It feels like forever ago since we were at Malaysian Delight on dinner two of Soo Fon’s introduction to Malay cuisine. Me, sliding in through the doors — quite literally — via a tiled flooring which required only balance to make it from door to table without lifting a heel, second in, and immediately noticing that unlike the first meal, we could drink booze. Soo Fon next, brightly coloured in outfit and beaming that he was returning home soon for a holiday consisting mostly of eating. Immediately changing my wine order from glass to full bottle, and telling us that like the last time, he’s pre-ordered more food than we’ll need.
It’s my first time at Malaysian Delight. Through my ignorance I used to read the menu and mutter to myself that the menu was more Chinese than Malay, totally unaware that this is a restaurant which specialises in Nyonya cuisine; literally a result of the first Chinese immigrants settling into Malaysia. In its most simplistic terms it’s a hybrid of Chinese ingredients and cooking principles lifted with a typically Malay use of spice. Chances are if it contains coconut milk, pandan, or jicama, it’s origins are Nyonya. If it’s in Elizabeth Haigh’s cookbook, the likelihood is it started in Nyonya’s Kitchen.
Let’s start with the biggest recommendation. The Hainanese chicken rice here is one of the very best tenners you can spend in Birmingham. Make that anywhere. Chicken poached in aromatics; rice cooked in the same liquor whilst it’s resting. One dip of chilli sauce, another bright with garlic. Cohesive, soothing, almost medicinal and absolutely unmissable. Equally the Nyonya fried rice, punchy, and packed with prawns and satay chicken. Two dishes under a tenner. Two lunch or dinners of the highest order.
It’s generous cooking, packed with big hitting notes. Laksa soup gutsy with bits of fish, some conventional, others lesser seen bits of innards. Or Wa Ton Ha, a dish of sliced pork and noodles in a congealed egg sauce, never going to win any beauty contests but surprisingly silky in its eating. More egg forms a batter for soft shell crab, addictive and rich, the same to be said for strips of fried chicken coated in marmite.
There’s morning glory fried in sambal, at once soothing and temperamental, always to be ordered again, and a kind of rojak (I think) specific to Nyonya cuisine which seems more neutral than the first one I tried. There are king prawns fried in the nest of vermicelli noodles, a triple roast, and oh, Soo Fon, you’ve ordered far too much for the four of us again. I loved Malaysian Delight. Loved it. It might be the company, but I’m really falling in love with Malay food, of how complex and varied it is. Don’t ask me about the bill, I haven’t got a clue. The next dinner is on me.