Classic and Contemporary Flavours for Breaking of Fast at Renaissance Kuala Lumpur

Can you believe another year has passed and another Ramadhan month is just around the corner? That’s right, this is the time where most hotels would be promoting their Ramadhan buffets and I was recently invited to Renaissance to check out what they have to offer.

This year, you can choose to tantalize your tastebuds with Malaysian classics at TEMPTationS or for something a little different, opt for a touch of Cantonese at Dynasty Restaurant (that’s right, they are now pork free).

Discover the diverse cuisine and delicious flavours to break your fast starting from 27th May 2017 at TEMPTationS, Dynasty Restaurant or privately catered to your exclusive needs.

Make your way to TEMPTationS with family and friends after a long day of fasting where experienced Chef Ali Tuwin and his team will engulf your senses with a feast of more than 100 dishes including Malaysian classics enjoyed during the fasting season. Afterwards, be spoilt with an all-you-can-eat tropical fruit fiesta and durian, the king of fruits at their ‘urban tropical oasis’.

The buffet of Malaysian classics inclusive of the tropical fruit fiesta is priced at RM145nett per person and half price for children from 6 to 12 years old. Early birds will enjoy the buffet at RM110nett per person from 27th May to 2 June and 17 June to 24 June 2017.

As with most hotel buffets, the starters include a seafood bar, a variety of salads and there’s also a ulam station featuring plenty of fresh raw vegetables.

 photo IMG_20170418_182837.jpg Cold seafood on ice

 photo IMG_20170418_182940.jpg Salads including Kerabus and some Pasta salad.

 photo IMG_20170418_182819.jpg Ulam ulam

Classic flavours to be savoured include Biryani Gam Ayam, Sup ‘Gearbox’, Ayam masak daun limau purut, the all-time favourite Roasted Whole Lamb with Percik Sauce, Serawa durian with glutinous rice and the must-have beef or chicken Bubur Lambuk that will be available every evening throughout the fasting month.

 photo IMG_20170418_183217.jpg Biryani Ayam Gam

 photo IMG_20170418_183445.jpg Sup Gearbox. Check out the size of the bones! The marrow is the best part.

 photo IMG_20170418_182548.jpg Roasted Lamb with Percik Sauce

 photo IMG_20170418_183100.jpg Bubur Lambuk

 photo IMG_20170418_183137.jpg Fish Head Curry

 photo IMG_20170418_183125.jpg Ayam Masak Daun Limau Purut
 photo IMG_20170418_183203.jpg Sotong with Petai

 photo IMG_20170418_183210.jpg Crab curry

 photo IMG_20170418_183152.jpg Paku Pakis Masak Lemak

 photo IMG_20170418_183108.jpg Teochew style Seabass

At the live action stations, their chefs will dish out Kampung style Ikan Bakar accompanied by its hot and spicy sauces and juicy chicken and beef satays.

 photo IMG_20170418_182600.jpg All manners of Grilled Fish

 photo IMG_20170418_182608.jpg Accompanying sauces

 photo IMG_20170418_183343.jpg Satays

The noodles station offers a rotation of noodles every evening, be it Mee Rebus, Laksa Penang, Sup Mee Hoon Utara or Nyonya Laksa.

 photo IMG_20170418_182956.jpg

Those with a wider palate may opt for the non-local dishes such as baked salmon with fennel (this was good), grilled Mediterranean vegetables, or the pasta station.

 photo IMG_20170418_182513.jpg Salmon with Fennel

 photo IMG_20170418_182528.jpg Grilled Vegetables

 photo IMG_20170418_182524.jpg Roasted Chicken

 photo IMG_20170418_183002.jpg Pasta Station

A meal will not be complete without a sweet ending, and the dessert section has a variety of Malay kuih, whole cakes, puddings, ice cream and not forgetting the tropical fruit fiesta.

 photo IMG_20170418_183314.jpg Local kuihs

 photo IMG_20170418_183327.jpg More desserts

For a unique breaking of fast dining experience, go for contemporary Cantonese cuisine at Dynasty Restaurant where Executive Sous Chef Kok Chee Kin awakens your palate with four creatively crafted set menus. His two 8-course menus and priced at RM138nett per person and RM168nett per person for a minimum of 2 persons, a 9-course menu at RM938nett for 5 persons and a 10 course menu at RM888nett for 5 persons. These menus are also inclusive of the tropical fruit fiesta.

Specials from the menus include the Baked Lamb Rack with piquant Mongolian sauce, Casserole of beef with vermicelli in satay sauce, Crispy farm chicken with spicy minced garlic, Baked cod Portuguese style and Stewed oxtail with radish in casserole.

 photo IMG_20170418_201401.jpg Cantonese Four Seasons Platter

 photo IMG_20170418_201407.jpg The rest of the platter

 photo IMG_20170418_201443.jpg Baked Cod Portuguese Style

 photo IMG_20170418_201340.jpg Sauteed Prawns with Green Tea Mayonnaise

 photo IMG_20170418_201357.jpg Baked Lamb rack with piguant Mongolian Sauce

 photo IMG_20170418_201331.jpg Cripsy Farm Chicken with Spicy Minced Garlic

Alternatively, should you plan to host private breaking of fast get-togethers or Aidilfitri celebration for a group of 50 persons and more, our catering team is able to customize packages to suit your needs. Catered exclusively for you from 27 May to 23 July 2017 with a 10% discount for bookings made before 22 May, you will enjoy a host of benefits.

For details on customized packages please email rhi.kulrn.sales@renaissancehotels.com or call 03 27169910/03 27169918

For restaurant reservations, please call 03 2771 6692 or email rhi.kulrn.fb@renaissancehotels.com

Follow their Facebook…..

www.facebook.com/RenaissanceKL

www.facebook.com/TemptationsKL

www.facebook.com/DynastyKL

Website – http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/kulrn-renaissance-kuala-lumpur-hotel/

Address – Corner of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur

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R.AGE Food Fight: Ayam Masak Merah with Cauli “Nasi Tomato”

What’s red in colour, delicious, and also uniquely Malaysian? Ayam Masak Merah, a Kedahan dish commonly seen at Hari Raya Celebration and Malay Weddings, of course. Do you know what else is red and Malaysian? Red Palm oil, which is the star of the day in this blog post. Needless to say, I decided to cook this dish because I was inspired by the colour, but it also happens to be one of my favourite Malaysian dishes, due to its rich aroma, and a nice balance of savoury note, sweetness, richness, piquancy and just enough heat to tickle your system.

Did you know that Malaysia is the world’s second largest producer of Palm oil? Interestingly enough most of it is exported and we don’t really see a lot of Palm oil used in cooking locally. It’s not that Palm oil is not good for us, in fact, it’s high in antioxidants, which is responsible for combating free radical damage. It also has virtually no cholesterol, just like another super cousin of it, the coconut oil. It has its signature red hue due to high level of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A (the Vitamin that’s good for our eyes), and it’s also high in Vitamin E. In short, it comes with pretty attractive health benefits, but of course as with all fats, consuming in moderation is key.

Ayam Masak Merah with Cauli-Nasi Tomato

This recipe is super nontraditional as I’m adding my own twist to it. For example, a good amount of recipes calls for canned tomato soup for the gravy, and I’ve opted for canned tomatoes instead for a fresher taste. I’ve also added lemongrass in the spice paste for an extra depth of aroma. Ayam Masak Merah is commonly paired with Nasi Tomato, and I’ve done my own interpretation of a low carb substitute using Caulifower instead. Although this means that I can’t cook it the traditional way infusing milk, spices and tomatoes slowly into the grains, but nothing a good dose of gravy over won’t fix, right? This way, you even get your vegetable quota sorted. By the way, it’s also Gluten-free and Paleo friendly, how about that?

The cooking process is a little complicated, and involves deep frying (*gasp*) as this is the way we can keep the chicken juicy with a nice firm texture. You might also work up a sweat if you don’t have a fancy food processor (which I don’t), but with the end result this delicious, I can assure you it’s all worth the effort. Now let’s get cooking! To make this a little extra special, I shall include a full cooking video for your viewing pleasure.

Ayam Masak Merah (Malay Red Cooked Chicken) with Cauli-Nasi Tomato

Ingredients:
Spice Paste:
5-6 Shallots
3 Red Chili (or more if you like it spicier)
1 thumb sized Ginger
5-6 cloves of Garlic
1 Stalk Lemongrass

Spices (roast in pan beforehand):
2 Star Anise
3-4 Cloves
1 stick of Cinnamon

500g Chicken Drumsticks (or any other part you like)
1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 canned Tomatoes
300ml Coconut Milk
Palm Oil

Cauli Nasi Tomato
Half head of Cauliflower
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 tablespoon Ketchup

First, to make the spice paste. Place everything in food processor/blender/pestle & mortar/or anything that can chop things into small pieces and process til fine. I had to make do with a smaller device on the day of filming the cooking video so my spice paste isn’t as paste-y as it should be. But well, still tasty! Set aside until needed.

Then we move on to deep fry the chicken. The Chicken drumsticks need to be marinated with turmeric and salt for at least half an hour. Fill a pot with Palm oil (great choice for deep frying because of the high smoke point), and when it’s hot enough (you can test it with a wooden chopstick, if it bubbles up it’s ready) add the chicken pieces to deep fry until they are starting to take on a glorious colour. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

Pour most of the oil out leaving around 3 tablespoons, and add in the spice paste to stir fry. You want to cook until it’s nice and fragrant and starting to split from the oil. Then add in the canned tomatoes (I’ve actually used my hand to squeeze the tomatoes into smaller pieces, you can also use a blender for this job), followed by the roasted spices and coconut milk. Mix everything well, and add the chicken drumsticks. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until chicken is fully cooked and the sauce is nice and thick. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and sugar if needed.

While the chicken is cooking, we can prepare the Cauli “Nasi Tomato”. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and use a blender/food processor to pulse a few times until the cauliflower become rice grain like (do not over process!). Heat the pan with Palm oil, and add the cauliflower rice, follow by tomato paste. Cook for 3-4 minutes until cauliflower is softened. Serve hot.

To assemble, place the cauli rice (using a bowl to mold if you want it nicely shaped) onto a plate, then pick your drumstick, making sure you also get plenty of that nice gravy on. Garnish with sliced tomatoes, some coriander and serve with achar if you like.

I love everything about this dish: the vibrant colours, the addictive gravy, succulent chicken, piquant cauli rice (with the added bonus of health), and the fact that the goodness of Palm oil is fully utilised. I hope you get to try this dish at home too, as it will sure impress your taste buds, and your family/friends.

Bella Unwind NTV7 Appearance and Spaghetti with Prawns in Laksa Sauce

Just a year ago, I was invited to be on Bella Unwind NTV7 (read about it here), and it was a nerve wrecking, yet memorable experience as it was my first live TV filming experience. Fast forward a year, I’ve had a few more TV appearances, but still pretty much a newbie when it comes to talking into a giant video camera. Well, just a couple of weeks ago, I received yet another invitation from Bella Unwind to appear on their show, this time I was invited to demo a pasta dish with a local twist. Of course, I’m never one to turn these things down, even though it would mean I give up a little bit of sleep to be at the studio (going through a particularly bad period of insomnia at the moment).

I experimented with a few pasta dishes and finally decided on a laksa inspired version with prawns. The day came and as expected, I had almost zero sleep that night (brilliant). We made our way to Shah Alam Studio and it all seemed like I was there not too long ago. After prepping the ingredients and some touch up by the make-up artist, we were ready to film!

Busy busy!

The host of the day was Lisa Wong, whom I had the pleasure to meet several years ago when I just moved to KL, so I was a little less nervous. Though being live TV, my tongue did react a little slower, hah.

Having fun, evidently.

We talked a bit about the different types of pastas and cooking tips, and I went on to demonstrate the dish.

So focused.

Oh yeah, I’m getting the hang off dyeing my own hair, this shade was supposed to be a deeper purple, but because of my bright red hair, it’s gone a little maroon-ish. My dress is from Zalora, by the way.

Trying to stay graceful while cooking isn’t an easy task, I tell you.

I didn’t get a picture of the dish I cooked though, but will share a recipe of the version I did at home.

Groupie pic.

The plate they had at the set was so small, so my plating was a little messy. Oops! The taste was good though, judging by the crowd’s reaction. My mind was completely blank by the time we finished the interview, phew! Hoping for more opportunities like this so I can practise more. Thank you Bella NTV7 for the invitation!

So here’s the Laksa inspired pasta:

Spaghetti with Prawns in Laksa Sauce

Naturally, I used a Sarawak laksa paste to make this at home, but during filming I had gone with a Nyonya laksa paste (I ran out already, uh oh!). I added spiralised (will do a post on my spiral cutter soon) butternut squash and curry leaves along with the prawns. The combination works fabulously, and it’s really quick to put together too.

Spaghetti (100g for 2)
8 Medium Prawns (I used big tiger prawns for the demo, feel free to add any other seafood you like)
Half Butternut Squash, spiralised or julienned
2 cloves Garlic, minced
4 tablespoons Laksa Paste
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1/4 Cup Cream
Handful of Curry Leaves
2 tablespoons Sambal belacan
2-3 Calamansi Limes

Cook Spaghetti to packet’s direction in salted water. Generally about 10 minutes, but I suggest under cooking for a minute as you will need to cook it again in the pan.

Fry the curry leaves in a bit of oil until crispy, and set aside until needed.

Meanwhile, saute garlic and butternut squash until soft, then add laksa paste, tomato paste and mix around for a couple of minutes. When it’s aromatic, add cream, followed by the prawns (alternatively, cook prawns separately and then combine with the sauce). Once the sauce achieves a nice thick consistency, add the spaghetti and curry leaves and finally the sambal belacan and toss to coat. And you are done! Squeeze the lime over just before serving.  This takes less than 15 minutes to prepare and so delicious!

Get into my mouth already.

I love the richness of the sauce, while the squash/pumpkin lends a subtle sweetness, and the zesty lime kick is ever so aromatic. The aroma of the curry leaves is rather addictive too. Next time I crave for laska I might give this a whirl again.

Have you tried any fusion pasta before? If so what is your favourite combination?

Cafe K, Kiaraville Condominium

Mont Kiara is definitely not short of Korean restaurants due to the large population of Korean expats in the area, but one of the newest addition is Cafe K, located in Kiaraville Condominium which is walking distance from Solaris Mont Kiara. Cafe K is only over a month old, opened by a very dear friend of mine, Kris. I met Kris after I’ve just moved to KL, and we have collaborated several times in music. Currently I’m one of the vocal coaches in his music school (also a very new school located at Kiaraville), so it’s super convenient for me to grab some homely Korean food (the kitchen is run by his mother, who is a great cook).

Cafe K’s menu. As you can see they are still testing the water with the dishes, should see a finalised menu soon!

The Cafe itself isn’t difficult to locate once you are in the condo. Just find your way to Block B and go to level 2, it’s right by the pool. You can access it by the lift opposite the Mini Mart, or the stairs next to the K Conservatory of Music.

Strictly speaking Cafe K is not a Korean restaurant even though it’s run by a Korean family. While there are many familiar dishes here such as Bibimbap, Kimchi Pancake etc, there are also local food and Western food, something for everyone. Like these Fried Calamari Rings, for example.

Calamari (RM9.90)

Even though it’s deep fried, it’s not greasy and I like the lightness of the batter. The accompanying coleslaw is cooling, and was made full use of when I had the crazy spicy noodles challenge on the same day (we’ll get to that in a minute). I shall also mention that I’ve combined 2 visits for this post so no…. I don’t actually eat that much.

Chili Chicken Rice (RM15.90)

Make the food spicy and I will be your loyal customer. Although Gochujang is usually on the sweet side, this packs a decent kick and I like how there are plenty of vegetables, making this a balanced meal.

Kimchi Pancake (RM15.90)

The Kimchi pancake is lovely too, fried just right with perfect amount of crisp, and fluffiness.

Jjol Myeon (RM13.90)

Kris recommended Jjol Myeon, which is a type of thick cold noodles served with a spicy gochujang based sauce.

Love the redness.

I’ve never had this before, and was happy with the chewy noodles. Even though it looks super red, the heat is quite mild for me. But then again, my tolerance for chili is almost God-like nowadays (another way to say that I’ve perhaps destroyed my system with all that chili I’ve eaten over the years). Wait til you see the Crazy Spicy noodles!

Hot Pot Bibimbap (RM18.90)

Bibimbap is probably my favourite Korean dish and here it’s made relatively healthy with multigrain rice (in my favourite colour purple, which is a bonus). The portion is huge though so this is good for 2 small eaters. To enjoy, simply stir in the Bibimbap sauce, and mix everything together until it looks like this.

Yum!

I love fishing for the crispy burnt rice and needless to say, the egg yolk flowing over everything is just so comforting.

Bibimbap (RM17.90)

They also have a non hot pot version of Bibimbap and it’s served with a smile, how adorable!

Ok, now are you ready to see the crazy spicy noodles?

Consume at your own risk! RM19.90 of Craziness. Free if you can finish it in 3 minutes.

I don’t know where in the Scoville chart is this but I will bet this is somewhere in the millions. I definitely love my spicy food and will continue to challenge my tolerance. This plate of noodles will make any grown man cry! The trick, I shall share, is to keep slurping and swallowing the noodles without chewing and don’t ever stop until you finish everything. At first this tasted almost a little sweet, but the crazy heat kicks in after about a minute and boy is it strong!

Be prepared to sweat as the spice make the way down to your stomach. They really do burn. After I finished this, mine was burning for a good half an hour. I forgot to take an after pic because the heat was overwhelming. But let me tell you that the chili high was so addictive, my mouth still waters whenever I think of this. Think you can handle the spice? Go try this! The challenge is running until 3rd Nov, but this dish will remain on the menu. Let me know if you plan to do this, I might just come along and cheer you on.

Cafe K,
Kiaraville Condominium, Mont Kiara.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-K-Kiaraville/
For bookings call 012-330 4100

Nook’s MIGF 2014 Menu

It’s always a pleasure receiving invitations from Aloft Kuala Lumpur be it a review session, or music event. You might have notice that I am there quite often (several times a month, in fact) and that is because I always enjoyed their great hospitality. A makan session at Nook, especially, is something I won’t miss. This time, it’s the Malaysian International Gourmet Festival at hotel’s signature restaurant. This is the second time Nook is participating in MIGF and you may read about my last year’s gourmet experience here.

The theme for MIGF this year is “Red Hot Chefs” and Nook’s innovative menu is created by Executive Sous Chef Rozaiman and his team. Nook lets its diners to play with their food and this year it’s extra fun! I like how the menu is very much Malaysian, but with modern twist and a little bit of molecular gastronomy.

Our first course definitely looked very pretty and the aroma of the sea hits the nose instantly.

Marinated Sea Conch, Octopus and Sea Urchin Roe in Coconut Kerabu with Fiddlehead Fern.

Not just visually pleasing, this dish has everything done right. The ‘sand’ you see on the plate is a mixture of toasted coconut and blended dried shrimps, the seafood is marinated in chili, lime juice, salt and pepper. To enjoy the dish, toss everything together for the best flavour. Although I would admit I ate the sea urchin before mixing, it’s just too precious!

Next dish is a fun one. At first when I saw Chicken Noodle Soup on the menu, I was a little puzzled. But once this was placed in front of me, all was forgiven.

Chicken Noodle Soup.

Never be surprised to see syringes at Nook, it’s their thing. Here the syringe is filled with  a puree of black chicken which turns solid in contact of water. All we needed to do is squirt the mixture out (tee hee hee). It is indeed ok to play with your food.

Tada! Magic!

I thought this was very well done. The taste of the black chicken is prominent, and the soup is aromatic with some lemongrass and galangal. Very refreshing.

Our first main course was pretty impressive too. Then again Nook has always been good with their beef dishes (you must try their Wagyu beef rendang if you haven’t already).

Sambal Beef Tongue and Tendon served with Percik Sauce and Achar Crudite.

It’s tricky to get beef tongue right and here it’s cooked sous vide style for 12 hours, then cut into smaller pieces and cooked with sambal sauce. I absolutely loved the texture of the tongue as well as tendon. I think I ate this entire dish in silence. The achar balances out the decadent beef and it’s delightful. Loved it!

We were given a palate cleanser before moving on to our fish dish. It did a good job in rounding up the overall menu, the combination of Lemongrass, Lime and Pandan is just perfect.

Lemon Grass, Lime, Pandan Sherbet.

So we moved along to our final savoury course and it’s my favourite fish, Cod.

Cod Fish Assam Pedas served with Garlic Rice, Salted Egg and Tempura Egg Plant.

I’ve had my fair share (read: a lot) of Cod dishes and I gotta say this was the first time I’ve seen a Chef pairing it with Assam Pedas; a seemingly risky move as Cod is extremely delicate and in theory should be kept fairly light. But I think the bold move worked because everyone was waxing lyrical over this. The fish was unquestionably tender, characteristic of this King of fish. The Assam pedas especially goes well with the garlic rice, which is full of wok hei and proven to be rather addictive. The addition of salted egg is an interesting one (apparently a common thing to do in Chef Rozaiman’s kampung), I just wished there were more tempura eggplant as I only got a tiny piece. Yum!

The syringes made another appearance in the form of dessert.

Nook Cendol: Pandan Rice Flour Jelly, Ba’ kelalan Salt, Palm Sugar, Ice, Red Bean and Glutinous Rice

The syringes are filled with propofol coconut milk and palm sugar and you can adjust the amount to your liking. I say bring it on!

Here’s my attempt to anaesthetize my “patient”.

For this MIGF, diners can choose to indulge in a 3-course light menu for RM98 nett per person (RM130 nett with cocktails and wines) or 6-course full festival menu at RM188 nett per person (RM250 nett with cocktails and wine). Hurry as you only have until end of this month to experience this for yourself.

Thank you Aloft for a fabulous meal!

Nook @ Aloft KL Sentral,
No 5 Jalan Stesen Sentral,
Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603 2723 1154
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AloftKualaLumpurSentral

Top Hat Restaurant, Jalan Stonor

Top Hat Restaurant has been named one of the Malaysia’s Best Restaurants multiple times by Malaysian Tatler and it’s not difficult to see why. Set in a beautiful colonial bungalow at the crossroad of Jalan Kia Peng and Jalan Stonor, it’s prime location attracts loyal local fans as well as tourists and local embassy staff.

Top Hat’s interior is a unique blend of East and West with local art pieces on the walls, luxurious curtain drapes, various antiques, vintage furniture with warm earth tones of brown, yellow and red. During the day, the dining room is bathed in natural light from the side windows and exudes a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a cosy place to dine, almost like you are at a Nyonya’s humble home. There are also several themed private rooms, complete with a large garden with plenty of greenery and Koi pond. It’s no wonder Top Hat frequently hosts corporate functions as well as weddings.

The kitchen is run by 3 Chefs: Head Chef Richard Moreira who draws on his Eurasian heritage to create both Western and Malaysian cuisines; Sous Chef Yen Soon who loves to using Chinese ingredients in his Western cuisine; And Pastry Chef Ineh Bibi who’s responsible for the desserts. As expected, the menu here features both Western and Asian dishes, with the latter focused more on Malaysia’s unique Nyonya cuisine. The dishes rotate every three months, although the signature dishes never come off the menu. Prices here are reasonable as the portions are above average. There is also an extensive wine list of Old and New World wines, and if you need any assistance, they are more than happy to do the wine pairing.

The restaurant’s namesake, also known locally as “Pai Tee”, is a popular Nyonya dish (RM12 for 6). A savoury mix of shredded Chinese turnip and Carrots set in pastry shells, paired with a homemade sweet and sour sauce; here they are larger than normal, but no less elegant. It’s a delightful starter with the thin and crispy shells and crunchy vegetables.

Top Hats

Top Hat prides itself by making everything from scratch using the freshest ingredients. The Chicken Satay is served with a thick peanut sauce (RM20 for 6), each skewer packed with juicy lean meat with a good bite.

Chicken Satay

If you are curious about their Western dishes, the Chicken and Mushroom Pie (RM35) is a must order. The puff pastry is perfectly airy and crispy and the creamy savoury filling will have you reaching for more. Its richness is offset by the sweet and tangy salad with mango.

Chicken and Mushroom Pie

The Chef’s Signature Oxtail Stew (RM48) is braised for more than 4 hours, which explains the wonderfully textured meat with rich, dark gravy with great depth of flavour. The vegetables are grilled to bring out their sweetness before adding to the stew, and there’s a hint of tang from the tomatoes. Best to enjoy with toasted garlic bread to mop up every last bit of the sauce.

Chef’s Signature Oxtail Stew

Some diners visit Top Hat exclusively for their Nyonya laksa (RM25), and it’s probably the best in town. This is the owner’s family recipe, with the broth made fresh every single day. The Nyonya Laksa here features a creamy coconut broth, yellow noodles (or rice vermicelli), prawns, chicken and bean sprouts. It has a unique aroma from torch ginger bud, lemongrass and shrimp paste; the addition of lime and sambal as extra kick complete the addictive and decadent treat. The portion is quite intimidating for one with a small appetite, so be prepared to share.

Nyonya Laksa

Desserts here are split into local delights and Western classics. The Signature Tiramisu Cake is served with fresh strawberry sauce, a rather unique combination but strangely works, thanks to the nut crumble on top. It has a hint of coffee and a rich mascarpone layer, definitely not a dessert for the faint-hearted or weak-kneed.

Signature Tiramisu Cake

Another must try is the Peach and Banana Crumble served with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s as comforting as it gets.

Peach and Banana Crumble

There’s no doubt that Top Hat serves unpretentious fare, much like a home-cooked meal with a touch of elegance. It’s well worth a visit if you want to try something very different from the usual KL restaurant visit, there’s something very magical and romantic about this place and the attentive staff just give it that little extra special something.

Top Hat Restaurant
No.3, Jalan Stonor, 50450, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 0321418611/21441863
Website: www.top-hat-restaurants.com
Opens daily from 12-noon-12am (last call 10:45pm)

This writeup was published on The Malay Mail on 14th March 2014.

Nook’s MIGF 2013 Menu

Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF) is back with an interesting theme “Cool Chefs – Cooking with attitude”. Having missed out on the Taste MIGF due to work commitment, naturally I was excited to receive an invitation to try the MIGF menu at Nook, joining the festival for the very first time. This menu is extra special to me because Chef Steven Seow, though not actually from Sarawak, has taken the effort to feature the treasures from Sabah and Sarawak. You’ll see when we talk about the dishes.

It wasn’t our first time dining at Nook as I have tried out the buffet spead as well as ala carte dishes numerous times when I was performing at W XYZ bar back in June. I also went for an invited review earlier in the year when it was still brand new. I know that they have taken a special interest in improving their dishes because each time I visited, the dishes just kept getting better. FYI, 2 out of 4 dishes on this MIGF menu I have already tried as ala carte, albeit a little less luxurious. I shall stop rambling and let’s get started on the food. Starter first.

Smoked Scallop Umai Sushi, Duck Confit with Pomegranate and Yoghurt Sphere
Smoked Scallop Umai Sushi, Duck Confit with Pomegranate and Yoghurt Sphere

Ooh! Here’s a little bit of molecular gastronomy to please my inner food geek. I loved the presentation and this looks like a well-thought-out dish with different components.

Let's admire the plating one more time.
Let’s admire the plating one more time.

The glass contained the smoke (for the wow factor, I guess), I was told it was lemongrass flavour but it dissipated too fast for me to catch a whiff. The scallop umai is basically a Sarawakian citrus cured seafood, very much like ceviche but with local flavours.

Comes with a pipet filled soy sauce, fun!
Comes with a pipet filled soy sauce, fun!

I enjoyed the sweet, sour, savoury, herbaceous combination of the Scallop umai sushi. Moving on to the duck confit with a tiny piece of skin, well that was seasoned perfectly with good umami flavour and you can give me more of that crispy skin. Yum! I tried that with the sweet fruity coulis, pomegranate seeds and raisin separately and all worked very well together. You simply can’t do wrong with sweet and savoury pairings in my book. Oh and the Yoghurt sphere actually popped in my mouth. How cool! What a great introduction to the night. This course is paired with Villa Maria Chardonnay, NZ. Lovely crisp and easy to drink.

Leffe Blonde
Leffe Blonde

Interesting, Chef Steven Seow has chosen to pair the next course with a beer, and I can understand why.

Sarawak Laksa with Organic Soba Noodle, Lobster & Abalone
Sarawak Laksa with Organic Soba Noodle, Lobster & Abalone

I like to refer this to Sarawak Laksa on steroids. Haha. You see, the robust flavour of prawn and chicken stock in the broth with all that laksa spices would be too strong for a white wine, but pairing it with a red will totally overwhelmed the delicate lobster and abalone. So it totally makes sense. Compared to our first visit, this Laksa has totally exceeded my expectation. The broth is perfect (perhaps a little spicier than usual) with the right ratio of coconut milk: spices. Paired with grilled lobster that was juicy and sweet, it was rather divine. I am not normally a fan of abalone, but here the abalone was cooked with some butter and herbs, giving it a lighter flavour than usual, so this fussy eater approves.

Closer look
Closer look

While the usage of soba will probably induce a pang of panic for the purists, I don’t think it’s a huge problem because I love soba noodles anyway. Chicken was poached just right and I like how delicate the omelette strips were.

The next course is the heaviest of all and it features Sabah style cooking.

Wagyu Beef Rendang, Farm Vegetables Achar Jelatah , Tumeric Coconut Rice
Wagyu Beef Rendang, Farm Vegetables Achar Jelatah , Turmeric Coconut Rice

Some might think using Wagyu beef in rendang is simply sacrilegious. But since Wagyu beef cheeks are used commonly in braised dishes (especially by the French), why not give it a local twist? Here the beef was incredibly tender and the rendang flavours worked pretty well with this cut, although slightly on the rich side for me, probably because of the lighter dishes beforehand. The achar jelatah is Sabahan and it was just sour enough to help balance the dish.

Closer look with Kelly Chin's pretty dress in the background.
Closer look with Kelly Chin’s pretty dress in the background.

Do not underestimate the portion of this: the rice was compacted hence we were mostly fooled. I am a small eater so I could only manage half of the Turmeric Coconut Rice (Sabahan) before waving my white flag. It was suitably aromatic and not overly rich though. I would have happily gobbled the whole thing up if this was the only course (which I had done previously, yum). This course is paired with Madfish, Shiraz, Australia.

Time for dessert and this was super fun!

Eight Treasures Ais Kacang
Eight Treasures Ais Kacang

Call me nerdy but any food item presented in lab or medical appliances gets me pretty excited. Before getting the injection on, let’s see what we have here in the bowl: jackfruit, sweet potato, sago, cendol, black jelly, blackberries, strawberries and blue berries and of course a scoop of ice cream as cherry on the cake. As for the syringes: they are filled with colorful syrup including yellow – orange + lemongrass, red – rose + strawberry, green – pandan + apple, brown – salted palm sugar, white – cornflakes creamer.

Woohoo!
Woohoo!

In order to not confuse our taste buds, it is recommended we try individual syringe first to see what we liked best. My favourite is the salted palm sugar, followed very closely by the orange/lemongrass concoction. I thought the corn flakes flavoured milk was pretty interesting too.

Would you like me to administer your injection?
Would you like me to administer your injection?

There are 2 options for this MIGF menu: The light menu priced at RM160+ per person which comes without the Sarawak Laksa from set listed above. The Go Strong menu (full menu)  is priced at RM180+ per person (RM280+ with wine and beer pairing). This set menu is available through lunch and dinner and in both September and October.

Nook @ Aloft KL Sentral,
No 5 Jalan Stesen Sentral,
Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603 2723 1154
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AloftKualaLumpurSentral

Bijan Bar & Restaurant, Jalan Ceylon

I have heard about Bijan so many times and I remember it being nominated multiple times for Best Malay food in Timeout KL (voted Best Malay Food in the Time Out KL Food Awards 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012) but I’ve never had a chance to check it out until last week when a couple of friends came up from Singapore. Figured it would be a nice place to chill, we surely didn’t expect a roaring crowd on a Monday night. Turned out, there was a party going on but nevertheless I was impressed that it was that busy. With the reservation moved to a later time, we were seated at a nice table right next to the bar. At first glance, the decor is pretty well thought out, simple and minimalist with bits of bamboo blinds, “batik” designs, and few traditional antiques.

When it comes to Malay food, there’s often no elegance about it (much like Chinese home cooking), it’s all about comfort and familiar flavours, so when the website specified home-style cooking but the restaurant looks clearly setup for fine-dining; I couldn’t help but chuckled a little inside. Before we started I was secretly hoping the pretentiousness won’t translate to the dishes.

Unfortunately, the starters didn’t exactly wow us. Take this “Otak Otak” for example, presented to us in a “Western” soup mug.

Otak Otak RM12++
Otak Otak RM12++

Immediately, I thought that this would not be good because the top looked exposed and dry, and the traditional banana leaves method is supposed to keep the fish mousse (if you will) aromatic and moist. And my suspicion was right: It was bland, and I couldn’t bring myself to have a second bite. The bits of seafood didn’t help either. The bread on the side? Stale and tired looking and tasted horrible when paired with the Otak Otak. Let’s hope it doesn’t get worse from here.

Acar Tauhu RM12++
Acar Tauhu RM12++

Acar Tauhu was basically a dish of skewers of tofu cooked in coconut milk topped with Acar (unsure what style). The tofu itself was bland and I didn’t taste any hint of coconut but the acar made up for it. It was sweet, sour but to be honest not spicy enough for my palate. But at least this is a good vegan dish to cater for the vegetarians.

Appetizer Platter
Appetizer Platter

Here’s an appetizer platter that was not really that appetizing: Kepak Ayam Goreng (best dish on the platter, juicy fried chicken that was suffiently seasoned, but nothing out of the ordinary), Pulut Kuning Serunding (bland, the serunding didn’t even taste like beef), Popiah Goreng (pretty much vegetable spring roll, that was ok, at least Frank liked it), Cucur Udang (ordinary, not seasoned well enough). The chili they provided was pretty lackluster too.

Sup Ekor RM30
Sup Ekor RM30++

The Sup ekor (oxtail soup) was tasty enough, but it’s a little more Western than Malay. At least the oxtail was lovely and tender and I enjoyed the depth of flavours in the broth.

Luckily, they do their main dishes well. Starting with this Pucuk Paku Goreng Tahi Minyak (Umm….. tahi minyak? Does it mean leftover oil? I surely hope not!)

Pucuk Paku Goreng Tahi Minyak RM18++
Pucuk Paku Goreng Tahi Minyak RM18++

Here the paku pakis (wild fern) was topped with some succulent prawns. I enjoyed this dish tremendously, probably because it’s closest to the other variety of fern (Midin, only found in Sarawak too) which is still my favourite dish in Sarawak. There’s a nice wok breath to the dish and everything is seasoned perfectly with a hint of spice.

Masak Lemak Udang Tempoyak RM48++
Masak Lemak Udang Tempoyak RM48++

Imagine my surprise when I found out that this dish is cooked with fermented durian! Masak Lemak Udang Tempoyak is one of their signature dishes, and I have said many times that I will NEVER try tempoyak, ever! But I ate my words that night because this was actually an excellent dish. The strong aroma of the durian was tamed by the fermentation process and the sauce was creamy, sweet and savoury. Quite addictive, actually.

Opor Rusuk RM68
Opor Rusuk RM68++

Here comes a glorious serving of Bijan’s famous Opor Rusuk: Stewed beef ribs in spices, toasted coconut, gula melaka and coconut milk. Simply put, this was amazing! Tender fall-off-the-bone beef in a Rendang sauce; Can anything be better than this? Only problem is that there were so many dishes I couldn’t fit anymore beef in! Best dish of the night.

Ayam kampung Limau Purut RM38
Ayam kampung Limau Purut RM38++

Ayam kampung Limau Purut pales in comparison (quite literally too) to the previous dish but the kaffir lime leaves did liven up the dish. Although they could cut down the salt level a tad.

Nasi Ulam RM9++
Nasi Ulam RM9++

I have requested for Nasi Ulam because I just love the aromatic herbs mingling with the rice. There were some dried shrimps in it too, which gave a little umaminess to the rice. Pretty good.

Nasi Minyak RM7++
Nasi Minyak RM7++

The Nasi Minyak was done well, with hints of lemongrass, onion, garlic and shallots, went well with most of the main dishes.

Vegetarian Platter
Vegetarian Platter

We asked for something vegetarian friendly and this was a nice little platter to suit the non-meat eater. I didn’t get to taste any of it except the eggplant (how could I resist that!) but Frank the vegivore was in his little heaven with the vegetable curry. No complaint at all.

So after stuffing ourselves with the scrumptious main dishes, it was time for desserts! Frankly, I didn’t even have enough space in my stomach anymore. But I figured I must try out their famous desserts, so the first one presented to us was the Sago Gula Melaka:

Sago Pudding RM10++
Sago Pudding RM10++

This reminds me of the Sago pudding at Nosh with the elegant presentation, but unfortunately the taste was not as good. I might be biased because my dinner companions enjoyed this.

The next is a platter of sort with Coconut Ice cream, a shot of Gula melaka and Gula Melaka cake.

Dessert Platter
Dessert Platter

I must say that the coconut ice cream was really tasty and creamy without being overly sweet. The gula melaka was there for us to adjust the level of sweetness. Although half of my dinner companions didn’t enjoy the bitter aftertaste of the gula melaka: more for me! The cake was basically a plain cake baked with, you guessed it, Gula Melaka and you are meant to drizzle that same shot of syrup over if needed. It didn’t really wow us.

Last but not least, this chocolate beauty bestowed upon us.

Chocolate Durian Cake RM15++
Chocolate Durian Cake RM15++

I was admiring the beautiful chocolate ganache until I took a bite and opened my eyes super-wide. It was a Chocolate Durian Cake! Oh Gosh, second time I broke my rule on the same night. And the lethal combination of chocolate and durian had me reaching out for water for the fear of instant sore throat. The only bite I took was enough to appreciate the richness of the dessert. Durian lovers will definitely get food orgasms from this.

Overall, there were some hits and misses during the meal but I can still see why this restaurant has won multiple awards: The service was impeccable, the ambiance was great after the rowdy party guests left and there is a decent wine list. But one visit like this probably will break your bank, so reserve it for special occasion. Just don’t order the Otak Otak!

No 3 Jalan Ceylon
50200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel + 60320313575
Fax + 60320313576
Email: admin@bijanrestaurant.com
Open Mondays to Sundays 4:30pm to 11 pm.

Perak MFF: Kampar Beef Brisket Noodles

I have a thing for beef noodles soup. I think it’s great that every culture (and in Malaysia’s case, almost every region) have their own take on a beef soup recipe. Needless to say, I have a soft spot for a really good bowl of pho, but since we live in a country with so much to offer, I thought it’s only fair to give other types of beef noodles a go. So when Wendy put up her post for her copycat version of Onn Kee Beef Brisket Noodles in Kampar (head over to her blog to read all about Onn Kee’s beef noodles), I knew I had to try it. What was intriguing, too, was her method of express char siew oil (read on to find out). And for something so tasty and comforting, it really didn’t take much of an effort to make.

This time, I have gone for a totally different and time saving method and used my Philips Pressure Cooker for the soup. The original recipe calls for 4 hours of cooking time, which I wouldn’t have, but with my semi-new gagdet, I wanted to know if I can produce a similar results. So with just 45 minutes for the initial boil, then add seasoning and cook (with pressure) for further 15 minutes, the result was a piping bowl of soup, spicy, aromatic, with tender bits of beef and the daikon still keeping their shape. Fabulous!

Kampar Beef Brisket Noodles.
Kampar Beef Brisket Noodles.

Kampar Beef Brisket Noodles
Recipe by WendyinKK

600g beef brisket/flank cut (牛腩) and tendons (omited because I couldn’t find any)
300g Daikon (choose the long slender type, fat ones lack in flavour), peel and cut into chunks
2 Star Anise
2 inches Cinnamon Stick
1 small piece of Dried Tangerine Peel
10 pcs of White Peppercorn, cracked
20g Rock Sugar, adjust to taste
Salt to taste
Spring Onion, chopped

Add 2.5 litres of water, whole piece of brisket, daikon, and all the spices into the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 45 minutes. Release pressure then add sugar and salt, and pressure cook for further 15 minutes. Release pressure and keep warm until needed (the longer then better)

Fish out the brisket chunks, slice them and put it back into the pot.

Serve the beef brisket soup with a sprinkling of spring onions.

Mmmm, do not underestimate the healing power of this soup.
Mmmm, do not underestimate the healing power of this soup.

Express Cha Siu renderings
100g of very fat pork belly
1 heaped Tbsp of sugar
1 Tbsp of light soy sauce

Slice the fat pork belly thinly. Put in into the wok with 1 Tbsp of oil and slowly fry until it is very slightly golden. Add in sugar and light soy sauce and cook the belly until it turns dry and dark. Discard the belly bits and retain the renderings.

Dry Tossed Noodles

Loosen single portion fresh egg noodles/fresh wantan noodles. Put the noodles in a noodle strainer. Cook in boiling water for 15 seconds. Rinse it under running tap water. Blanch it again for another 15-30 seconds depending on the thickness of noodles. Put noodles in a plate. Top with 1 Tbsp of renderings, some dark caramel sauce (or dark soy sauce), light soy sauce according to taste. Toss the noodles. Garnish with some blanched baby bok choy or mustard green.

This plate of noodles is so aromatic from the char siew oil
Oooh….. come to mama!

Of course, you will probably be content with just regular pork lard for the noodles. For our muslim friends, a mix of shallot or sesame oil could suffice. But the char siew oil really gives it a little more ooomph.

Kampar Beef Brisket Noodles, done!
Kampar Beef Brisket Noodles, done!

This is a recipe I am going to keep for whenever I have my beef soup craving. Just add a few more spices, onions, ginger and it’ becomes a beef pho soup! By the way, as for any great soup, the flavours get better if you let it sit for longer (overnight is best). The great thing about cooking for one is that I get to enjoy this multiple times, hehe. I also gave a portion of the soup to Miss Poesy as she also has the same affection towards beef noodles. Thank you, Wendy, for this excellent recipe! I will need to hunt down some tendon and beef tripe for next time.

What’s your favourite type of Beef noodles?

I am submitting this to Malaysian Food Fest Perak Month hosted by WendyinKK of Table for 2 or more

Beef Rendang Penne

Couple of months ago I was the finalist for the Asian Food Channel’s Foodie Cook-Off, and the theme was “Raya Celebration”. Knowing I’m up against some contestants who would have been cooking Raya food all their lives, I didn’t want to go in with traditional Malay dish. Hence I was trying to go for the fusion direction.

There were a few ideas in my head: mainly to do with some sort of traditional flavours with western fusion and combining Beef Rendang with Pasta was one of them. But we only had 1 hour of cooking time, so that was out of the question. In the end I went for a Prawn “Ravioli” with Prawn Laksa “Bisque”. Though as expected I didn’t place in the competition as I really didn’t think my dishes through (the second dish we were to incorporate Kellog’s corn flakes…) with the limited time for practise (4 days). One day I shall do a proper post on that. But today let’s talk about the Rendang Pasta.

My dream kinda materialised when I had Lamb Rendang Penne at Nosh (check out the review here), as their version was everything I expected to be, just with a different protein. I’ve been wanting to recreate that at home since then. Seeing Alan putting up pictures of his Pulled Beef Rendang Pasta definitely gave me the final push. So off I went to buy some Penne pasta. There’s something about the robustness of the rendang pairing with al-dente Penne which is thicker in nature that really works for my palate. I’m sure any other pasta will work well too, but I think I’m just a little biased due to my personal preference.

Beef Rendang Penne
Beef Rendang Penne

I tried to get it as close to Nosh’s version as possible, though I have not used quite as much cream because I did find theirs a touch rich. Here’s my very simple recipe, and it only takes about 15 minutes (of course, that’s when there’s already some Beef Rendang lying around). Speaking of which, it’s better to use leftover because as you know, beef rendang tastes better if you leave it for the flavours to develop further.

Beef Rendang Penne

One Portion Beef Rendang (3-4 pieces of beef would be ample)
100g Penne Pasta (or however you like for one person)
50ml Cream
1 tablespoon Butter
50g Button Mushrooms, sliced
1 Kaffir Lime Leaf, shredded, saving half for garnish
Pinch of Chili Flakes

Cook Penne in salted water until al dente.

In a skillet, melt the butter and saute mushrooms until golden. Add cream, follow by beef rendang and half of the kaffir lime leaf. Once the beef rendang is fully heated up, carefully break the beef into smaller pieces. This whole process should take just over 10 minutes, which is exactly the time the penne needs. Once the pasta is ready, drain (reserving a little bit of the pasta water) and mix well with the sauce. Loosen it with pasta water if needed. Serve immediately and garnish with more Kaffir lime leaf and Chili Flakes.

By the way, if your beef rendang recipe already includes Kaffir lime leaf, you can just use it for garnish. Otherwise it would probably be too overpowering. As for the cream amount, it’s definitely up to you. I used just enough to loosen the sauce so it coats the pasta, but if you like it richer by all mean add more.

Alternatively, if you don’t have time to do the whole 3 hours for beef rendang, you can try using ready made paste. Brahim’s (blue packet) is a pretty food brand and I used to use this one when I was at Uni. You do need to cook it much longer than the packet’s direction until the beef is tender (around 1 1/2 hours).

Mmmmm.... I wish you can smell this right now. Actually I wish I could too, since I did this more than a week ago.
Ready to eat!

Mmmmm…. I wish you can smell this right now. Actually I wish I could too, since I did this more than a week ago. The tender beef and the chewy pasta are a perfect marriage. And the aroma from the spices met with cream and butter and produced fireworks! It was so seriously good, I wonder why I hadn’t done it with my batch of rendang last year. I might have an excuse to make this again soon though.

Want some?
Want some?

Makes me wonder what else would work. Alan did a very sexy looking plate of Spaghetti alla Laksa Pesto, maybe I should give that a go!

Have you had any fusion pasta dishes before?