe, settled or met to trade. All who came left traces of their food heritage. Borrowing and adapting from each other’s cooking techniques and ingredients, they developed a rich and spicy Malaysian culinary tradition.

As in almost all of Asia, rice (nasi), followed by noodles (mee), are the country’s staples. Often cooked with coconut milk, steamed white rice accompanies every meal. It is so significant to the Malaysian diet that it is almost synonymous with food.

A Malaysian meal, besides the usual rice and condiments, consists of four to five main dishes served in large central bowls or platters. Diners are given their own plates, soup bowls, forks, and spoons. The fork is used to push food onto the spoon, and the soup and main course are eaten together, the soup serving as the beverage. The Malaysians love their meats and fish, but they also have excellent vegetarian dishes that are either mixed or served with rice or noodles. 

Visitors who are lucky enough to spend time in the country and dine for a few weeks on Malaysian foods will rarely forget this gastronomic experience. However, armchair travellers can also get into the act by trying this easy to prepare recipe.

As the Malaysians say, “Selamat mekan!” (Bon appétit!)

Sayur Goreng—Stir-Fried Vegetables | serves 8

  • 4 tablespoons light sesame oil or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small fresh hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded, quartered,
    and thinly sliced
  • 1 (12-ounce) can baby corn, drained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons shredded lettuce
  • 1 medium tomato, quartered and thinly sliced

Method: In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat, add the onion, hot pepper, and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add cabbage, carrots, zucchini, pepper, and corn. Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Thoroughly stir in tomato paste, soy sauce, salt, and pepper then remove from heat.

Spoon saucepan contents onto a platter. Decorate with the lettuce and tomato, then serve hot with rice.