By Liz Ledden
THE cuisines on offer in Malaysia’s beautiful tea country, the Cameron Highlands, runs the gamut from Malay, Indian and Chinese to British-influenced high tea and an array of Western eateries. The best of the bunch inject a sense of authenticity, incorporating fresh, locally grown produce. Here are some eating options to refuel pre- or post-jungle trek, or before an exploration of the area’s many plantations and farms:
Steamboat is a Chinese-Malay style of dining and has been adopted as a specialty of the area. At a steamboat restaurant you essentially cook your own dinner, adding everything from prawns to tofu to local vegetables into a flavoursome broth boiling away in the centre of your table. It’s lots of fun with a group, and is not only novel but a healthy eating option too.
Mayflower in Tanah Rata is a popular place to try your hand at creating your own steamboat concoction. The fish and the venison here are especially good, and if you don’t mind an informal atmosphere it is a great introduction to this communal way of eating. For something a little less bustling, Glory 78 can be found on the road connecting Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Its meals are halal, and are fresh and tasty.
While some steamboat restaurants have reverted to using gas to power the individual burners, others still use the traditional charcoal method, which is said to impart better flavour into the food. Restoran Highlands in Brinchang is one place still using charcoal, or you can try and taste the difference at the excellent Cameron Organic Produce, a restaurant in Brinchang featuring organically grown produce from their farm of the same name. Seafood is on offer here, but the vegetarian soup alone is fresh, pure and makes great use of seasonal ingredients. Most steamboat places charge around RMB20 per person – about RM $ 20 (AU$ 6).
Delicious Malaysian cuisine is readily available in the Cameron Highlands, from spicy laksa to sweet kaya toast. At the Night Market (Brinchang Pasar Malam) stop and sample a fantastic array of local snacks, from fried sweet potato balls to chocolate dipped strawberries. Head to Restoran Ferm Nyonya for a beautiful meal of Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine, a traditional blend of Chinese and Malay cooking techniques and ingredients. A jack of all trades, they also feature Western dishes on the menu and offer steamboat too. The sambal beans are excellent, and their fish dishes are a specialty. Uncle Chow’s Kopitiam is another must-visit restaurant in the Cameron Highlands for a nasi lemak or curry laksa, or for one of their dessert offerings served up in a friendly, family-run old-style coffee shop.
Remnants of British cuisine remain in the area’s restaurant and cafés, with tea and scones or wintry British classics evoking nostalgia, or at least widening the area’s eating options. For some traditional British fare head to the Smoke House, a restaurant within a charming hotel of the same name. Here you can dine on dishes like beef wellington, cod and chips or chicken Maryland. You can also settle in with a drink in their bar, complete with fireplace. This is one of the many places serving traditional English style afternoon tea or ‘high tea’ in the highlands, though at the pricier end of the scale.
Other destinations for local tea and freshly made scones include The Lord’s Café (ex-T Café), where the strawberry scones are a must-try. To sample locally grown strawberries in many guises, head to the wonderful Strawberry Moment Dessert Café, which features strawberry crepes, waffles, chocolate dipped strawberries, the lusciously stacked strawberry strudel and even a chocolate ‘steamboat’ for dipping your own strawberries in, Malaysian style.
Indian eateries are prevalent in the Cameron Highlands, and many feature delicious (and very affordable) rotis in all their guises. Restoran Sri Brinchang features delicious chicken tikka, paper thin dosais with tasty accompaniments and fresh and flavoursome thali plates. Most dishes are around the RM 6.50 (AU$ 2) mark, offering amazing value. Restoran Kumar’s in Tanah Rata is another excellent option, with brilliant curries served on banana leaf and some of the freshest and best naan bread in the area. The tandoori chicken here is wonderful too.
Be sure to sample a variety of the cuisines on offer in theCameron Highlands – its restaurants reflect Malaysia’s multiculturalism and diversity. And look past the restaurants for street snacks, particularly at the night market, where you can experience some of the freshest and most ingenious ways of trying the flavoursome local produce.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website
About the author…
Liz Ledden (Australia)
Liz Ledden is a writer and blogger based in Sydney, Australia, who previously lived in Phnom Penh and Saigon for nearly five years. She has contributed writing and photography to publications including AsiaLIFE Cambodia, AsiaLIFE HCMC, Tiger Tales magazine, CLEO Australia, AnyArena.com and About.com Southeast Asia Travel, and helped update two editions of the Cambodia & Laos LUXE City Guides. In addition to contributing to Travel Wire Asia, she also writes for travel website Pocket Cultures and blogs about food and travel at www.devoured.com.au. Follow @_devoured on Twitter for updates.