Good food, music and wine. That’s a simple way to sum up Italian culture. But there is more to it than meets the eye for Italy is one of the oldest countries in the world. Not only famous for its art and architecture, but its cuisine has also spread to all parts of the world, and it is now the norm for Italian food to be available all over Malaysia as well.
Italians are not only passionate about the flavours of food, but they consider food to be a part of their family history and heritage. With age-old recipes passed down through generations, food is a symbol of one’s roots and heritage.
History and Food
The history of Italian cuisine is as long and complex as the history of Italy itself. With its origins going deep into Rome’s ancient history, its political, cultural and social hierarchy of its people. Italian cooking has evolved and changed as Italy itself went through evolutions through centuries of war and foreign contact and clash of cultures.Italian food started off pretty simple.
In the beginning, Italy was not the country that we know of today. It was still separated into many regions, all with its unique cultures and dishes. In Sicily, the people there are renowned for their cheese.
Other parts of the Roman Empire, such as Greece and Gaul (currently known as France), are also famous for calamari or squid, which were transported into Rome. The arrival of Barbarians introduced the consumption of beer and butter to the society while the Romans passed on their affinity for wine and olive oil.
The Romans preferred food with complex and intricate flavours, and thus, dishes such as ostrich meat, fish sauces, game meat, plenty of red wine and honey water commonly adorn their dining tables.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Sicilian food influences remained strong. Due to the Arabic invasion, rich is introduced to Italy, and that is why risotto is now considered to be a part of Italian cuisine.
Dried pasta, in which many will say is a quintessential part of Italian cooking, was brought to Sicily by the Arabs. This is because dried pasta is light and easy to preserve, making it suitable for long trips on the sea and sieges. The spread of dried pasta began from the ports of Sicily to the region of Naples and Genoa and eventually, to France and Spain.
Iconic and Popular Italian Foods
It is a typical snack or meal by itself especially in Naples where tomato sauce was first introduced. In modern times, there are two main types of pizzas to choose from. There is the Neapolitan-style and the Roman-style pizza. You can recognise Neapolitan-style pizza by its thick and fluffy crust.
The pizza may be smaller in diameter due to the dough being less rolled and spread out, but it’s definitely more filling. Meanwhile, the Roman-style pizza consists of a paper-thin crust with a nice crunch to it. It’s larger in diameter due to it being flatter but is less filling and has a lighter feel to it when eaten.
Some of you may recognise it as Garfield’s favourite food. It is composed of wide, flat pasta sheets, that contains beef ragu, vegetables, bechamel sauce and cheese (usually mozzarella or parmesan) layered in between. Traditionally, lasagne was not made with tomatoes as lasagne was invented long before the introduction of tomatoes from the New World in the 16th century.
With origins in Northern Italy, it is a creamy dish of rice that is prepared in a broth of saffron, butter, wine and onion. Depending on regional preferences, meat, seafood and vegetables may be added such as shrimp, cuttlefish, mushrooms, bacon, chicken or chorizo. To prepare the dish, butter and oil is first heated in a pan before the addition of onions, white wine and broth. The rice is added as the last step and is cooked slowly over low heat.
Carbonara spaghetti is not one to be missed. Simple and yet a classic, an authentic carbonara sauce is one that is made from scratch. With some restaurants serving fettuccine instead of spaghetti, it is also a versatile dish in which the cheeses may also be interchanged for a different combination of flavour in the dish.
Carbonara is usually made by the combination of raw eggs with cheese and adding it to cooked pasta with fried guanciale (pork cheek, can be replaced with pancetta or bacon) and black pepper.
Often served as an antipasto in Italian meals, prosciutto is dry-cured ham that is usually served uncooked and cut into thin slices. It is made from the thigh or hind legs of pigs. It’s savoury taste, and airy texture makes it an Italian favourite. It is usually served alongside pasta and wrapped around slices of cheese or sweet melons.
Though it may look the same as ice cream, gelato has a lot less butter fat compared to ice creams. With its low-fat content, gelato is usually served warmer and has the tendency to melt in your mouth quicker, giving it an intense flavour and velvety texture. Gelato is also denser than the regular ice cream.
This dish refers to stuffed rice balls. Initially, this dish was created as a way to make use of leftover risotto into an entirely new snack. It is usually coated in flour and breadcrumbs and fried to golden-brown perfection.
Where to find Italian food in Malaysia
Portofino Italian Restaurant has been a longstanding landmark in Bangsar. They have a variety of Italian meals such as risotto, gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese, and even pannacotta for dessert!
Michelangelo’s located in Solaris, Mont Kiara is definitely one of a kind. Spoil your loved ones and splurge a little for a dining experience like no other. With decadent offerings and dishes, you will definitely be in for a delight!
Italiannies in the Gardens Mall has put their own modern twist to traditional Italian dishes. Suitable for gatherings of family and friends, they have a wide selection of choices that is sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
Discover both rustic and modern Italian food on foodpanda!