I arrived an hour after Malaysia Night officially started. Willard Straight Hall, where the event was taking place, was full of about 50 people eating or waiting in line to get food. There were different stations set up: a table for appetizers, a table for the main course and a table for dessert and drinks. Student servers — presumably members of the Cornell Malaysian Association, the organizers of the event — were standing at each station. There were a few tables set up in the middle of the room for people to sit at, and every seat was taken. People resorted to finding empty seats that were scattered about the room and using their laps as tables.
At the appetizer table, I was given a bowl of potato curry soup and something called Roti Canai, a form of flatbread, which I decided to dip into the soup. The potato curry soup had pieces of potato submerged in it and had a strong mix of spices. The flatbread — which was very tasty by itself — helped absorb some of the soup’s spices. However, when I finished the Roti Canai, I couldn’t eat the soup by itself as it was way too spicy.
I also visited the drink station to see what drinks were being offered, but they only had coffee. I am not a coffee drinker and much prefer tea, but I decided that just this once I would try it to get the full experience. I expected to hate it, but much to my surprise, I actually really liked it! It did not taste too strong and was instead a nice neutral flavor, perfect to quench my thirst after the rich flavors in the soup.
Excited to find out what food I would be having next, I walked up to the main course station and was given a whole array of dishes.
The main course consisted of a type of rice called Nasi lemak, which is the national dish of Malaysia. Nasi lemak is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and is often served alongside other smaller dishes. It appeared here with a chicken and noodle dish, a boiled egg, cucumbers, anchovies and an orange sauce that added even more flavor to the rice. As someone who hates anchovies, I couldn’t bring myself to try them. Whenever I see those mini fish I start feeling sick to my stomach.
The chicken dish was delicious and by far the best thing I have eaten in weeks. It was not too spicy, but was still hot, and the cucumbers were a nice addition that cooled down my mouth.
The dessert was related to a Malaysian dish known as Roti Milo. Roti Milo is a chocolate powder mixed with milk. It was really delicious, but not very different from regular chocolate on bread. I was a bit skeptical at first as the blob of condensed milk on the bread looked pretty unappealing. However, the milk actually added more moisture to the chocolate and made it taste smoother.
After finishing their meals, people started walking around, taking pictures in front of a Malaysian flag that had been set up and a few people began jokingly dancing around the room. Everyone was relaxed and seemed to have enjoyed their dinner. There were a few adults at the event, but the majority were students. My meal lasted about an hour and I left feeling full and happy that I had been exposed to all of these new dishes. It was definitely worth the ten dollars it cost, and I would certainly enjoy going to more dinners in the future hosted by other student cultural groups.