Cover Photo: Courtesy of Norman Musa

Where the celebrity chef goes for a real taste of Malaysia, locally and in London

Chef Norman Musa has dedicated his life to spreading his love for Malaysian cuisine all over the world. The Penang-born migrated to the UK for his university studies and has since carved an impressive culinary career, cooking for celebrities, running his own restaurants, writing cookbooks, and even hosting culinary tours to Malaysia.

His recipe for Rendang Beef Wellington made the pages of Platinum Jubilee Cookbook that marks the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the crown. Norman will release his second cookbook, Bowlful, celebrating the diverse flavours of Southeast Asia. 

See also: A Taste of Home: Abby Lee of London's Mambow Shares Her Memories of Malaysia

What do you miss most about Malaysia? 

Enjoying outdoor street food with family and friends at any time.

What are the dishes that you miss the most?

I'm a big seafood fan—grilled fish and seafood are my favourites, served with good chilli sambal and tamarind dip. I always miss Ais Tingkap at Chowrasta Market in Penang is my favourite. It's a mixture of rose syrup, coconut flesh and water with basil seeds—such a refreshing drink. My late parents always bought it en route to my late grandma’s house in Sungai Gelugor.   
What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it? 

When I fly to Penang from London, my sister knows that I would request for a stopover at the Yong Tau Fu Bagan Ajam in Butterworth. It is a stall in  food court that is now run by my ex-schoolmate, who took over from his parents. It has been my family’s favourite dining spot for a very long time. I am so glad that the business is still running after so many years. 

See also: 6 Cookbooks on Malaysian Cuisine to Level Up Your Game

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Malaysia for fine dining and for more casual eats?

Bijan Restaurant is my favourite fine dining restaurant. For casual eats, my favourite is Rebung Restaurant for its good range of Malaysian dishes. 

If you have guests visiting from abroad, where would you take them to give them a real taste of Malaysia? 

It has to be Auntie Aini’s Café in Nilai for serving authentic Negeri Sembilan cuisine. 
Where do you like to catch up with old friends over food?

Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur for its good atmosphere and food selections. 

See also: A Taste of Home: Former Hakkasan Chef Ho Chee Boon Shares His Love Of Street Food

Do you stock up on any Malaysian ingredients or packaged foods when flying back to the UK?

I love some good bunga kantan (torch ginger), good quality anchovies, and turmeric leaves. 

Where do you go for authentic flavours of home in the UK?

Nowadays, there are many Malaysian restaurants in the UK, especially in London. For good curries and wok-fried noodles, Kuala Lumpur Restaurant in Leeds, where I work as the head chef, serves a good range of Malaysian dishes. For roti canai, I regularly visit Roti King in Euston.


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