One of the greatest places where food, culture, and celebration collide is at a local wedding.
While my wife and I were on the island of Langkawi, Malaysia, it happened to be wedding season, and driving along the road we noticed many weddings.
With the help of our guide, who was in charge of showing us around the island, we stopped by a local wedding one afternoon, and soon we were feasting with the family.
First, let me explain a little about how I attended the wedding:
My wife and I were invited Naturally Langkawi to attend the Langkawi International Laksa Carnival 2015 and to experience the island, blog about it, and make videos about it.
It was an incredible experience, and we had an amazing time.
We had a guide, Wan Kash, and our driver Fami, and as we were driving around Langkawi they explained to us that it was wedding season and there were many weddings taking place across the island.
After a little more talking and explaining how good the food was at weddings in Malaysia, Wan Kash and Fami suggested we just stop in at a random wedding.
“They will be ok if we just go, everyone is like family in Langkawi,” they said.
I agreed, knowing that attending a wedding is a fantastic way to experience a local culture and eat local food.
So just before parasailing for the first time, we had about an hour, and we stopped at a wedding we saw on the side of the road.
They welcomed us to the wedding and they were just as excited for us to be there as we were to be there – in other words, we were all excited.
The bride and groom hadn’t yet arrived, and so we went back to the kitchen tent, where all the food for the wedding was being prepared.
How the food works at a wedding
At a Malaysian wedding in Langkawi it’s kind of like an open house.
Food is prepared in huge quantities, and attendees will come and go throughout all hours of the day, and when they arrive they will eat.
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The food is typically finished being cooked by about noon, and it’s held on standby as people come and go.
We arrived right at noon. The food was fresh and all ready to go – just in time!
I immediately spotted the massive pan of buffalo curry.
Buffalo is one of the most common meats at a traditional Malaysian wedding, sometimes there are multiple buffalo dishes.
As soon as I showed interest in the ginormous pot of buffalo curry slowly simmering, the chef reached out his hand and fed me a piece of it.
I was surprised how tender the buffalo was. It was so tender it just fell apart, and it had an irony and crumbly texture almost like liver.
I loved it.
After taste testing the buffalo curry, all the aunties and uncles who were preparing the food, invited us to eat amongst them where they were all cooking.
In just a few minutes, and without me even knowing what was going on, they had dished out plates of all the dishes they were serving at the wedding.
We each had our own individual plate of rice, and then there were side plates of buffalo curry, red chicken curry, fried fish, yellow mango salad, and finally a soup made with taro stems.
I spooned a bit of each of the dishes onto my individual plate and then started to dig in.
Even though I had already tasted the buffalo curry, I had to take another bite of it first. The buffalo was tender and delicious, and the curry was mild, but had a good dry spice flavor blend.
I took a small fried mackerel, which may have been rubbed in some turmeric to give it an orange color. I’m a huge lover of mackerel with rice, and I could eat it everyday.
The chicken was also very good, made into a red curry that was slightly sweet and creamy rich.
So when I saw the clear whitish soup, I immediately recognized the taro stems.
The soup was clear, mostly with the flavor of sour and slightly salty, and big chunks of taro stems and some kind of starchy cassava or yam.
But out of all the dishes we ate at this Malaysian wedding, probably my favorite dish was the simple yellow mango salad.
In Thailand there are plenty of green mango salads, but I have yet to see a yellow mango salad in Thailand.
For this dish, the mango was shredded, mixed with little salted fish (maybe anchovies), sliced Chinese long beans, peanuts, shallots, garlic, and I think some toasted shredded coconut. It had that wonderful contrast of salty and sweet (from the naturally ripe mango), kind of like a mango salsa.
The mixture of different dishes is what really made this wedding feast so spectacular.
Part way into a bite of buffalo curry, one of the Aunties handed my wife and I a plate of Langkawi style laksa, saying we needed to taste it.
The laksa used the thick round rice noodles, that look just like Japanese udon noodles, and they were topped with a pureed fish curry mixed with slices of cucumber and onions.
The curry was nice and sour, and had a wonderful fish flavor. It was almost tasted like a tuna salad with extra sour and spicy flavoring to it.
I was eating my curry and laksa, and enjoying the beautiful cultural environment when all of a sudden I got a whiff of something that’s impossible to not recognize on first smell: durian.
And so in the middle of our meal, someone literally went into the backyard (it happened to be durian season) and picked a durian right off the tree and brought it to us.
It was truly a kind and generous gesture.
The durian was perfect, just ripened to the point of golden creamy flesh, with a hint of bitterness. It was like ice cream on seed, absolutely incredible.
I continued eating, and just as I was wiping my plate clean, and licking the durian from my fingers, we were alerted that the groom had arrived.
Both the groom and the bride were dressed in extremely bright neon colored and beautiful outfits.
They met on the side of the street, and then walked together into the house, where I presume they would stay and greet all of the wedding guests throughout the remainder of the day.
After signing the guest book and saying thank you to the family and all the friendly people we had met at the wedding, we continued on our way to parasailing, yet this time having just experienced an incredible Malaysian wedding.
Some of the best travel experiences are not planned, but are just the experiences that unfold in front of you as you go along.
It was an honor to get a quick glimpse of a traditional Malaysian wedding in Langkawi, eat a delicious meal, partake of a surprise honorary durian, and just admire and observe the beautiful culture of a Malaysian wedding.
I would like to say a huge thank you to the family who so kindly invited us into their home, fed us delicious food, and allowed us to celebrate with them.
Experiencing a Malaysian wedding was one of the most memorable experiences I had in Langkawi.