A Cook Abroad (2015) s01e06 Episode Script

Rachel Khoo's Malaysia

Six cooks, six countries, six incredible journeys.
Whoa! Yeah! Stepping outside their comfort zones It's not for the faint-hearted, for sure.
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our cooks will travel far and wide Route 7 all the way.
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to find some of the most exciting food on the planet.
If you're back in the UK, you've got Tandoori chicken, nothing like this.
It's beautiful, this is the best food I've had in Egypt.
It's pure, it's got heritage, it's got love in it, you know? They'll go off the beaten track Crocodile, crocodile sausages.
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meeting extraordinary people .
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exploring ways of life unchanged for centuries.
No electric blenders in the jungle, have to do everything by hand.
Take your life into your own hands, we're on the road now.
As they travel, they'll see how the language of food transcends cultural differences I've never huffed on a cheese before.
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and a world away from home.
This is why I love Australia.
There's no excuse for a bad pie in Australia.
No.
If this is the beginning, where do we end? They'll learn lessons that could change the way we cook forever.
I've been cooking a barbecue wrongly all my life.
Wow! This time, cook and food writer Rachel Khoo travels to the country of her ancestors - Malaysia.
Oh, my goodness that's my dad! She'll discover how a country at the heart of Southeast Asia became such a culinary melting pot.
There seems to be food for everyone here.
She'll find out how different cultures have made their mark on the food This is at another level.
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and learn secrets about her own family's past.
My ancestors could have been drug dealers.
Line cleared.
I'm Rachel Khoo.
I grew up in Croydon, but moved to Paris in my 20s where I trained as a pastry chef.
Then, in my studio flat, I set up the city's tiniest restaurant, which became known as The Little Paris Kitchen.
I have the perfect recipe to recreate that Parisian patisserie experience at home.
I'm known for my French cooking, but I am in fact half Malaysian.
I know surprisingly little about that part of my heritage, but that's about to change.
I'm travelling 6,500 miles to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on what I hope will be a real journey of discovery.
The amount of skyscrapers going up is insane.
It's hustling, it's bustling.
It's never quiet here.
So I've been to Malaysia four or five times now.
I know a little bit about Malaysian food, but I think my knowledge is very basic in comparison to what I know about French food or Western style cooking.
Malaysia sits at the crossroads of Asia, which accounts, in part, for its ethnic diversity.
It's a Muslim country where indigenous Malays make up half the population and live alongside Chinese Malaysians, Indian Malaysians and tribal groups.
I want to discover how the different cultures have influenced the cuisine here and whether, in a world full of conflict, a passion for good food can be a unifying force.
I really want to find out what the Malaysian classics are.
So in the UK, you have your fish and chips, your roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, but what are the classic Malaysian dishes? I'm on my way to a family reunion at my uncle's house on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
I am super excited about going to Uncle Teng's.
Haven't seen some of the relatives in a very long time.
I Maybe some of them I've never met, could be, or the last time I met, I was like this high.
So it'll be good to meet up with some of them again.
My family are part of the 25% of the population who are Chinese Malaysian and as far as we know have been here for at least four generations.
Whenever anybody visits the Khoo family, there is always food involved.
It's not how are you, it's have you eaten yet, which is the most important question you ask your guest.
This trip is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with my family and find out how we Khoos fit into the bigger picture of multicultural Malaysia.
Hello, hello.
A long time I haven't seen you.
Hello, I know.
I know.
So how are you? I'm good, how are you, Uncle? OK.
OK.
How's your father? He's good too.
So nice to see you.
Yeah, good to see you too.
Hello, Uncle.
It's nice to see you.
Hello.
'Uncle Teng is my dad's older brother.
'The last time I came to visit him was over ten years ago.
' Oh, wow! Oh, Sebby! Hey, how are you? Hello, Rachel, nice to meet you again.
Yeah, it's nice to see you.
He's organised a Chinese pot luck lunch, which means everyone's brought a dish to share, everyone except me, that is.
So you can come in and show us some of your skills.
So I've asked my cousin, Eileen, if we can make my contribution together.
With any luck, I'll learn something too.
Yeah, some of the food that we have prepared and some we are waiting for you.
Oh, to help out.
To help out.
I know that you love wonton.
OK? I love wonton.
Yeah, but so, this is a little bit different, this is the fried type.
OK.
So very, you can use it as I mean, serve it at parties as a snack or you can eat it with rice.
Oh, fantastic.
Yeah, so this is a very Malaysian Chinese dish.
'Chinese food is the least spicy cuisine you'll find in Malaysia.
'This wonton filling is just a mix of pork-mince, prawns 'and spring onions.
' I don't cook that much Malaysian food, actually.
No.
Now, we can do some wrapping.
Yeah.
Uncle, you know how to do? Are you going to show me, Uncle, how to do it? Yes.
Yeah.
All right.
So where do you get your ingredients from? Do you go to the wet market? Or the supermarket? They even come to your house?! Fantastic.
Yes, they come on a motorcycle.
Uh-huh.
And they hoot.
Oh, they They hoot! Yeah, yeah.
'Wontons can be made with pretty much any filling 'and they freeze well too.
'But, they need to be fried in a really hot oil 'if you don't want them soggy.
' They're going a lovely, crispy, golden colour.
Yeah.
I am very excited.
If it's firm, then it's cooked, I assume.
- Do you both like these? - Yes.
Yeah? Yeah, you might have to blow it a little bit.
It's crunchy, it's got that lovely moist filling, bit of spring onion, very fresh and then that tiny bit of pepper.
Perfect little snack and really good with the chilli sauce.
All right, let's just take these through.
You coming? We'll go eat some food now.
Yes.
'Unlike at home where one dish is the focal point of a meal, 'Malaysians love to pick and mix their flavours.
' Definitely not like an English meal.
There's a lot more colour, a lot more spice.
You know, you've got everything from a stew to some spicy vegetables there, then the noodles, there's a curry, there's roast pork, so it's really eclectic.
So I think there's a dish for everyone here.
'This Chinese food may look familiar, 'but it's different from what we're used to.
'Here, Chinese immigrants have combined classic flavours with local 'ingredients like coconut milk and lemon grass to make a cuisine 'you won't find anywhere else.
' This is delicious, Uncle Teng.
Yes.
Really tasty.
So it seems to me that food is a big part of Malaysian culture.
Yes.
And what other things make you Malaysian, do you think? But I do think it's changing, though.
I think nowadays the younger people, we don't focus so much as in like, "Oh, you're Malaysian Chinese," we're just Malaysian, you know? Our diversity in terms of culture, it's it's a big part of who we are and our identity, yeah.
No Khoo get-together would be complete without some old family photos.
This is your grandfather, your grandmother.
Uncle, do you know which one Dad is? This is, I think, your father.
I think that's Dad, isn't it? Yeah, this is.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I can't recognise my dad.
He looks so cheeky.
Who do you think that is? It's you.
Yeah, it was on Yeah, this was when your First trip.
Yes, your first trip to Malaysia.
Michael and Rachel.
My brother.
Seeing the photos really inspired me to want to discover more about my heritage and learn more about my dad's background and where he came from, what he, you know, where he grew up.
Yeah, it's a real personal journey for me.
Today, I'm leaving KL to find out more about how the different cultures here live and, more importantly, eat.
I know that Malaysia was a key player in the 15th-century spice trade, but that's just the start of the food story.
Since then, people from all over Asia have made their mark on the cuisine here.
For breakfast, my cousins Eileen and Melissa are introducing me to Malaysia's most popular dish - nasi lemak.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
So the Malaysian national dish, basically, for breakfast.
Well, actually I think you could just call it a Malaysian dish because you I have this for lunch, I have this for dinner as well, sometimes, so you pretty much can have it any time of the day.
Brits have fish and chips, you have nasi lemak.
Nasi lemak.
It's coconut rice, cucumber, peanuts, anchovies, a boiled egg and a spicy relish or sambal.
It's quite spicy.
This one's quite spicy.
I can feel the heat, very flavoursome.
You know you get the saltiness from the anchovies, but then you've got like these chillies, and like whoo! You just have the sambal that's added to the anchovies that makes it different to the taste of this.
This sambal is made with a fermented shrimp paste called belachan.
Belachan is actually a very common taste that you use in all kinds ofsambal cooking.
Is it a bit like how the Thais have their fish sauce, the Malays have their belachan? Yes.
Yeah.
What I love about Malaysian food is there's such a variety.
You can see it a bit on the table with the nasi lemak.
It's very Malaysian.
This feels quite Chinese, I think, with the spring rolls.
The reason why is because in Malaysia we have got different mixed group so the Malays, their food will have more sambal into it, like the nasi lemak here, whereas the Chinese, they use lesser spice, like the crispy popiah, and they like to have their food fried and crispy.
Hopefully, on my journey round Malaysia, I'll discover more about the different ethnic groups, the different types of food which each group has.
Everything in Malaysia tastes really good, like, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
There's so much more to try, and I think you're really going to enjoy it.
I think I'll be rolling from one place to another.
I already need to wear my elasticated pants.
And now it's time to roll on over to the station.
I'm heading north to where my dad grew up.
Could I have a ticket to Ipoh, please? This morning? Yes, please.
So I got a bit of a bargain here, it was like seven pounds for a ticket to Ipoh, and that's about two-and-a-half hour's journey, so I don't think you'd get very far in the UK with seven pounds.
Ipoh is two hours north of Kuala Lumpur and it's Malaysia's third largest city.
I'm being a bit naughty here.
I heard an announcement you're not supposed to bring on any outside food, but I couldn't resist these crazy layered cakes.
This is something I know from my childhood.
It's something I had a lot when I visited my granny in Ipoh, so it's quite fitting that I'm on the train to Ipoh and having, like, a little layer cake.
Apparently, the local way to eat it is to pull off the individual layers like this.
It has like a little bit of a rice flavour, bit of coconut, it's not very sweet, which is unusual cos a lot of Asian desserts are very sweet.
It's really nice.
I like it.
It's a bit odd.
I mean, the pink one is a bit a bit crazy coloured for me, but it's very tasty.
The British ruled Malaysia from the mid-1800s until 1957.
During that time, it became the world's largest exporter of tin and rubber.
The massive work force, imported from China and India, made the country the cultural melting pot it is today.
Feels like I've definitely arrived to this sleepier town.
It's a lot quieter, less people getting off the train.
It's not got the hustle and bustle of KL.
Plus, it's got this beautiful kind of colonial building here.
Ipoh was the tin-mining capital of the British Empire.
Chinese entrepreneurs flocked here to make their fortune.
By the time Malaysia gained its independence in 1957, it had become known as the City of Millionaires.
While the Chinese prospered, the indigenous Malays were left with less than 5% of the country's national wealth.
Resentment grew and, in 1969, Malaysia erupted in weeks of bloody violence.
Hundreds of people died before the authorities got things under control.
To avoid further violence, the government introduced a new economic policy, designed to pull the Malays out of poverty and restore economic balance.
My dad grew up here in Ipoh and left Malaysia when he was just 16, a year before the riots.
The school he went to was built for the sons of wealthy Chinese businessmen, but today, it's open to everyone.
I want to see how things have changed since my dad was a pupil here.
And as it's lunchtime, I'm starting in the canteen.
I can see it's not just Chinese kids here now.
And everyone's tucking in, because the food looks incredible.
It's all very tasty, smells amazing.
This is definitely not what I had for school lunch.
No excuse for skipping lunch here.
There's something for everyone.
Malay classics like beef rendang and sambal.
Chinese noodle soups and sweet and sour chicken.
And Indian curries and rotis.
So do all of the kids eat this food? Most of the Chinese kids and the Malay kids.
Mostly Chinese and Malay kids.
Yeah, because Indians most probably, they are eating this every day at home, right? So they want something different.
In Malaysia, most of the kids are They are very used to eating all other foods.
There's no particular food on thebased on the race.
In the UK, we have dinner ladies, they cook every day at school.
Are you employed by this school or? This is We have my own worker.
She will do the cooking here normally, early in the morning, but today she's not working.
We had prepared in the house and brought it here.
Each person has their own little stand here, it looks like.
Yeah, it will be permanent for two years and then the school will renew what we call the tender.
So, there are no dinner ladies here.
Instead, students pay the stalls directly, which means a varied menu at an affordable price.
The selection is vast and shows just how complex the Malaysian food story is.
Do you always have noodles? Yeah, we have a variety of noodle.
We have different soups so we can choose.
Would you eat other food? Like, would you eat Indian food? Yeah? I take Malay food, Chinese, Indian food.
Doesn't matter where it comes from? You like to mix it up? Yeah.
Fantastic.
What's really interesting here, there's not a turkey twizzler in sight, not a kiddie menu.
It's actually something you could serve to kids and grown-ups, so really delicious and actually making me very hungry.
But before I tuck in, I've arranged to meet a very special person - Datuk Lean, who was at school with my dad.
This edition is 1968, the year your dad left school.
This might interest you.
Do you have photographs of your dad when he was young? Not that many.
Oh! Not that many.
Oh, here you are, the last row.
Oh, my goodness, that's my dad! Yeah.
He looks very serious.
Very serious, very well kempt.
Yes, very smart.
Right.
Here, "Vice President of the Chess Club.
" That doesn't surprise me because, as a kid, my dad made my brother and I go to chess club.
And he still loves playing chess.
Yeah.
"After much keen competition, Khoo Kheng Hin of Form 5 S-C?" Science.
".
.
Science A emerged as champion in the senior section.
" Very good.
My dad told me, when he was studying here, they could only speak English.
Oh, absolutely, English was very important.
It was the primary language.
Now it's gone the other way round.
The whole system is based on Bahasa, Malay, and English is taught only as a subject.
Wow.
So all the lessons here are taught in Malay.
Malay, yes.
Whereas when my dad or when you were studying, it was all taught in English.
Totally in English, yeah.
In comparison to what it was like when you were studying or my dad was studying and now, what's the biggest difference? I think the system is now more nationalistic, more nation, in a way domestic-looking rather than outward.
And a lot of activities are based on ethnic interests whereas in the old days, it was more on cosmopolitan.
Is there a bit more segregation between the groups the ethnic groups, would you? By default.
Default, yeah.
Yes.
When students leave school, do you think the different ethnic groups have the same opportunities? Not really because there was a need, we all recognised, for some degree of affirmative policy to help a certain community be elevated in line with the rest, and it is not a bad thing for national harmony.
The New Economic Policy, introduced after the 1969 race riots to close the wealth gap, still exists today.
For indigenous Malays, it means more opportunities in business and government jobs.
And in 2013, around 70% of all university places were awarded to Malays.
The students here will determine how the idea of national harmony plays out in the next generation.
Oh, everybody has ordered something really delicious.
What do you have there? This is called bihun kari, it has wonton in it.
And you also have This is a curry chicken and these are vegetables, very Malay.
So, at school everybody mixes with everybody else? You don't kind of group up in any way? There are some group-up, but normally we used to get together - like Malay, Chinese, Indian - and everyone share the same equality to everyone.
It's like one Malaysia, it's like that.
I think it's still in us, but I think we kind of treat everyone the same.
We all can be friends with other races and we can hang out normally like we all the same persons.
It's easy for us to be friends with everybody without any discrimination among one another.
Do your parents ask you who you're hanging out? Would they prefer you to hang out with people from same ethnic background? My mother gives me freedom to hang out whoever I want, as long as I don't do drugs and I don't drink.
That's very wise.
That's very wise.
Do you think they would prefer you dating and then eventually marrying someone who was from the same background as you? I think yes.
My parents area little bit conservative.
So I think that they might do that.
It was interesting when I was chatting to the kids.
They were very kind of open, they said everybody mixes together, but out of the corner of my eye, I did catch, you know, the Indians sitting together, the Chinese sitting together, the Malays sitting together.
One way they say they mingle, but in reality, I don't think it's quite like that.
What's clear is that there's a willingness here to get on with people from different cultures and focus on making Malaysia a great place to live.
But I've heard about one group that's been left out in the cold.
I'm off to meet a tribal people called the Orang Asli.
Their arrival on this peninsula predates the Malays and I'm told they still cook in the same way as their ancestors.
I'm not a jungle kind of girl.
I'm not a nature kind of girl.
I like my city comforts, I'm an urban girl.
So I'm like, "Well, jungle, mosquitoes There's probably lots "of creepy crawlies, snakes" Yeah, I'm looking at it as a bit of an adventure, bit of a challenge for me.
Erm, little bit nervous, but I think it'll be definitely something worth doing to understand Malaysia better.
Nearly half of Peninsular Malaysia is covered in jungle.
And while some tribes are extremely remote, I'm heading to a settlement that is just 100km from Ipoh.
Darkness falls quickly here as we're so close to the equator.
Definitely hard to find your way round in this village.
I'm supposed to be staying with a woman called Teeja, but I've got no idea how to find her house.
No sign posts and no street numbers, basically nothing.
Oh, look, there's the local shop! Hello? Teeja's house? Teeja? That way? OK.
Thank you.
Definitely hear you're in the jungle.
The noise is just amazing, all the insects and birds and I don't know what.
Hi.
Teejay? Teejay? Teeja? Teeja? OK, thank you, thank you.
'Of course, it would help if I could pronounce Teeja's name properly.
' Teeja? Hello? Teeja? Hello.
Hello.
Hi.
Hi! I found your house! Waiting for you, just come in.
Oh.
Why so very late? Sorry, traffic, got lost.
Oh, my God.
Anyway, so nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
How are you? Good, how are you? Thank you so much for having me.
It's OK.
My pleasure.
Come, I show you your room, so Oh, thank you.
'Teeja is one of the only English speakers in the village.
'She's also an activist 'and campaigns for the rights of the Orang Asli people.
'So she often plays host to foreign visitors.
' Oh, thank you so much! So, you will stay tonight here.
Perfect.
Never slept in the jungle before.
This is definitely going to be a new experience, although, I must say, it is quite modern the fact that I have a mattress, there is electricity, I've got a fan.
So, it's not quite camping.
I'm quite happy about that cos I'm not very good at camping, actually I don't do camping.
No? Yes! Bathroom.
Very typical, kind of Malay bathroom.
I remember using this system when I was a kid at my granny's.
You just simply scoop up the water and chuck it over you, very refreshing.
Really looking forward to tomorrow and trying to get more knowledge and more understanding of what it's like to live here.
Just hope I get a good night's sleep, otherwise I'll be pretty grumpy tomorrow.
Orang Asli translates as original people, and according to Teeja, for the roughly 100,000 population, their traditional way of life is under threat.
The government encourages tribal groups across the country to convert to Islam and adopt Malay customs.
This would mean giving up their ancestral beliefs.
Islamic converts receive positive discrimination that could include better housing and schooling before non-converts.
But here, as everywhere, some things never change.
There seems to be a queue for the bathroom.
Just like back home.
I guess I just wait my turn.
How was your sleep last night? When you are not used to the jungle noises and just used to the city noises, it takes some getting used to.
- You have a very noisy cockerel.
- Yeah.
You don't need an alarm clock.
Ah yes, early morning, right? Early morning, wakes you up.
At 3am, they start.
A lot of the villagers work on nearby rubber plantations.
But on days off, the community heads en masse to a special spot deep in the jungle where they hunt, fish and forage, just like their ancestors.
The tribe is preparing a traditional feast, and it's not just for my benefit.
This is the equivalent of Sunday lunch, but instead of feeding a family, you feed an entire village.
Wow! This is a stunning place.
Yeah, very nice place.
Seems like the kids are enjoying it too.
Yeah.
There are lots of different dishes being prepared, from freshly caught fish to jungle beans and tapioca root, but there's one classic tribal recipe Teeja wants to show me.
This is lemon grass, no? And what's this one? Smells like onion.
These all herbs you find in the jungle.
Is it easy to identify? Passing down knowledge from one generation to the next is important to the Orang Asli, and nearly everything at this feast has been foraged from the jungle or fished from the river.
Ah, what a good saying.
The bamboo tubes go straight on the fire for about 30 minutes.
The natural water content of the bamboo steams the meat and stops it burning.
This simple way of cooking dates back thousands of years.
Today, chicken and fish are on the menu, but it's often squirrel or wild boar, all hunted from the forest.
So typical, no matter where you are in the world - the men are manning the barbecue and the women are doing the veg.
'And I'm put to work making a sambal, that spicy 'relish I had with my cousins in KL.
'But this one's very different.
' This is hard work! No electric blenders in the jungle.
Have to do everything by hand.
'As with all sambal, 'the key ingredient is chilli.
'And we're making two versions.
'The first one with ginger flower.
' Can I help you? Oh, OK, I'm that good? You take over now.
All right.
Obviously says a lot.
I'm too slow.
'And the second is with pureed durian, known as the king of fruits.
' Enough? More? More.
More.
'Durian has a fearsome reputation 'because of its strong smell, 'which is said to be like rotting meat or even sewage.
' I would compare durian to a very pungent cheese, like one of those French cheeses, which you have to put in several containers because it will make your fridge smell a little bit stronger.
I look forward to eating this.
Yes.
Looks tasty.
Yeah.
All right, well, I'll go do the washing up.
I'm good at that.
The feast is served on a handmade table with banana leaf plates and bamboo cups all gathered from the jungle and, of course, biodegradable.
We're having fish and fowl cooked two ways - barbecued and steamed in bamboo - served with a load of jungle greens, broad beans and fern tips with ginger flower and durian sambal on the side.
This really is Malaysian food in its oldest and purest form.
And luckily for the kids, tradition dictates that they're served first.
Bit of fish.
OK.
A little bit of veggies.
Thank you.
How do you balance the modern way of life and keeping your traditions? Teeja is a fantastic person.
You can see why she is so passionate about her heritage and her culture.
You know, experiencing all this and why she wants to campaign for people to respect it, to keep the traditions, but also for the Orang Asli to have the same opportunities as everyone else in Malaysia.
I think my favourite Well, it's all very delicious, but the durian sambal, the chilli with the durian is very good.
I love that.
It just adds a little bit of a sweetener and makes it very creamy and you can dip everything in there, it's a bit like having a ketchup.
The bamboo chicken, I don't know whether it tastes of bamboo or not because all I taste right now is like the spicy chilli from the sambal.
Well, cheers.
Cheers.
Thank you so much for having me.
Oh, it's fantastic.
This kind of experience in priceless.
You can't buy this.
Coming to the jungle to this secluded spot, you know, with this crystal-clear water and taking food from the jungle.
Then everything goes back to the forest, it's biodegradable.
You couldn't get more sustainable than this.
'Before I leave, the village headman is determined to see 'if I can shoot his blow pipe.
' What am I shooting at? Straight? 'I think I'll stick to the day job.
' Well, practice makes perfect, huh? OK, wait.
OK, done.
So far I've been to the city, I've been to the jungle and now I'm heading to the coast.
Pretty much standard weather over here.
There's a rain o'clock - a certain time of day when it just starts raining.
Just pulled off the highway, it's this massive food court.
There's loads to choose from.
This smells amazing.
The aromas.
And, look, all the different curries here.
It's not like your average, like, motorway stop you have in the UK.
You know, there's so many different stands, different foods and it's good quality food.
Seems to be lots of people enjoying it as well.
They've got deep-fried lobster! 45 ringgit? One, 45 ringgit.
It's nine pounds for a deep-fried lobster! That's absolutely insane.
Thank you.
OK, you're welcome.
Ah.
Ha! Something funny here.
Look at this, Kickapoo Joy Juice, citrus flavoured carbonated drink.
"Get that kick.
" OK, I'm going to get that kick.
Quite funny they have all these soured fruits.
Dried And people eat it like that? OK, so this is like a little wake-up call when you're driving.
Yes, exactly.
You pop one in, you're like, "Whoo!" I will get these three things.
My next destination is Georgetown on Penang Island, off Malaysia's west coast.
I'm driving more than 200 miles north, where I'll pick up the ferry.
Whoop, whoop.
On the ferry.
Just about made it! Penang is where my grandparents are from, so as well as trying some tasty seafood, I'm hoping to find out more about my family.
This skyline looks really modern, but Georgetown is actually quite an old city.
After the simple pleasures of the jungle, it's a real treat to be staying at the historic Eastern and Oriental Hotel.
Hello.
Rachel Khoo? K-H-O-O.
It was built in 1885 at the height of the British Colonial period, when Georgetown was an important trading port.
You have to come and look at this view.
It's just absolutely stunning.
I mean waking up to this Look at that.
And the sound of the sea, the lapping waves.
Oh, what a contrast to the jungle.
You couldn't get more extreme.
Georgetown was founded by the British in 1786.
It fast became a thriving commercial centre and immigrants flocked here from all over Asia, lured by the promise that they could claim as much land as they could clear.
I'm here to find out more about my family's history.
I know my grandfather was born here and that my ancestors arrived with millions of other Chinese immigrants.
Apparently, the Khoos were a powerful clan who built a temple that still stands today.
I'm meeting Salma, a local historian and also a Khoo.
She's offered to shed some light on our clan's history.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the history of this temple? So, well, the clan grew quite wealthy and then they brought the artisans from China, from Zhangzhou, that's where the Khoos are from.
This is considered one of the most splendid temples, Chinese temples, of its time even.
I mean, outside of China.
The Khoo clan must have been very wealthy.
Yeah, they were actually leaders of the secret society, which is based just around the corner.
It's not so secret if you know it's based round the corner.
It was actually an alliance with several other clans.
They started plantations, they invested in tin-mining.
At that time, one of the biggest businesses was opium.
At that time, it was perfectly legal.
OK.
OK.
And in fact, half the revenue of the British street settlements until, I think, around 1910 came from opium.
So, my ancestors could have been drug dealers.
That's a possibility.
I mean, I'm not saying that all the Khoos were involved in the opium trade, just a few of them.
You mentioned secret society, opium, trade, it sounds a little bit like the Khoo clan were the mafia in this area.
You know, mafia is a very subjective term, but in a frontier society, you need that sort of social organisation.
You know, it was a kind of a self government almost when the government wasn't providing enough protection.
The last thing I expected to find out on this journey was that my ancestors might have been involved with opium.
I think us Khoos have come a long way since then.
So far on this trip, I've eaten Chinese food, jungle food and the best school dinners of my life, but I don't feel I've cracked indigenous Malay cooking.
The Malays migrated here from Indonesia over 1,000 years ago and started to convert to Islam as early as the 12th century.
They're renowned for their spicy curries, which contain a unique ingredient - a shrimp paste called belachan.
I'm heading to a Malay village to meet Rahim, a fisherman who still makes belachan by hand in the traditional way.
Belachan can be quite powerful, pungent, to put it in a polite way.
So it's a very distinct smell.
It's made of shrimp paste.
So I'm ready for this kind of over-powering smell when I hit the village.
The village is on Pulau Aman, which translates as Island of Peace, and I can see why.
There's not a road or car in sight and I don't need directions, I just need to follow my nose.
So, I can already smell the aroma from the belachan.
Oh Is this fresh? Yes, fresh.
So, did you catch these today? Yeah.
And then how long do you leave this? This one, one day.
Belachan is made from tiny shrimp, which are salted and left in the sun for a day or two, mashed up, then left again until the mixture has fermented.
It's just such a simple way of making this key ingredient for Malaysian food.
If only I had more sunshine in the UK and such fantastic shrimp, although I don't think I'd be so popular with my neighbours if I made this at home.
Rahim and his wife produce around 50 kilos of belachan a week.
So, you're pushing some of the mixture in, and you use the stick.
Little bit, little bit! It first developed as a way for fisherman to preserve their catch.
Now it's so popular they say that if you don't love it, you're not truly Malaysian.
Perfect piece very smooth.
Yeah, very smooth.
You see very smooth.
OK? Perfect.
Perfect, yes? Yeah, great! Can we cook with this? Yes.
All right.
Let's go cook with it, then.
OK.
'Rahim's wife, Jamaliah, and her friend, Rohana, are preparing 'a Malaysian classic - sambal.
'They're using it to cook freshly caught mantis prawns.
'And a few tablespoons of belachan will give it a rich, salty flavour.
' These prawns are a local delicacy from this island and people come to this island just to eat these.
Looks like an alien, though.
Never seen anything like this before.
Huge! 'They could be pulling my leg, but I'm told these mantis prawns 'strike their prey faster than a speeding bullet.
' Is this dish particularly popular in Malaysia? Yes.
Nation, is sambal belachan, popular in Asia.
So, what's in this? Onion and chilli, belachan.
Looks very spicy.
Little, little spicy.
Little bit spicy.
Ah, yeah.
It smells good.
Fantastic colour.
'We fry up some onions, garlic and ginger in a generous 'amount of palm oil.
Then in goes the sambal belachan.
' Big spoon? Oh, OK, a lot of sambal.
Shall I stir? Looks like it's going to be more sambal than prawns! Malaysian curries are an explosive mix of flavours, combining Indian spices with sour fruits, fresh herbs and lots of chilli.
We're adding tamarind, lemon grass and sugar for some extra zing.
This looks mouth-watering.
Wow, I don't know if they're going to all fit in the pan.
And the last one in.
Squeeze that one in.
They're huge prawns.
'A few veggies to garnish and this classic dish is ready.
'Just as rain o'clock strikes again.
' This is certainly a lot spicier than the Chinese Malaysian food I'm used to.
I hope I can handle the heat! I know that the Malaysians love their chilli, but this is at another level.
My lips are literally on fire.
Very spicy but delicious.
Fantastic.
And this prawn, it's really meaty, a bit like a lobster - very juicy, quite sweet.
No wonder people come to this island just to eat these.
Delicious.
Belachan seems to be the key component to Malaysian cooking.
It's put into almost everything and you can see why cos it adds this savoury, aromatic flavour to dishes, which for me, it's like - the Thai's have fish sauce, the Malays have belachan.
It's delicious, thank you so much, really tasty.
I remember these monkeys from one of my visits in Malaysia, and they can get a little bit cheeky and steal things, get too friendly, so it's best not to feed them.
I'll just get a snap.
My Malaysia trip is coming to an end, but it's Saturday night and here, as at home, that means a girls' night out.
So, the girls I'm going out with tonight are Malay Muslim.
From a woman's point of view, as a young woman, to see I've always felt that when I come to Malaysia, that sometimes it's a little bit restrictive.
You know, in the Western world, you can do whatever you want.
So for me, it'd be interesting to see whether, as women in a Muslim country, they feel that they're restricted, that they have less options as men, or whether there's no difference.
I'm sure we're going to be eating a lot of food.
That's one thing I've learnt in Malaysia - if you go out for dinner or you're invited around to somebody's house, there is always a lot of food.
Wear your elasticated pants, that's the one tip I give you.
Come to Malaysia, wear your elasticated pants.
Georgetown is the undisputed street food capital of Malaysia and there are Malay, Chinese and Indian food stalls as far as the eye can see.
The streets are buzzing.
I'm meeting Siti and her friends who are going to help me navigate this culinary melting pot.
There seems to be food for everyone here.
Would you as a Malay Muslim be able to eat this food? The girls are taking me to one of their favourite spots well off the tourist trail.
This is Indian food called nasi kandar.
OK, we are here! The dishes are all halal, which means everyone can eat here, so the place is always rammed.
It gets so busy, they blow a whistle to let everyone know when the queue has cleared.
Line cleared! It's known for its array of curries, frothy poured tea and roti canai, a fluffy flatbread.
And before we eat, the girls want a demonstration of my cooking skills.
This could be an absolute disaster.
Eh? Good, Rachael.
Go! Yeah? Am I doing all right? No, no! This is definitely harder than it looks.
He makes it look so simple.
Oh, my goodness! You know what, if I had to make roti canai, people would be waiting till midnight.
I think I should stick to French pastries.
Unlike the Indian food we have back home, the sauces here are more like a thin gravy.
Perfect for dunking bread.
And we've ordered everything from mutton to squid to the house special - fish head curry.
Ooh! It's not a small fish head, huh? This is a big fish head.
Yes.
The fish is red snapper, it's got a huge amount of meat on it and the cheeks are meant to be the best part.
Flakes, so delicious and it doesn't look dry at all.
Do you? Yes.
That's how we eat it.
Oh, so you mix it all together, you don't eat it separately.
Because this dish, the squid is a lot spicier than this the mutton one.
- Yes.
So you can adjust the spiciness - Yeah.
.
.
to your liking.
GIRLS: Yes.
As this food is halal, it can be eaten by all the different ethnic groups.
Aisyah is Chinese Malaysian, but converted to Islam when she married a Malay.
How was it for you when you converted? So, you didn't go in the deep end? One step at a time.
Yeah.
So, for instance like in Chinese culture, you can eat pork.
So, what was it like when you put the hijab on for the first time? I noticed that there are different ways of putting it on.
People Some people have, like, big part at the back.
I don't know how they do that.
You've got diamantes.
Shouldn't the man have to wear the same? Because he should be special too for his wife.
Do you feel like in Malaysia, as a woman, you have the freedom to do anything you want to? Tonight, it feels like everything I've learnt on this trip has come together.
When I arrived, I felt like a fish out of water, but I've met so many wonderful people that I've fallen in love with Malaysia all over again and I feel a lot more at home here.
For me to come back and to reconnect with my family, to experience such delicious food, it's just a brilliant place to come and experience such diverse culture in such a small space.
There's a real sense of national confidence here.
The different cultures don't just tolerate one another, they seem to get along.
People are open.
They welcome you into their home.
They will share their food with you, what they know.
It doesn't matter who you are or where you are from.
And you know what, the food is incredible! By drawing on one another's cooking styles and ingredients, Malaysians have created a cuisine like no other, making this country one of the world's most exciting food destinations, and I can't wait to come back.