Wow, what a busy couple of weeks it’s been! Since my last post I had the pleasure of attending two Malay weddings and took a trip to Bali, Indonesia (more to come on that with a separate post). The weddings were not only a great chance to try out different traditional Malaysian foods, but also were wonderful learning opportunities into the very unique Malaysian culture and customs. Many thanks to my great co-workers and new friends for inviting me!
Spoiler: I fared just fine and successfully crashed my first Malay wedding(s).
The first Malay wedding I went to was by invite from a co-worker who had a family friend getting married. It was going to be mixed ceremony of both Chinese and Malay traditions and he thought it would be a neat experience for a Westerner like myself to see as I had never attended one.
Of course I said yes, not knowing what I was really getting myself into. This was one of those experiences where you just have to embrace it and go with the flow.
The ceremony started at around 9:45AM on Sunday morning in a very nice community center. I was greeted at the door by the father of the groom who immediately made me feel welcome and expressed how happy he was that I had come. I thanked him and walked to a table where I met my co-worker’s in-laws, who were to be my companions for the rest of the day.
My breakfast before the wedding. A rice cake with a sweet teriyaki sauce topped with sesame seeds. I think I prefer bacon and eggs.
This was a rather unique wedding, I learned, where the groom (Chinese decent) had recently converted to Islam and was marrying a Malay Muslim girl. The ceremony therefore started with the Nikah – the traditional Islamic exchanging of vows and is basically the binding religious covenant making the marriage official in accordance with Islamic law.
Next they had the traditional Chinese Tea ceremony where all the guests come up and are individually served tea by the bride and groom, and in return the guests present a gift to the couple. This ceremony is supposed to represent the coming together of the families and friends, as serving tea in Chinese culture is a way to show respect and welcome new guests.
After the Tea ceremony, the bride and groom left to change outfits and the guests were treated to the main course of food. All the food was buffet style which is apparently the norm at Malay weddings.
After trying all the food, I narrowed down the best offerings: biryani rice, Sambal chicken, and sauteed vegetables with a sweet peanut sauce.
One big difference with a Malaysian weddings is that the actual formal ceremony only lasts about 45 minutes then the food is served and it’s available the rest of the day to the guests. So what a lot of people will do is skip the ceremony and then show up later throughout the day, eat, and then extend their respects to the families and bride and groom. It’s more or less like a big family party where people come and go as they please – hence why they have a buffet for the food. This also makes it that much easier for crashing!
One of the parts of the Malay wedding ceremony that I found quite interesting is in a traditional Malay wedding, the groom actually goes to the bride’s house, picks her up, and then parades her through town all the way to wedding location for the entire community to witness. They did a modified version of this where the groom paraded the bride around the community center with a group of singers and dancers. I thought this was very cool and made for quite a special occasion.
Wedding #2 was all about the food. Another co-worker of mine, Jeffri, shares the same love of food and he knows I have a specialized palate when it comes to trying out Malaysian foods. We were riding around one day and he mentioned his brother was getting married and there was going to be the most amazing spread of Malaysian food and that I should stop by for a meal. Good food, you say? Say no more, I’m sold!!
Again, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into because Jeffri mentioned that he was the best man so he wouldn’t be able to hang with me and I’d be on my own but that I should still come.
The wedding was held at the bottom of huge housing complex in Choa Chu Kang in the Northeast part of Singapore. Just driving in I could see this was a grand event and there were kids and people on the streets two blocks over that were all spilling over from this wedding. It was a huge party. I later found out from Jeffri that they prepared food for 3,000 guests!
Once I arrived I found Jeffri, gave him a nod, and went straight for the buffet. What a great spread. All the food was incredible and there wasn’t one dish I didn’t like.
Okay well actually, there was one dish that I wasn’t ready for. I was sitting with a lovely older couple and we were making small talk when the wife asked me if I liked the dish I was eating. I said “yes, it has very good flavor but I can’t figure out what kind of meat it is? The texture is kind of like liver” She then states, “Oh no, that’s beef lung! Do you like it?” “It’s wonderful”, I responded.
I didn’t eat the rest of it but it actually didn’t taste bad but just had this funny chewy texture. The beef lung are the little dark pieces on the bottom of the plate.
This plate was a collection of virtually everything they had, the biryani rice – amazing, Nasi Redang (marinated beef tenderloin), Mee Siam (noodles), Sambal Shrimp, Koah Sayur Lodeh (a cocunut curry with vegatables) which is drizzled over the rice, fried fish, and Ayam Masak Merah – a Malay specialty of braised chicken in a spicy tomato marinade.
So much food. I think I had three plates, everything was delicious. Everyone was piling up on the biryani rice. Simple but just the right amount of spices and cooked to perfection.
Beef lung right in the middle! Not bad though.
And can’t forget about dessert!
After I completely stuffed my face and could no longer eat anything else, I ran into my host Jeffri and he insisted I share some food with him, so I settled for a small chocolate ice cream cup and some cookies as he ate his first real meal of the day.
As I left, the party was still going strong with the band playing and people still eating and hanging around talking. This wedding did not disappoint with highlighting Malaysian cuisine and I was honored to have been invited to share in the festivities. Malaysian weddings are okay in my book and if you ever get the invite (or chance to crash), say yes!