Food is part of every nation’s pride. From the east to the west, people from different countries are proud to tell the world what their country’s special meal is. Coming from a multicultural country that offers a variety of food, from the sweet Malay cooking to the Chinese sizzling dish and the rich Indian curry flavors, I would say I was a little disappointed and surprised when I came here to Denmark…
I will be comparing the differences between Danish meals and Malaysian meals from my point of view. The differences from breakfast to dinner, the timing of having the meal, how the meal is prepared, or just small cultural differences that I would like to point out in my observation here.
Danish style – Normally Danes eat oatmeal porridge or have buns (Bolle) with butter and cheese or with yogurt and muesli for breakfast. Coffee is such an important drink for them! Especially at work or at university, Danes drink a lot of coffee.
It also depends on the occasion! If someone has a birthday, then they have a big breakfast such as birthday buns smeared with butter, eggs, and sausages (I like the birthday breakfast because you get to see when the Danes put their national flag everywhere to celebrate someone’s birthday while singing their fun Danish birthday song!)
Malaysian style – This differs from person to person. But from my own experiences, we have different kinds of breakfasts! Sometimes we have rice for breakfast, such as the famous Nasi Lemak (this is where you have rice cooked in coconut milk and some side dishes such as roasted peanuts, fried anchovies, chili ‘sambal’ gravy and sunny-side-up egg!), or roti canai (an Indian-influenced flatbread dish with a dhal curry dip). The average Malaysian breakfast would be considered heavy by the Danes!
Danish style – Danes have lunch early at around 11 am – 12 pm. I remember when I was in my gap year here at a local high school. I was super disappointed going to the cafeteria. I honestly thought there would be a whole selection of food types (like in the Western American movies), where you can see the food through a glass window. But those are in the States and not in Denmark!
What I got to see was cold pasta with different flavors in the fridge or some ready-made sandwiches for the school kids to eat. From my observation, most Danes bring their lunch from home as it is expensive to spend money on food every day. They bring rye bread with different toppings or have a salad for lunch. Their lunches are typically light and cold.
Malaysian style – We Malaysians eat lunch late at around 1 pm – 2 pm and it is always hot and cooked. You can get food anywhere, and people can buy it relatively cheaply. The cooked lunch is always prepared together before eating and people spend time socializing while waiting for the food to be prepared. That is why we have a longer time for lunch. The type of meal differs according to personal choice.
According to my observations, like in most Asian countries, Malaysians eat rice as their staple food. There are many different types of rice-cooked meals that you can have for lunch. You can have “mixed rice” at restaurants and choose 2-3 different side dishes such as gravy, vegetables, or different protein. As you can see in the photo, I chose rice with yellow curry gravy cooked with catfish, spinach soup on the side, and some chili gravy for lunch.
Danish style – Danes love their pastries or as they call them “Kage”. They have them in different shapes and for different occasions! Normally, you can buy them everywhere from bakeries, supermarkets, or even 7-eleven. From my observations, their pastries are not only eaten at teatime.
They also have different pastries for different times of the day! I was shocked to hear that information. It was Fastelavn a few days ago, and I got a fastelavnsboller (bun) that was full of cream and it was big! Some of the famous pastries that I like are, kanelsnegle (cinnamon rolls), hindbærsnitter (raspberry slices), and other types of wienerbrød (Vienna bread).
Malaysian style – Teatime is something that I always look forward to in Malaysia! There are so many small cakes that we can choose from! Colorful, sweet, or salty small cakes with rich flavors! Malaysians will normally buy them from stalls or hawkers selling these “kuih” (small cakes) that cost approximately 2kr for 2 pieces.
I remember when I was younger, my late grandmother would call me and my siblings to the kitchen to have them with hot tea and to just chill in the kitchen while munching these small cakes together. Cozy times 🙂
Danish style – From my own experience, Danes take dinner seriously. Normally, they have an early dinner around 6 pm. They have a big dinner if they have family or friends coming over. For them, the experience of making food together matters the most, and they like to spend time mingling while having a glass of wine and chatting while cooking.
This is when the “hygge” (cozy concept) comes in. Dinner varies from one person to another, it also depends on the theme. Sometimes, pasta or sushi. They have no fixed meal for dinner.
One thing that I would like to talk about is their Christmas Dinner. It is super interesting to see how they prepare a duck or pork to eat with yummy caramelized potatoes. If you do not like potatoes, you should try them during Christmas in Denmark! It is the most amazing potato that I have ever had in my whole life!
They also have this delicious dessert that I will always miss when it is not the Christmas season, Risalamande (rice pudding mixed with cream and almonds) that has cherry sauce on top. Mums (the Danish way of saying yummy!)
Malaysian Style – We have dinner at around 8 pm – 9 pm, which is late (Honestly, I will not get used to this again if I go back to Malaysia). In Malaysia, dinner is also about family time. In my family, we all eat together and normally have home-cooked meals that are prepared by my mother.
Sometimes, when we have occasions such as birthday celebrations or meet up with friends, we will dine out at restaurants. Desserts differ according to individual taste but are normally something cool, as Malaysia is a hot country. The dessert I miss most from Malaysia is cendol durian (ice-shaved durian).
There is green jelly (cendol), with the durian fruit and red beans on top with coconut milk and brown sugar poured over it. Delicious and cooling in hot weather!
All in all, this experience of seeing how the Danes have their meals every day is an interesting observation. I get to see the best of both worlds and to share my experience of two different cultures.
When I miss Malaysian food, I try my best to make it when I am here in Denmark. Although it is not the same, or sometimes there are not enough ingredients from the local Asian store here in Denmark, I always try my best and share the Malaysian experience with my friends here.