The cuisine of Malaysia is a delicious hybrid of Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, Thai, Middle Eastern and native Malay flavors. Chef Zak Pelaccio, who’s spreading the word about Malaysian food around the globe, shares his pantry essentials.

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A pungent seasoning made by grinding small shrimp into a paste that is fermented, dried and pressed into cakes. Belacan is often toasted before being used.


Black Vinegar

A dark, complex, aged Chinese vinegar made from a variety of grains. Its closest Western cousin would be balsamic vinegar.


Gula Jawa

A palm sugar that’s made from the sap of various palm trees. Dark-brown sugar or muscovado sugar can be used in its place.


Kecap Manis

A thick, slightly sweet Indonesian seasoning, sometimes called sweet soy sauce, that’s flavored with garlic and/or star anise.


Shaoxing Wine

An aged Chinese rice wine often used in cooking. Dry sherry can be substituted.


Belacan, gula Jawa and kecap manis can be ordered from

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