Malaysia is a country of vast and diverse cultures, all marrying to create one united cuisine. The nation's food borrows and combines elements of Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Filipino, and Indian menus, creating a robust flavor profile. The use of spices is generous, and fat is celebrated. Malaysian food offers myriad bold tastes, and the menu is dense with curries, meats and noodles. While there are features of healthy items like sautéed greens and steamed fish, most dishes lean towards the heavier side.
My love affair began when I was traveling through Asia post-college. When I ate my first Malaysian meal, it tasted like something I'd had before, yet was unlike anything else I'd ever eaten. The dishes and flavors seemed familiar, but there was a different personal touch to each item. My fondness of the cuisine most likely stemmed from my affinity for sweetness. Everything from curries to roti tastes sweeter. The heavy use of coconut milk has much to do with it. There's still the heat associated with Indian or Thai cuisine, but the punch isn't as overbearing.
When I returned to Texas, there still wasn't much Malaysian to be found during that time. While on a visit to Houston a few years ago, my cousin introduced me to the excellent Malaysian restaurant, Banana Leaf. Back in Dallas, I searched for an equivalent, but was met with barren results. Recently, however, I'd heard some rumblings of a developing Malaysian food scene in certain suburbs in Dallas. As of last week, I learned of Plano's Blue Ginger Garden from Airon Peralta at the website Made with Air. While it's definitely now on my "to-eat" list, there was another restaurant I had to visit first.
Secret Recipe in Carrollton has been on my radar for quite some time, but I could never make the commitment to driving 20 plus miles from my apartment to the restaurant. The restaurant's name didn't help, motivationally speaking. There also was always some confusion on my part on whether Secret Recipe was a true Malaysian restaurant or if it was -- as the restaurant self-labels -- an "Asian bistro." On New Year's Day, I decided to take the plunge and find out once and for all.