Where is Malaysia?


My arch nemesis showed up again this week, you remember him, right? That's right, shrimp paste. 
Shrimp paste is awesome in its smelly disgustingness and it's ability to make my children lose their freaking minds. I love shrimp paste, because I hate it so, so much, which makes it one of the world's most entertaining ingredients.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo by  Luke Zeme Photography.
For details about the latest battle in my war against smelly things that people like to eat, you'll have to come back in a few days. Today, I'm mainly just going to talk about the nation that helped to perpetuate the obscenity of shrimp paste in my life (this week): Malaysia.
In terms of population density, Malaysia is a good-sized nation in Southeast Asia, the 44th most populous country in the world, in fact, with more than 30 million shrimp paste eating people residing there (sorry, I'll stop now). It shares a land border with Thailand and maritime borders with Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia is in Malaysia, though the southernmost point of Eurasia overall (including islands) is actually in Indonesia.
Some cool facts about Malaysia: it's one of only 17 designated "megadiverse" nations in the world, which means that it is one of only a few countries that harbor that majority of Earth's species, kind of like how only a few people harbor the majority of the world's wealth, you know. That fact is made somewhat less cool when you learn that the US is also one of the world's 17 megadiverse nations, or maybe more cool depending on your perspective. I guess I don't really think of the US as being particularly megadiverse since the same five species keep showing up on my trail cam every week.
Malaysia is a pretty forward thinking place: the state religion is Islam, but non-Muslims have the freedom to practice, too. The government is a lot like the British government except that the king is an elected official (chosen from a pool of the hereditary monarchs that rule each of nine Malaysian states, which sadly means that regular people can't "run for king.") Like England, Malaysia also has a prime minister.
There are three major ethnic groups in Malaysia: Malays, Chinese and Indians, which means that the cuisine is heavily influenced by all three traditions. There's also influence from Indonesia, Thailand, Portugal and Britain, which really makes the food pretty wonderfully diverse and interesting.

Of course, there's the shrimp paste thing, too. Check back for details. 





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