Malaysia Hall Canteen, London

May 21, 2015
Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Like a member's club, but one you can only buy your way into with a Malaysian passport. 

The sign on the black door beside Malaysian Hall London in Bayswater tells foreigners to jog on, not because we're an inhospitable nation but because the canteen is subsidised by the government with Malaysian taxpayer's money. By the people, for the people. How else would a hungry, broke Malaysian student eat a whole meal of nasi lemak in London for £3? That's how authentic the Malaysia Hall Canteen is; the food, the staff, and the prices are Malaysian, also the decor is exactly like how you'd imagine a kopitiam (greasy spoon) to look. It's definitely a slice of home for the yearning Malaysian in London who needs their comfort food in one of the world's most expensive cities so far away from the motherland. Fortunately for Henry, himself a convert to the cult of Malaysian street food (the best!) I have the golden ticket - and I didn't even have to prove my nationality by singing Negaraku (the national anthem) although I would've happily done so, that's how patriotic I am.

Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Wholesome, hearty Malaysian fare served unpretentiously in modest surroundings - the Malaysian way. What we seemingly lack in presentation, we make up for in flavour. If you've ever underestimated the potency of sambal (chilli paste with shrimp and anchovies) and shoved an entire spoonful into your mouth without first mixing it with rice you'd know exactly what I mean. But shove it in I do - that's what the sliced cucumbers are for. 

Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Nasi lemak, the unofficial (or is it official?) national dish of Malaysia. Rice cooked in coconut milk, always accompanied by spicy sambal, ikan bilis (anchovies), peanuts, and cucumber to take the edge off the heat. Sliced hardboiled egg or fried egg, your choice. Top with squid, chicken, beef, lamb, or just eat it as it is, it's delicious whichever way. Some of the best nasi lemak I've ever had was bought fresh off the street, from a folding table out the back of a van, for no more than RM5 (£1). I'd bring home pyramid-shaped banana-leaf parcels that unwrapped to reveal a most unbelievable fragrant steam of coconut milk. My favourite toppings? Fried egg and squid, and maybe some beef rendang on the side. I like my nasi lemak saucy, which is why I always eat with a spoon instead of my hands - all the better to catch all the delicious mess. 

Here's a recipe for nasi lemak by Rasa Malaysia if you fancy recreating it at home.

Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Karipap (curry puffs), another quintessentially Malaysian snack, kind of like a Cornish pasty but smaller and stuffed with chicken curry, potatoes, and sometimes hardboiled egg. My guilty pleasure is the curry puffs IKEA serves in Malaysia - the egg to curry ratio is just right, and the flakiness of the deep-fried pastry is just so, it crumbles so perfectly in the mouth. I want to try this curry puff recipe and make the puff of my dreams, hardboiled eggs, flaky pastry and all.

Malaysia Hall Canteen, Bayswater London

Bayswater is London's unofficial 'Little Malaysia' with its abundance of Malaysian restaurants, including Tuk Din and Malaysia Hall Canteen. When I moved to London from Kuala Lumpur almost a decade ago, my first address was the company hotel in Bayswater where I gained my bearings in an unfamiliar city, sitting cross-legged in bed with the London A-Z in one hand and with the other phoning room service for more nasi lemak. As acquainted as I am with this vast metropolitan city and as well-travelled as I am there is nothing like the comfort of food from home, and dammit, Malaysian food is the best - or maybe I'm just biased, but who isn't toward their nation's gastronomical delights?

The canteen is known to every Malaysian in London, but for the uninitiated, go with a Malaysian friend and find Malaysia Hall Canteen at 34 Queensborough Terrace, Bayswater London W2.


If you're local to that side of West London, chances are you'll be seeing a lot of me striding determinedly across Hyde Park and towards Bayswater for my fix of Malaysian comfort food. I've been enduring the most difficult month of my life yet. They say that bad luck comes in threes, and I've definitely had at least two and a half of my share, so I guess a little more suffering is to come before things get better. That's the half-arsed explanation as to why I haven't been blogging much this week - ever since last Saturday I hadn't the time nor energy to do anything beyond 'get on with life' and all the learning curves its thrown at me. Even getting out of bed and putting on a respectable face feels like the most Herculean of tasks, which is why despite my best attempts to take some outfit photos for this post all I could muster was a face that's been best described as 'aged by sadness and world-weariness', hence this solitary shot of me from behind. Not to fear; my miracle formula of good genes, drinking lots of water, and wearing sunscreen has kept me looking young thus far and I'm certain it will continue to do so for a very long time to come. In the meanwhile, all the love and support I've been receiving is keeping me going, as is the promise of authentic and delicious Malaysian food in London. Oh, and that I've got a few fun things to look forward to in London over Bank Holiday weekend, so watch this space! I refuse to go down without a fight, this I audaciously swear to you. x

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18 comments:

  1. Great post! I lived in Kuala Lumpur for 4 years so this reminded me of my old home. What I would do for some Nasi Lemak right now haha

    Marveling-Mind☀

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  2. Sambal is one of my new favourite things - they serve it at Smokehouse (Islington and now Chiswick - yippeeee!) with slow cooked lamb shoulder, topped with a slither of beautiful raclette cheese, sliced spring onions and polenta. Heaven on a plate. We've been 3 times in the past 4 weeks and I've had it every time, though have asked for extra sambal more recently - so good :) Hope you have a wonderful, relaxing and FUN bank holiday weekend


    Rosie xx
    http://www.alittlelusciousness.com

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  3. Oh lovely, I was very sad to read the last paragraph, my thoughts are with you.

    Lots of love,
    Angie
    SilverSpoon London

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  4. Cake & WhiskyMay 21, 2015

    Oh, is this the place you told me about? It looks fab!

    Hope things get better soon.

    Sandra Cake + Whisky

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  5. Yes it is! It's every Malaysian food-lover's dream come true, such a gem! x

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  6. Thank you Angie :) Your kind words always make me smile, it's the loveliness of people that keeps us going, eh? x

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  7. HOLY SH*T THAT SOUNDS AMAZING!!!!!

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  8. Feyi you just have to get yourself down to Malaysia Hall Canteen! x

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  9. Cake & WhiskyMay 21, 2015

    So I just need to find a Malaysian friend to come with me now :p (I know nothing about Malaysian food though).

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  10. Gaaaaah. I could really do with some karipap and sambal sauce. Shame I don't have a Malaysian passport!

    Sugarbuns, chin up. Praying you get your glitter of luck back on. *hugs*

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  11. Hello, I'm Malaysian! Let the education begin ;) x

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  12. I have a Malaysian passport, hey hey ;) x

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  13. Cake & WhiskyMay 22, 2015

    Yes master!

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  14. Gah... so desperate for a decent nasi lemak right now! I used to have a Malaysian passport.... does that count!??!?!

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  15. Sambal sounds a bit lethal but I like the look of the karipap - thanks for sharing this hidden gem!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

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  16. Suze, come to Malaysia Hall Canteen with me sometime soon! x

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  17. Connie, you'll pass the 'Malaysian test'! If all else fails just speak Malay ;) x

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