take root/eat root

A recurring discussion between Nancy and me: what is the difference between Honduran and Malaysian cuisine?

Is it the Malaysian use of fresh and dried herbs? Perhaps but how do we then explain that, in Honduras, mango and guava are eaten with cumin seeds?

Nancy thinks about different food textures: many of our Malaysian-inspired desserts are gooey and sticky and this “glue” texture rarely appears in Honduran foods.

Nancy also suggests that foods usually eaten savory in Honduras are served sweet in Malaysia and vice versa. For example, corn is used in tortilla, chips, grilled, etc. and eaten with cheese, beans, and chimol (a variation of pico de gallo). Corn in Malaysia is mostly used in desserts such as ice kacang. Another example is beans. In Honduras, they are refried as frijolitos with garlic and sometimes cheese (anafres). In Malaysia, beans are mostly used as a sweet filling in dumplings (fried or steamed) or in sweet bean soups with coconut and gula melaka. But then again what about the fermented black bean often used in stir-fry?

There are also curious overlaps. Take for instance sopa de caracol from the Caribbean coast (towns like Tela and La Ceiba serve this soup in eateries). Here, conch meat is simmered in coconut milk with coconut flesh, yucca, plantains, and spices like coriander, cinnamon, and cumin. This soup is strikingly similar to the Thai laksa with white fish, chilis, fat flat egg noodles, and fresh herbs in coconut milk.

Is the difference to be found in cooking techniques? Steaming (kuih, dumplings, fish, okra, etc.), fermenting (perut ikan, tapai, belacan), and pickling (acar awar) foods is very common in Malaysia and less so in Honduras. But there will always be exceptions such as the pickled curtido served with pupusas (granted that is supposedly a Salvadoran food).