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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Introducing Langkawi, Malaysia

 

The Danna - beachside luxury - Langkawi Malaysia

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Hop-On Hop-Off – Day and Night Tour in Kuala Lumpur

Langkawi – more than beaches

The Majestic Malacca, Malaysia

Peranakan in Malacca, Malaysia

Train2e@t - Kuala Lumpur by Danny Chen

 

Interview: Dr Wong Lai Sum

London restaurant review: Awana

London restaurant review: Rasa Sayang

London restaurant review: Satay House

Cookbook review: Authentic Recipes from Malaysia

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Travel Reviews
- Malaysia

On this page:

Introducing Langkawi, Malaysia

 

The Danna - beachside luxury - Langkawi Malaysia

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Hop-On Hop-Off – Day and Night Tour in Kuala Lumpur

Langkawi – more than beaches

The Majestic Malacca, Malaysia

Peranakan in Malacca, Malaysia

Train2e@t - Kuala Lumpur by Danny Chen

 

Interview: Dr Wong Lai Sum

London restaurant review: Awana

London restaurant review: Rasa Sayang

London restaurant review: Satay House

Cookbook review: Authentic Recipes from Malaysia


Introducing Langkawi, Malaysia

Malaysia Langkawi, or to give its official title, Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah – in Malay Langkawi Permata Kedah – is indeed a tropical paradise. Yes, that’s an oft-used term but an apt description of this floating gem.

Langkawi is, in fact, an archipelago of more than 100 islands in the Andaman Sea, 30 km off the mainland coast of north-western Malaysia. There are many suggestions for the origin of the name of the island but one of the most plausible is that it’s derived from the name ‘island of the reddish-brown eagle’ in Malay. There are still eagles here, making Langkawi a bird-spotter’s dream location.

The island was mentioned way back in history by Chinese traders and other travellers. In the 15th century it was known to Acehnese as Pulau Lada or Pepper Island. It was home to seafarers as well as pirates and fishermen.  In 1909 the islands, curiously, came under British rule under the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of that year. During the Second World War Siam, Later Thailand, took control briefly when Malaya was occupied by the Japanese. The British continued to rule until Malaya gained its independence in 1957.

Langkawi is blessed with more than 2,400 mm (94 in) of rain annually. That might not sound like great news for tourists but it’s that precipitation that makes the vegetation so green, and anyway that rain is still warm and rather refreshing. Langkawi has a dry season from December until February, while March to November is the long rainy season. August is the wettest month, when it normally sees more than 500 mm (20 in).

Malaysia Langkawi offers warm weather and exotic colour and is great value for money. I have found a couple of remarkable hotels of character that offer 5* service and great charm. The Meritus Pelangi Beach hotel is remarkable and has a view over white sand and blue sea. That strand makes a romantic setting for weddings: with tables decorated and chairs arranged, the lucky couple can tie the knot as the sun sets.

This hotel is memorable for its architecture. Its wooden construction and open main building is reminiscent of traditional structures in Malaysia. The guest accommodation is found in bungalows and 2-storey buildings around the grounds. The resort resembles a village in a lush and mature garden.

That aforementioned ocean is as warm as a bath although the attraction of the two sizable pools fringed by trees and umbrellas will always be enticing. The adult pool sports a bar and the well-appointed spa will also help to relax the fatigued sun-bather after a long day on a lounger.

Malaysia Food at Meritus Pelangi Beach Hotel is a must-visit. Breakfast is an unmissable event and tempting, with Western fare as well as local specialities such as Nasi Lemak which is a national dish. This is a hotel attracting international clientele but it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to sample Malay delights from morning till night.

It’s safe to leave the confines of the resort and wander along the main road to enjoy a little local retail therapy. There are numerous bars and casual cafés in which to relax and most of them are open till 11pm or midnight. But it’s the shopping that will keep you going back. Perhaps for that amber-coloured sarong or a couple of woven purses for the girls back home.

If your taste in 5* luxury follows the gleaming white and glossy marble route then I can highly recommend the Danna. This is polished, manicured and refined with every amenity. It boasts the largest pool on the island for those who are training for the Olympics, and rooms that are spacious and well-appointed. There is an inner courtyard garden and even a 3rd floor fish pond. The spa here offers all the usual treatments and is open till late in the evening.

Malaysia The Danna is also right on the beach with its dazzling white sand. Lounging capsules with soft cushions and a bit of shade will cocoon any reader of a good book while they dream of dinner in the large restaurant. It might be the evening for a barbecue, with the staff putting on a display of local dancing. Food here is a priority, from the champagne breakfast through to the Friday night buffet. An outside excursion might woo the visitor away for the day but nobody would want to miss dinner at the Danna, with a menu of both Western and Malaysian dishes.

Both The Meritus Pelangi Beach Hotel and The Danna offer the highest standards with service to match. The staff are helpful, happy and efficient. Their locations are convenient and there is a host of trips to enjoy for those seeking a little gentle adventure, if you can tear yourself away from the pool or the sea. Take a boat trip around the mangroves to see monkeys, snakes and bats or one can go for a dip in the freshwater lake called Pregnant Lady Lake. The island is a small and accessible area but there is plenty to entertain all the family.

Malaysia The Langkawi International Airport is one of 7 international airports in Malaysia and connects the island to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang and also Subang.

Learn more about Meritus Pelangi Beach here

Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa
Pantai Cenang
07000 Langkawi
Kedah Darul Aman
Malaysia

Phone: 60-4 952 8888
Fax: 60-4 952 8899

Reservations: resvn.pelangi@meritushotels.com

General Enquiries: pelangi@meritushotels.com

Learn more about The Danna here
The Danna Hotel
Telaga Harbour Park
 Pantai Kok
Langkawi
Malaysia

Phone: 604 959 3288
Email: info@thedanna.com

Singapore Airlines offers numerous flights and connections to Langkawi. Learn more here.

food and travel reviews

Langkawi – more than beaches

Langkawi - more than beaches This tropical gem has a deserved reputation for iconic, palm-fringed beaches, dazzling white sand and sea warm enough to call a bath. Langkawi is an island that charms and intrigues, and its story can be discovered not far from your sun-lounger.

The sea is very much part of life here. It has provided a living for the islanders from fishing, and now it presents a luxurious diversion for tourists. Naam Cruises is perhaps the foremost leisure and watersports company on the island and it prides itself on its excellent reputation for both service and safety. The company specialises in nature adventures and high-end excursions including a popular dinner cruise which rocks the guest into a state of pampered calm while watching the sun set over tiny islands and slowly-reddening sea.

The staff are attentive and professional and the food offered on these evening cruises is excellent. There are wines and beers as well as refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails and soft drinks. The boat is spacious and luxurious and can be hired for private events. The crew will be able to tell you tales and legends of local princesses and warriors, and point out natural features and wildlife. This would be an ideal away-day for a group of family or friends who can have a trip especially tailored to their needs. The boat can be hired for overnight stays as it boasts several sumptuous en-suite cabins.

Visit Naam Cruises here

Langkawi - more than beaches Dayang Bunting is the second largest island in Langkawi's archipelago of 100 or so islands. It has one of the region’s best-loved attractions and is visited by both locals and tourists alike. The meaning of the name Dayang Bunting is 'Island of Pregnant Lady'. But it’s the lake on the island that is the draw. It’s a large freshwater lake known as Lake Guillemard. It’s a hike to get to as it is surrounded by hills of dense rain forests.

Like all good islands this one has a legend. A man named Mat Teja fell in love with the Princess Mambang Sari when he met her by the lake. They eventually married and the princess gave birth to a son but he unfortunately died shortly after. They decided to lay their son in the lake to allow him a peaceful resting place. The grieving princess blessed all women having difficulty conceiving a child, praying that they would become fertile once they had immersed themselves in the magical waters of the lake. If one looks at the profile of the surrounding hills then one can see, exercising a little imagination, the silhouette of a reclining pregnant lady.

Visit here if you are reasonably fit and in no hurry. There are many steps so take your time and take some water. No alcohol is allowed and don’t take food as the ever-watchful monkeys will grab it along with your camera. This perhaps isn’t the excursion for the elderly or the very young as a baby buggy would never make it. But once there the cool waters will be refreshing. One can take a dip from the pontoon or can hire a pedalo and go exploring. This is a popular attraction but uncrowded, as there is plenty of space.
 
The lake and the surrounding area is part of the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park. This is one of the three geoparks of Langkawi with great limestone formations, marble outcrops and unique geological features. The park has several caves: in fact the lake itself has resulted from a large underwater cave, the roof of which collapsed and eventually filled with fresh water.
 
Learn more here

Langkawi - more than beaches There is a tour that I can highly recommend with one particular company, at least. Dev’s Adventure Tours with Naturalist Khirien Kamarudin are exceptional. Take the Mangrove boat trip and you will see another aspect of this tropical paradise. Khirien will conduct you through ancient caves and will talk about the bats, the snakes, lizards, fish and those ubiquitous monkeys. He has respect for the environment, which is sometimes lacking in his counterparts from less professional companies.

There is so much to see here. The running commentary is fascinating and the younger members of the party will enjoy bird-spotting. Those birds will doubtless include the local brown eagle which is thought to have given Langkawi its name – Island of the Brown Eagle in Malay. There are wild dogs running between the trees, snakes hanging from branches (out of reach of the boat) and more monkeys.

Dev’s Adventure Tours with Khirien Kamarudin should not be missed. Take just a morning away from the sun-kissed sand and take a look at another face of Langkawi. You will return home with more than a tan – you will have an understanding of the eco-system of a treasure of an island and the kids will be talking about it till your next trip – for a next trip there will surely be.

To learn more about Dev’s Adventure Tours visit here

I can highly recommend The Meritus Pelangi Beach Hotel and The Danna Hotel, as I have stayed in both. They offer the highest standards with service to match. Their locations are convenient and there is a host of trips to enjoy for those seeking a little gentle adventure, if you can tear yourself away from the pool or the sea.

Learn more about Meritus Pelangi Beach here

Langkawi - more than beaches Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa
Pantai Cenang
07000 Langkawi
Kedah Darul Aman
Malaysia
Phone: 60-4 952 8888
Fax: 60-4 952 8899
Reservations: resvn.pelangi@meritushotels.com
General Enquiries: pelangi@meritushotels.com

Learn more about The Danna here
The Danna Hotel
Telaga Harbour Park
 Pantai Kok
Langkawi
Malaysia
Phone: 604 959 3288
Email: info@thedanna.com

The Langkawi International Airport is one of 7 international airports in Malaysia and connects the island to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang and also Subang.

Singapore Airlines offers numerous flights and connections to Langkawi. Learn more here


food and travel reviews

The Danna - beachside luxury - Langkawi Malaysia

The Danna Langkawi, or to give its official title, Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah – in Malay Langkawi Permata Kedah – Is a tropical paradise. Its beaches are legendary, its skies mostly blue, and the sea is mesmerising. Nothing needed apart from a rather smart hotel. Well, who wants to sleep on a beach, however beautiful?

Langkawi is not just one island but a string of them - an archipelago of more than 100 islands and all set in the Andaman Sea. The mainland is just 30 km away but you will not be thinking about that when you are here. Langkawi, or ‘Island of the reddish-brown eagle’ in Malay, is hypnotic.

Langkawi has several outstanding hotels but perhaps the most iconic is The Danna with its well-deserved 5 stars. It’s located on Telaga Harbour and not far away from Burau Bay (or Teluk Burau) on the west coast of Langkawi Island. The Danna is only 15 minutes (11 km) away from Langkawi International Airport so there isn’t the prospect of a nasty, long and hot ride to get there. Your vacation will start almost as soon as your baggage leaves the carousel.

The Danna The Danna stands right next to Telaga Harbour which was built in the style of a Mediterranean seafront town on gleaming boats that wouldn’t be out of place in St. Tropez or Nice.

The Danna is sparkling white and with an entrance canopy that would put the most celebrated London hotels to shame. Its crisply uniformed staff welcome the guest with cooling drinks and soothing towels, while they check in seated on sofas in the spacious reception area.

Everything about The Danna is roomy. Public areas have well-spaced easy chairs in colonial rattan, or cushioned banquettes on which to lounge. Corridors are wide and open to the warm air of the verdant central courtyard. There is a fish pond, and trees bring the lush vegetation of the hotel grounds actually into the building. One might be on the 3rd floor but there is the perception that one is staying in a bungalow, albeit a very large white bungalow.

The Danna The Danna is polished, pruned, and preened to the highest of standards. If there was a 6th star then The Danna would have it in its firmament. The facilities are first class and it boasts the largest pool on the island, with multiple levels for the enjoyment of both splashers and lappers. It’s an infinity pool that seems to flow into the sea just beyond.

The beach here is pristine with white-blond sand. The sea is as warm as a bath and tempting for a dip on hot afternoons. There are plenty of loungers and shady pods in which to snuggle with a tall drink and a good book. One will likely spend the first couple of days just listening to gentle waves and summoning the energy to turn the page.

The Danna Hotel boasts 125 guest rooms and suites and all of them are well appointed. They have rich fabrics, dark wood, excellent views of sea or harbour. There might be a hint of old colonial times but there is every item of technology that any modern guest might want. If work isn’t far away then there are three high-tech meeting centres, ideal for business gatherings of any size.

The Danna So you have relaxed in the sun and slept in a sumptuous room and now you will be ready for food. Planters is the largest of several restaurants at The Danna and is on the ground floor, overlooking the swimming pool. It’s open every morning for a legendary champagne breakfast which will have guests lingering over both Asian and European items such as Chinese noodle soups and American doughnuts.

The ambiance changes for dinner. Lights are low and the restaurant is calm with menus being pored over and conversation turning from the day’s activities, or lack thereof, to the dishes on offer.  The menu presents a wide array of both Malaysian and European specialities but I can highly recommend the local selection. Try the Malay Platter that will give a taste of this vibrant cuisine. Everything is fresh and of the best quality.

The Danna Yes, Planters is rather formal on most nights but each week there is a barbecue buffet with a huge spread of dishes, both Eastern and Western, on which to graze. Entertainment on those evenings is provided by the staff. These young men and women dress in national and regional costumes and perform traditional dances to the delight of enthusiastic and camera-toting crowds.

Strait’s & Co. is a small casual restaurant located on the ground floor and is totally different. It’s colonial but in brighter tones with a floor of, possibly, Portuguese tiles and the ambiance of a tearoom. That’s perfectly apt as they really do offer afternoon tea here as well as snacks and light meals. This is the place to find a reviving cuppa and a cake.

The Verandah is stunning. It’s actually a lounge with elegantly high ceilings, pillars and a proper bar. This is, without a doubt, the spot for a pre-dinner cocktail or a pre-beddybys nightcap. There is a list of house cocktails here that are unmissable and at extremely reasonable prices. A few of them contain fruit so at least you can feel noble while enjoying some of the best drinks on the island.

The Spa here is popular and offers a comprehensive menu of treatments and therapies. The massages include Traditional Malay Urut (soft-tissue manipulation), Aromatherapy Massage and Traditional Balinese Massage. There are The Body Scrub Treatments and The Body Wrap Treatments, a Romantic Bath or Cleopatra's Milk Bath. There is Spa Care for Hands and Feet, along with Luxury Facial Treatments. All this isn’t just for the women of the party: there is also a Gentlemen's Facial and kid’s spa treatments too.

The Danna is one of the best hotels in Asia. It lacks nothing but shows a contemporary take on the best of colonial design, the most refined of local cuisine and an opportunity to unwind in the most comfortable of surroundings. Every aspect of The Danna is generous and memorable.


The Danna The Langkawi International Airport is one of 7 international airports in Malaysia and connects the island to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang and also Subang.

Learn more about The Danna here

The Danna Hotel
Telaga Harbour Park
Pantai Kok
Langkawi
Malaysia

Phone: 604 959 3288

Email: info@thedanna.com

Singapore Airlines offers numerous flights and connections to Langkawi. Learn more here


food and travel reviews

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Asian restaurant review Kuala Lumpur is a sometimes overlooked gem. It’s overshadowed by its glitzy cousin, Singapore, but this city has its own vibrancy and a unique character that deserves to be promoted. It’s not just a stop-over en route to some rather nice beaches, it can be an exciting and exotic destination in its own right.

It’s the federal capital and most populous city in Malaysia with an area of 243 sprawling square kilometres (94 sq mi) and has an estimated population of 1.6 million. It’s the official residence of the Malaysian King and has played host to many international, sporting and cultural events over the years including the Commonwealth Games and the Formula One Grand Prix. Even those of us who have not the slightest interest in excellence on the track for either man or machine will surely know that Kuala Lumpur is home to the spectacular Petronas Twin Towers.

The ground floor entrance to the Grand Hyatt is imposing, spacious and airy and what one would hope for in this standard of Asian hotel. Its sweeping staircase, pond and a crescent-shaped sculpture which is symbolic of Brunei and Malaysia, is the centrepiece. A circular coloured glass art feature inscribed with a classic welcoming verse from the Quran, “A thousand dinar,” stands near the entrance to the ground floor restaurant.

Asian restaurant review Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur is a 39-storey hotel that officially opened on August 24, 2012. Its location is superb in every regard. Those towers decorate the view in the most impressive fashion from the hotel lobby - that is the Sky lobby for check-in, on the top floor. One has a sense of height and space when one looks towards the towers.

This well-appointed hotel has spacious accommodation that includes 370 regular rooms and 42 suites. Those suites are remarkable in both style and facilities, and equal, in this traveller’s opinion, to the best you will find anywhere. The floor-to-ceiling windows give views over the city or to the Towers, making the panorama quite memorable when appreciated from the vantage point of a roomy, round, marble bathtub. It’s a pampering and sensual experience.

The hotel is aware that many of its guests must work. Its proximity to the Convention Centre assures many business visitors who would, doubtless, much rather be lounging in the bath-with-a-view than working. The desk is substantial with every connection for entertainment and communication that a budding executive might need.

Asian restaurant review Kuala Lumpur has a wealth of dining options and luckily one of the best can be found on the ground floor of this very hotel. JP teres showcases the most iconic of Malaysian dishes in a contemporary restaurant and terrace. The open kitchen adds to the atmosphere, which attracts both hotel guests and locals alike.

JP teres features some of the most traditional of Malaysian dishes. There are both indoor and outdoor dining areas set amongst lush greenery and trickling water. The ambiance is tranquil and cool but the food is vibrant and exotic.

I love Asian food in general and I find that Malaysian cuisine offers so much that is exciting in this culinary region. The food ranges from the spicy and addictive to the mild and comforting. Desserts are not forgotten and they take advantage of local ingredients to produce confections that will gladden the heart of anyone with a sweet craving.

Samosa - Potato, peas, Indian spices are familiar to every lover of Indian food but they are a popular snack or starter in Malaysia, which is a country of ethnic diversity, and that has added to the complexity of cuisine and breadth of dishes on offer. Indian food is well represented at JP teres, which has an imported tandoor, and the Chef de Cuisine Azman Ahmad, although a local lad, draws upon his sub-continental heritage.

Asian restaurant review Pilihan aneka satay - barbecued skewers – must be the national dish. In Malaysia those flavourful kebabs are served with cucumber, onion and compressed rice cake, along with the peanut sauce.

Otak otak is one of my favourite dishes from the Malay peninsula. It’s a peranakan dish and is made by mixing fish paste (most often mackerel) with spices. The resulting fish mousse is usually wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked. It’s a must-try for any visitor.
 
Curry laksa - Yellow noodles, tofu, shrimp, fishcake, beansprouts, mint and chicken in a curry broth is a classic and ubiquitous dish …and moreish.

Nasi lemak – Coconut rice, fried chicken, egg, crispy whitebait, cucumber, peanuts, sambal – is a leaf-wrapped parcel that is often consumed for breakfast but is popular at any time of the day

Murgh makhani – tandoor-oven roasted chicken, tomato and kashmiri chilli – is a dish from India and is one of the most popular across the globe.

Rendang daging - Braised beef, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric leaf, spices and coconut combine to make one of the most delightful dishes in the region. The meat is cooked to tender perfection in an aromatic sauce.

Asian restaurant review Carrot cake - White radish, shrimp, chilli paste, pickled vegetables, sweet soy sauce make this unique dish. That white radish is in fact mooli or dikon that cooks with rice flour to give a type of vegetable pasta. Don’t miss this one.

Pandan Chiffon Cake is beautifully impressive. It has the texture of an American Angel Food Cake but that pandan is the key ingredient. It’s a leaf that is used extensively in this region and it gives an unmistakable flavour and colour. A light cake to enjoy with a cup of tea.

Chendol is a refreshing dessert of shaved ice, coconut milk, pandan jelly and gula melaka (palm sugar). I find this far lighter than regular ice cream and it’s difficult to replicate at home as the ice shavings are very fine, so try it here. The gula melaka is an essential part of the dessert and brings an almost caramel sweetness.

Pineapple tarts – bite-size shortbread-style cookies (biscuits) that are topped with pineapple jam. The fruit is cooked down to a soft paste with a golden hue, with a sweet and mellow flavour.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur offers accessible luxury laced with Asian charm and attention to detail. The staff are professional and friendly and will make any weary traveller feel at home. The hotel location makes this one of the world’s greats.

Asian restaurant review JP teres
Hours:
Daily, 11:30am – 11:00pm

Reservation:
For more information phone: +60 3 2182 1234 extension 2333
or email jpteres.kuagh@hyatt.com  

Dress: Smart casual

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
12 Jalan Pinang
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia, 50450

Phone: +60 3 2182 1234
Fax: +60 3 2182 1288
Email: kualalumpur.grand@hyatt.com
Visit Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur here

For more information on Malaysian holidays visit Malaysia Airlines Deals hereasian restaurant review

For flights to Malaysia visit Malaysia Airlines here



food and travel reviews

Dr Wong Lai Sum, CEO, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation

Food and partnership – a recipe for success

Malaysia Night: Trafalgar Square, Friday 4th October, noon – 10pm

Malaysia Night has become an eagerly anticipated event for Londoners who crave the distinctive flavours of that peninsular. It attracts locals, tourists and even Malaysians who support this delicious initiative. We met Dr Wong Lai Sum, CEO, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation, who took a brief pause to talk to us about this fascinating and gentle land that has an increasingly elevated standing in the Asian arena of trade, technological manufacture, and food and tourism.

Malaysian food Dr Wong is a diminutive dynamo of energy and enthusiasm for the promotion of all things Malaysian. “My visit to the UK is timed to coincide with the Malaysia Night event in Trafalgar Square on Friday 4th October. This is the fourth time we have held this and we are pleased to have this ‘night out’ with our friends from Great Britain. It is for us a very engaging platform – people can meet and get to know one another better, through our cuisine. Both our Prime Ministers are enthusiastic about increasing trade between our countries and we share such a long history that we decided to carry on that tradition and remain close to one another, and that’s one of the reasons that we are having the Malaysia Night. It is of great strategic importance: if you look across all the events planned by Malaysian agencies and ministries I think the UK ranks very highly. It’s an investment on our part and we would like to see it grow.

“At this time of the year there are an amazing number of visitors in the UK, and this is one reason why we are holding the Malaysia Night just now: to invite tourists visiting Britain to come and visit us. People cannot possibly collaborate and do business and become friends if they do not begin with partnerships, and that is what we are trying to build. If you want to know what this night is about, it’s about building linkages, providing that platform for people to see that the country has diversity and racial harmony; we are very friendly, and we love inviting our friends to Malaysia. The airlines have been invited to be a part of it, and the restaurants are there so even if you can’t go to Malaysia you can take a bite of Malaysia here in London.

“If I’m asked to describe the cuisine of Malaysia, I say it’s three cultures in one mouthful – Malay, Indian and Chinese! It’s pretty simple, and in that sense we offer great value. Why did we choose food? If you have a good mind experience and stomach experience in a particular place your palate is overwhelmed and you become enamoured of that country, and you want to be a part of it.

“Yesterday we had lunch at Selfridges, and on the menu was Malay Curry, Char Kuey Teow, Malaysian Curry Laksa, and Nasi Goreng, and I think that demonstrates Malaysian cuisine coming into maturity. I would like to flood your whole market with Malaysian restaurants, but that is not going to be the way to get people to eat Malaysian. The idea is developing relationships, getting people to bring home a piece of Malaysia. People want to eat Malaysia – instead of ‘chicken tonight’ it could be ‘Malaysia tonight’. Why roast turkey in the traditional way when you can serve it at Christmas the Malaysian way?

Malaysian food “We want to generate a taste for Malaysian cuisine so you can embrace it, and now you can find those flavours all over the UK in supermarkets. When I first went to Wing Yip’s there were a few pastes and sauces from Malaysia, but now there are rows of products, and I was really pleased by the fact that these actually sold, and people really came to buy them! These and non-food products are now available online through Amazon, and Wing Yip’s are looking at selling them online – that’s ‘making it in the market’. We hope that when people keep seeing the word ‘Malaysia’ they will come and visit us, come and do business with us.

“We involved the restaurants in the Malaysia Night event because before you can get people to cook Malaysian they have to know how it tastes. Not everybody cooks, and they need to get a mouthful of what we are about, and that’s an opportunity to get it. Social media has been active in promoting the event, and that’s the way to get people engaged.

“Food is everywhere – Malaysians just love to eat! You can stay at a 5-star international hotel in Malaysia for a song – we are among the lowest price in South-east Asia but our service is top-class. At the same time we are able to cater to your western palate, even if you want a shepherd’s pie – but you might have to take it with a twist!” We all laugh at that prospect.

“There are lots of visitors who come from Europe to Malaysia every year and we would like to encourage people to spend the coldest months in our country. At the same time we have plenty of people who come from Malaysia to London at Christmas, we love Christmas in London – it’s not just one-way traffic. That helps us all to draw closer together.

“Malaysian companies are fairly well invested in the hospitality industry in the UK, and we link it with food and cuisine. We have a knack of producing great confectionery – we don’t have your quality of milk, but we buy milk from Europe and we produce great chocolates! We make very good quality cocoa, and we manufacture very good cocoa butter – some of the cocoa butter available in the UK comes from Malaysia, and is used in skin-care as well as food applications.

“There is some Malaysian food that comes into the UK in the form of ingredients that many people are not aware of. For example, palm oil: our palm oil often comes in as speciality fats – some is used for cooking but a lot is used in pastries and confectionery. We invest here, and we seek investment from British companies into Malaysia, levering on the fact that we are right in the heart of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) – we are smack in the middle of that area!”

On my last visit to Malaysia I had the chance to taste many Peranakan dishes and these are unique to the Malay peninsula. Dr Wong told me more about this extraordinary community and their vibrant food. “When the Chinese first came from the Fujian province in around the 15th century, there were a lot of intermarriages (because people get lonely!). One of the Chinese emissaries was Princess Hang Li Poh, and to get diplomatic relations going in those days people got married! Very uniquely the Peranakans do not speak Chinese; they adapted to the local culture and speak Malay. They dress in a unique way, and have effectively married the two cultures together. So in their cuisine you get the hot, the spicy, the sour, and, interestingly, the Chinese aspects too! And the pottery in which it is served is very much Chinese; however, the cooking is rather Malay mixed with Chinese. In a way it’s fusion, but it came about in the 15th century.”

Malaysian food Malaysia has coast and farmland and provides fresh produce for many other countries; but is there a difference is cuisine from region to region? “Absolutely. For example on the east coast there is a dish called Nasi Dadang – trade rice – so-called because the traders used to carry it on their journeys. The people of the east coast were mostly fishermen, and they would preserve the fish by deep-frying and pounding it, mixing it with rice, blue colouring from flowers, and fragrant herbs. As you move further down the coast to Pahang the colour changes – it is no longer blue but white. Take Assam Laksa or Penang Laksa: if you go south to Johor the original noodles were not available so they use flat cut noodles and cook it with coconut and fish.”

I was in Malaysia a few months ago, and I noted on my return to the UK that it seemed to be referred to as ‘that country next to Singapore’ – no, Malaysia is Malaysia. Singapore is sometimes seen as a polished gem but Malaysia is that hidden one! Hidden in plain view and it should not be overlooked. It’s a country of such natural beauty and with such cultural and gastronomic diversity. It’s a warm and welcoming haven for those who want to enjoy some of the best that Asia has to offer, and all in one country.

Dr Wong flies the Malaysian flag for food tourism and much more. “We not only want to promote Malaysia as a stopover, but also as a great place to do business – in and with. For a long time people described Malaysia as ‘that land-mass between Thailand and Singapore’, but over time, as people come to know Malaysia better, they recognise our strengths: many people speak English, so there are no difficulties with communication; there’s no problem of training the work force; we have more land available than some other ASEAN countries; looking at services, we are quite strong in banking, in logistics and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). Malaysia has special qualities, and we are not just that ‘land-mass’.

“Other agencies and ministries like the Ministry of Tourism are organising a number of events. The Ministry of Culture organised ‘Malaysia Culture Week’, then there is Malaysia Night, and then there will be a whole month of art shows. This is about building links, because only when people understand how rich each other’s culture is can they start digging deeper. We have capabilities in Malaysia to produce even equipment for the aerospace industry – there’s a lot of interest from British companies to come over and invest in Malaysian aerospace, and we encourage that. The market today is not just about the United Kingdom, nor Europe, it’s about the whole Asia-Pacific, and the whole world.”


food and travel reviews

Majestic Malacca

asian restaurant review Tourists are creatures of habit. They tend to stick to the familiar and that is very much the case in Malaysia. There are fabulous beaches and the city lights of the capital, but there is charm and history waiting to be discovered in Malacca and it’s only a few hours drive from Kuala Lumpur.

According to 16th century Malay historians, the city was founded by Parameswara, a Palembang prince who, fleeing from his Japanese enemies, eventually found himself on the west coast of the Malay peninsula. While hunting near the mouth of a river called Bertam, he rested under a tree and spotted a white mouse-deer. This timid animal kicked one of his hunting dogs which fell into the river. The prince was so impressed by the deer's brave attack that he decided to build a new city on the banks of the river. He asked one of his servants the name of the tree under which he was standing and was told that the tree was called Malaka.  Parameswara named his city after the tree.

By the first decade of the 16th century Malacca was a noteworthy international seaport and a centre for the trade of silks and spices from both China and India, and this inevitably attracted the attention of foreign powers. The Portuguese under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque arrived first in the early 1500s and after taking the city by force he constructed the massive fortification of A Famosa on the coast to deter any future counter-attacks. A small part of the fort can still be seen today, although it’s now a little further away from the sea due to modern land reclamation.

asian restaurant reviwiew A Famosa remained until 1641, when the Dutch invaded Malacca after an eight-month siege which left the city in ruins. They rebuilt it over the following 150 years but in 1795 Holland was captured by French Revolutionary armies and they handed Malacca over to the British to avoid its capture by the non-revolutionary French forces. Malacca changed hands several times over the following years due to its strategic location, but from 1826 the city was ruled by the East India Company. It was, along with the rest of the peninsula, occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. Independence from the British government was not achieved until 1957 with a proclamation of independence by His Highness Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Malaysia's first Prime Minister.

Chinese, British, Portuguese, Dutch, Thai and Arabs have come to trade or invade over the previous centuries and each one of them has left their distinctive mark on Malacca. It is considered Malaysia's most historically significant city and it’s easy to see why. The rendered walls, painted doors and windows, tiled roofs combine to give a very particular ambiance. It’s a living and energetic city but there are those charming architectural features that remain, allowing the visitor to take a peek at the past.

The Majestic Hotel in Malacca provides all that the discerning traveller might want. It’s unique and nothing like the usual 5* hotel which although well-appointed will have a degree of familiar sameness – yes, very comforting but one might awake wondering if this is Brussels …or Bratislava, as the drapes are the same. No, The Majestic is bespoke, polished and full of local character.

Asian restaurant review The imposing frontage of The Majestic hints at the quality and style within. Its painted shutters and shady veranda hark back to a gentler time of rubber plantations and unabashed style. The original section of the hotel was built in the 1920s as a private home and only later became a hotel. It was purchased by YTL Hotels in 2007 and reopened as The Majestic we see today with its 15-floor extension creating 52 sumptuous rooms and suites.

The ground-floor reception and bar offer dark wood and tiled floors which are original. It’s the attention to detail in the public spaces that points to the accessible luxury throughout the hotel. Jars of local sweets and treats tempt the visitor to linger but more awaits in your room.

Dark wood and swathes of silk fabrics help to create an exotic nest for the guest. Bathrooms are big here in every regard. Claw-foot roll-top baths partner spacious showers, and those facilities become part of the bedroom when the wall shutters are slid back. Rooms at the Majestic are designed for those who expect and appreciate the best.

Asian restaurant review But tourist cannot live by unadulterated in-room pampering alone. There is also a celebrated spa for those who can drag themselves away from charming private opulence, and a restaurant that should be on the list of must-experience culinary delights to be enjoyed by hotel guests and Malacca residents alike.

Chef CK Pow presents a Nyoya or Peranakan menu and its dishes are memorable. One can dine, or one can learn at one of the regular cooking classes. The dining room is beautifully appointed and the perfect spot in which to sample some of the iconic dishes of Asia’s original fusion cuisine. It’s a tasteful melange of Chinese and Malay spice palates: Pie Tee are crunchy pastry shells filled with vegetables and shrimps – they make a popular Peranakan starter. The Laksa in Malacca is unlike the more common Malaysian varieties as it’s a coconut curry-base with fish cakes. Kuih are Peranakan cakes or desserts and are a must-try; Onde Onde are rice dough balls filled with liquid palm sugar and coated in coconut shreds. Bright blue Pulut Tai Tai are delicious sweets, and isn’t blue food novel?

Asian restaurant review The Majestic Hotel in Malacca is a diminutive resort in its own right. There is a small library for those solitary sorts who relish the quiet of that veranda out front. There is a pool for cooling dips on sultry afternoons, a gym to work off those Kuih, and don’t forget that spa for recovery after the gym. This hotel has polish and panache but it remains cosy with the lingering ambiance of the original home.  The Majestic Hotel is a destination within a destination. Don’t miss either.

The Majestic Malacca
188 Jalan Bunga Raya
75100 Malacca
Malaysia

Visit The Majestic Hotel here


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food and travel reviews

Train2e@t Local Foodbook - Kuala Lumpur by Danny Chen

asian restaurant review Danny Chen is the author of this small yet deliciously stuffed book. He is the complete modern man, being a lover not only of Malaysian cuisine but of music and travel too, and well placed to pen a volume that considers one of the best things in life: Food.

Danny isn’t a full-time food writer although he is evidently a full-time eater. It’s the Malaysian national hobby which is practised to perfection at least five times each day. People talk about lunch at breakfast. They ponder dinner at lunch, and then there are those other between-meal meals.

Malaysian street food is fast food.  That expression will lead my dear reader to assume that the roads of Kuala Lumpur are lined with pizza parlours and burger joints. Well, they are creeping in and it’s a mystery why. Fast food here is the traditional street food that is made while the drooling diner waits, or is already in a steaming pot ready to be served. Now that is surely faster than that Western ‘fast-food’ for which one will queue to order, queue to pay, and leave after only moments, having chewed an insubstantial and iffy patty which lacks flavour, cultural context and pertinence outside the land of its inception.

Kuala Lumpur has thousands of restaurants and street stalls selling food to the local population who appreciate a cuisine as diverse as those who seek it. Every resident will have his favourite spot for a soup noodle dish, his preferred stall for fried tofu, and a restaurant which he believes sells the best rice dish.

Danny Chen gives the food lover, be they Malaysian or visiting tourist, an overview of some of the most iconic, tempting and economic dishes to be found in the city, and the element that links all these plates is the transport system. Danny has selected eateries that are within a kilometre of a station. There is an Integrated Train System map at the front of the book to enable the hungry to plan both meal and method of getting to it.

asian restaurant review Kuala Lumpur offers vibrant foods that reflect the cultural mix of those living in the city. Train2e@t Local Foodbook will encourage locals to try some restaurants and stalls with which they might not be familiar, and it’s surely going to become the must-read guide for the visitor. More accurately it’s the must-carry guide for any tourist who wants to immerse himself in traditional culture. Remember those aforementioned 5 meals per day.

I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with this charming and culinarily passionate writer who took me on a mini grazing marathon. There is a world of traditional Asian dishes in Malaysia and it seems we made an effort to sample an embarrassing wealth of them. Every nation who has had even a passing relationship with this peninsula has left its mark. Along with Malay there are Chinese specialities and Indian curries, amongst others.

We stroll through the thronging Chinatown and pass stalls selling ‘designer-label’ handbags along with the usual array of tourist kitchery, but we were on a mission and heading for Madras Lane. The official name of the street is Jalan Sultan but Madras Lane is the name by which it’s known, and is said to pay homage to the Madras Cinema which burnt down in 1978. In typical Malaysian fashion, the Madras showed Chinese films to a Malaysian audience.

Madras Lane can be intimidating with its cramped tables and novel dining etiquette. Danny says that it’s important to pick a stall for one’s food and then find its associated tables, as there are rules about sitting in the correct zone.

asian restaurant review We sample assam laksa which  is a sour, fish-based soup and was listed at number 7 on the World's 50 Most Delicious Foods complied by CNN Go in 2011. Assam is the Malay word for tamarind which is a common souring ingredient in Indian recipes. It was used to great advantage here to give rich sharpness. Next was the more usual Curry Laksa which has a creamy coconut stock base. We also enjoyed rice noodles and stuffed tofu. With each dish Danny gave information about origin and ingredients.

The meal was hot and spicy so a refreshing drink was in order. Danny suggests Petaling Street market in Chinatown for a mug of Air Mata Kucing. This is a traditional Malaysian drink and the name translates literally as "Tears of the Cat's Eyes" as the leaves of this tree seem to glow in the dark. You may know the fruit as a Longan which is related to the lychee. Dried longans are boiled with rock sugar to produce a sweet liquid looking like black brewed tea. Unmissable.

Our next stop introduced us to Indian food in Malaysia. It’s exactly like Indian food in India and Anuja restaurant made no concessions to Europeans. No silverware here …and no plates. Restoran Anuja, in Jalan Pudu, is a 2-storey restaurant and those in the know will head upstairs to enjoy air-conditioning. It’s famed for its banana leaf rice. The leaf is in fact your plate and it’s a substantial swath of green to accommodate an equally copious spread of biryani with eggs, side dishes, sauces, chutneys and piping hot fried fish. There was also moist and flavourful fried chicken along with papadoms and naan bread. The restaurant is casual but the standard of food was as good as one would find in any restaurant sporting the usual complement of forks and crockery. Delightful.

Yes, I was spoilt by having Danny Chen as a guide but anyone can buy his book and it’s worth the investment. You will find the best examples of remarkable dishes; you will eat with locals; you will eat like locals; and will doubtless be planning your stay to encompass as many of the gastronomic attractions of Kuala Lumpur as the historic variety. This is a colourful, informative and exciting book for anyone who considers eating as important as breathing.

Train2e@t Local Foodbook - Kuala Lumpur by Danny Chen is available here

food and travel reviews

Hop-On Hop-Off – Day and Night Tour in Kuala Lumpur

asian restaurant reviews This city makes an ideal stop-over for long-haul passengers heading for Australia or New Zealand, although Malaysia has enough to delight, tempt and inspire those who want a longer visit. Malaysia does indeed have those tropical beaches, but it offers more.

One can miss so much without a guide, but walking tours take time and might not be appealing in hot weather …and it’s liable to be hot weather in Kuala Lumpur. But a bus tour will give the visitor an overview and will cover the most celebrated attractions. Hop-On Hop-Off Day and Night Tours are unique, comfortable and give that aforementioned overview, and some of those sites visited are actually shown to best advantage after dark.

The Hop-On Hop-Off service has a regular circular route that allows tourists to start the tour at any point and end at the same place. The route passes around three dozen local attractions with 22 designated stops.

Tickets can be purchased on the distinctive double-deck buses, from authorized agents and, conveniently, on-line. They offer a flexible "hop on, hop off" service which allows the passengers to alight at any of the stops to see sites in more detail, or they can stay on the bus for the whole circuit. Tickets are valid for either 24 hours or 48 hours allowing passengers to set a relaxed pace but still see plenty of this city.

asian restaurant review The Hop-On Hop-Off service has a pre-recorded commentary on headsets in nine languages (Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, Hindi, Tamil, Arabic, Japanese, French and Spanish).  There is a driver and a tour assistant on each bus to help passengers during the trip. They are both local and will be able to answer any questions.

There is a Customer Service Centre for the Hop-On Hop-Off tours at Malaysia Tourism Information Centre (Jalan Ampang), Bukit Bintang, KL Sentral (arrival hall) and Central Market, and there is also a toll-free info-line at 1-800-88-5546.

Some highlights:

Chinatown

Petaling Street is the main thoroughfare for Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.  It’s vibrant and exciting with stalls selling food and tourist souvenirs but you will likely be there for a bargain handbag. Note that a designer label at a low price is liable to be a knock-off, so beware. Stick to a non-label with a nifty design and you might just get a bargain. You will be expected to haggle!

Sri Mahamariaman Temple

The Hindu temple is striking and is, surprisingly, found in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.  It was built in 1873 and is considered the most impressively detailed Hindu temple in Malaysia. Its entrance is bedecked with ornate sculptures of Hindu gods and its floors and walls are covered in coloured tiles.

Petronas Twin Towersasian restaurant revew

Also known as the Petronas Towers or Twin Towers, whatever you call them there is no argument that they dominate the Kuala Lumpur skyline. They were the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004 but they are also masterpieces of design. Tower 1 was built by Hazama Corporation of Japan and Tower 2 by the South Korean multinational Samsung Engineering & Construction. Rising to 451.9 metres, the 88-storey building is said to be inspired by Tun Mahathir Mohamad's vision for Malaysia as a global power. The Skybridge connecting the towers is the world's highest 2-storey bridge.

Batu Caves and Lord Muragan Hindu Temple

The Hop-On Hop-Off offers a night tour that will allow the visitor to see The Lord Muragan Hindu Temple at, in my opinion, its most magnificent. The Batu Caves and the temple are found in the Gombak district, 13 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. The caves take their name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill.

The Batu Caves are set in limestone rock riddled with caves. The main Batu Cave is known as the Cathedral Cave and is reached by a steep flight of nearly 300 steps. This isn’t a climb to be undertaken by anyone with health issues or those with vertigo. During daylight hours the steps are invaded by macaque monkeys who will terrorise anyone carrying food.

The top of the stairs opens into a huge cave with a high vaulted ceiling. The cave serves as a Hindu Temple devoted to Lord Muragan, the Hindu God of war and victory, who is a popular deity among Hindus, and is worshipped primarily in areas with Tamil communities. At the foot of the stairs there is a 42-metre high golden statue of the god. This is the tallest statue of any Hindu deity in Malaysia and second only to the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal. This Malaysian giant took 3 years to build and was unveiled in January 2006. It’s mystical at night when it is illuminated in all its gleaming splendour: it is covered with 300 litres of gold paint!

Kuala Lumpur City Galleryasian restaurant review

Located in a 114-year-old building, this is a must-see for anyone who wants to know all about Kuala Lumpur, its history and its future! The souvenir shop has a selection of marvellously crafted wooden pictures, screens and other enticing gifts.

Satay Station

You will likely want ether a snack or a sustaining meal during your tour of Kuala Lumpur. The Hop-On Hop-Off stops at Satay Station where you will find the national speciality and it’s cooked on glowing embers at the front of the restaurant. You will be served with your choice of either chicken or beef satay and its associated peanut-based sauce, and these will be served with the traditional garnish of compressed rice cake, cucumber and onion. There are also hearty noodle dishes and soft drinks. If you visit from the Night Hop-On Hop-Off tour you might even be serenaded by local musicians playing traditional Malaysian songs. You might not be able to join in but you will be charmed.

Hop-On Hop-Off will teach you about the history, culture, food and religions of this diverse country. You will cover more ground by bus than on foot, you won’t get lost and the guide will give you information not found in guide books. The staff are well-informed and enthusiastic so sit back, relax, listen the commentary and watch Kuala Lumpur unfold before you.

Visit Hop-On Hop-Off here

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food and travel reviews

Peranakan in Malacca, Malaysia

Asian restaurant review In the 15th century some city-states on the Malay Peninsula paid taxes to China and Siam, now Thailand. There is a legend that the Emperor of China sent a princess, Hang Li Po, to the Sultan of Malacca as a token of appreciation for his tribute. The 500 nobles and their servants who accompanied the princess eventually married local girls, and their descendants became “Straits-Chinese” or Peranakans.

You might think you know nothing of this unique culture, but Peranakan ladies have inspired the striking, beautiful and iconic costume worn by Malaysia Airlines staff that is loosely, or more accurately, tightly, based on the Peranakan kebaya. The traditional dress for Peranakan women is a long skirt adapted from the Malays’ batik sarong, with a chiffon embroidered blouse called a kebaya. These gorgeous creations are enhanced still further by the traditional three fastening brooches called kerosang. The costume is completed by a pair of intricately beaded slippers called kasot manek. These were originally made by sewing Bohemian glass beads onto canvas-topped shoes. The designs tended to be floral and reflected the patterns found in the colourful Peranakan dinner services and tea sets.

Malaysians and Indonesians use the word ‘Peranakan’, meaning descendant, followed by a qualifying indication of ethnicity, such as Cina for Chinese, and Belanda for Dutch, the term referring to the origins of someone’s great-grandparents or ancestors even further back than that. Female Straits-Chinese descendants were called nyonyas. The word nyonya or nonya comes from Javanese and is thought to be a corruption of the word ‘donha’, the Portuguese for lady. Baba is a Persian word borrowed by Malay speakers as a respectful name for grandparents. The term is thought to originate with Hindi-speaking traders.

Baba Nyonya heritage is celebrated at the private museum, called the Peranakan Museum, run by the Babas and Nyonyas of Malacca. This traditional 19th century Peranakan house is located along Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. The building shows some of the typical elements of a Peranakan house: it’s a long house as properties were taxed by width, and has an interior courtyard which allows both light and refreshing rain into a home that would otherwise be rather gloomy.

Asian restaurant review From the Malay and Chinese influence Nyonya cuisine has developed, and it’s becoming more popular as food-lovers search for regional or speciality dishes. There is too much exciting food in Malaysia to even consider a burger or even the ever-popular fried chicken on your visit, and it’s unlikely you’ll find Peranakan dishes outside the Peninsula.  Peranakan cuisine takes advantage of a larder of regional spices, and a battery of unique dishes has evolved to entice and intrigue the diner – they range from the mild and comforting to the spicy and complex. The visitor might have had Peranakan food in Singapore and that is also authentic, but the Peranakan food in Malaysia is said to be hotter.

Laksa Lemak – rice noodles in coconut sauce – is a popular dish in Malaysia with each restaurant offering its own interpretation. Ayam Buah Keluak – Chicken with Keluak nuts – Is one of the most famous Peranakan dishes. It’s delicious but needs to be prepared by professionals: the seeds contain hydrogen cyanide and are poisonous if consumed without proper processing. The nuts are boiled and buried in ash and banana leaves and covered with earth for more than a month. They change colour from a creamy white to dark brown or black; the hydrogen cyanide released by the boiling and fermentation is washed away with fresh water. The result when cooked is a nutty-sweet preparation which is often returned to its shell for final presentation. Ayam Buah Keluak is thought by many Peranakan food aficionados to be the characteristic expression of how well a chef has mastered the Peranakan culinary arts.

Nyonya cooking in the home has been in decline over the last several decades. It’s not lack of regard for the epicurean heritage but more the constraints of modern life.  Long marinating of meats and seafood before cooking, and the time-consuming preparation of spice mixes make some of these dishes appropriate only for celebrations these days. Here is a delicious and vibrant fish recipe that uses easily found  ingredients. This is a spicy dish but one could cut down the number of chillies for a milder flavour. Other fish could be used but be sure to choose a fish with firm flesh so that it doesn’t disintegrate in the sauce.

Assam Pedas Mackerel

Ingredients:

500g mackerel, in fillets

15g shallots

8 dried chillies soaked in water

2 cloves garlic

1 stalk lemongrass, crushed

1 tsp turmeric powder

20g shrimp paste

10g daun kesum / vietnamese coriander, or a combination of mint and coriander

2 cm  ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 tomatoes, cut into quarters

8 okra

50g aubergine

50ml tamarind juice or extract

Oil for frying

Salt to taste


Process the shallots and garlic together to form a paste.
Process the dried chillies and the shrimp paste together.
Remove the top and bottom parts of the okra but keep them whole.
Cut the aubergine into bite-sized chunks.

Method:
In a large pan or wok, heat a little oil and sauté the shallots and garlic paste for a few minutes but without browning.

Add in the turmeric and dried-chilli-and-shrimp paste, and fry until the oil separates slightly.

Add the tamarind juice, tomatoes, okra, aubergine, ginger and herbs.

Add salt to taste.

Simmer until the vegetables are just tender.

Add in the fish and simmer for a few minutes until the fish is cooked through.

Serve with steamed rice and other Peranakan dishes.

Restoran Peranakan

Asian restaurant review Malaysia is famed for its fine food and friendly faces. Restoran Peranakan in Malacca offers a good selection of Nyonya dishes, many of which show the Chinese influence. The restaurant is superbly furnished with the dark wood and heavy furniture which is so much a hallmark of traditional Peranakan homes, and now restaurants.

Restoran Peranakan
107, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock,
75200, Melaka (Malacca)
Malaysia


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food and travel reviews

London restaurant review: Awana for Ramadan

The breaking of fast for Ramadan traditionally starts at sunset. I had an excuse for starting my meal a while before the prescribed hour. Firstly I am not Muslim so I figured I would be forgiven for my haste, and secondly the weather was so bad that daytime and night had already prematurely merged.

asian restaurant review Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The sight of the iconic crescent moon marks the start of Ramadan. And there are several reasons why it is considered important: the Qur'an was first revealed during this month, the gates of Heaven are open, the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained up in Hell – a very appealing notion.

Iftar is when the fast ends for the day and a halal meal may be taken. Any type of food can be eaten although the most popular are honey, breads, figs, dates, fruits, and olives depending on the origin of the diner. It is customary in some cultures for families to host Iftar meals to which relatives and friends will be invited. It seemed appropriate that I should ask a Muslim friend along to enjoy an Iftar meal with me at a particularly striking restaurant not far from South Kensington in Central London.

Tully Filmer designed the interior of Awana using Malaysian teak houses as inspiration. Rich mid-tone wood, silk panels and glass screens contrive to make this a high-end but accessible restaurant. It has an unmistakable and cultivated charm, and some of the most adept yet friendly staff of any restaurant of any ethnic persuasion. This is confident restaurant design. It is recognisably Asian but it uses none of the usual décor clichés to make that statement.

asian restaurant review Perhaps London's only fine-dining Malaysian restaurant, this Sloane Avenue establishment introduces the European diner to the culinary tapestry of Malaysia. Awana's menu has been created by Executive Chef Mark Read and Malaysian-born Head Chef Lee Chin Soon. They combine traditional dishes with innovative modern interpretations, but we, and many others, were there for their celebrated Ramadan Feast. Europeans and Asians in heady harmony – a true testament to Britain’s cultural diversity.
   
We found our table and Mr Hai Long Wang (William), Awana's restaurant manager, led me through the Ramadan menu which was full of enticing-sounding dishes, and the reality was as good as the promise. William brings a wealth of practical dining room know-how. He is a sommelier and mixologist of long standing and has vast experience of pairing food not only with wine but also with cocktails, of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic kind.

There is an element of theatre here, with strategically positioned TV monitors around the restaurant relaying scenes from the kitchen, where deft chefs swirl sails of dough to make bread on a hot griddle. We munched on dates which are a staple fruit of the Middle East, having been in cultivation for thousands of years. Traditionally, dates are known as the food Muhammad ate when he broke his fast, so they are much sought after for the start of a Ramadan meal.

asian restaurant review The Ramadan menu offers seven traditional Malaysian dishes which are balanced, flavourful and tempting. Roti Canai, a Malaysian bread made from a traditional family recipe, with a curry sauce, is a combination that is perfect as a starter or as a snack. This is the lightest and most delicate roti you will ever find. Delicious Satay Udang - fresh tiger-prawn skewers served with the signature spicy peanut sauce - was served alongside, and these were truly moreish. Cooked to translucent succulence, with the satay dip being good enough to eat with a spoon.

The Ramadan Feast main dishes were picture-perfect, with a pale ochre from the curry and vibrant colour from the mixed vegetables. Kari Ayam is a corn-fed chicken curry with coconut, potato and snake beans. This is a dish which is robust but light, providing a broth ideal for dressing the Nasi Putih, a form of steamed rice which is a staple accompaniment to any Malaysian curry. Sayur Sambal Goreng is a colourful melange of fried vegetables in sambal sauce, bringing texture, flavour and visual impact to the plate.

Finally we rounded off the traditional meal with an exotic bowl of Chendol, which is a confection of pandan pearls (pandan is a ubiquitous ingredient in Malaysian cuisine – a leaf which gives both flavour and colour), with red beans in coconut cream, caramel and shaved ice. It was a refreshing and light finale to a substantial meal, at a very reasonable price of £23.50.

You are able to enjoy Awana’s ‘Feast for Ramadan’ until the end of Ramadan on 11th September, from 12noon-3pm or 6pm-11.30pm. You don’t have to be a Muslim to appreciate this meal, but come along with Muslim friends who will enjoy including you in their culinary tradition, on the occasion of one of their most important religious festivals.

Awana
85 Sloane Avenue, London SW3 3DX

Opening times
Mon to Sun 12Noon - 3pm, 6pm -11pm (Thurs to Sat 11.30pm, Sun 10.30pm)

Email: info@awana.co.uk
Phone: 020 7584 8880
Fax: 020 7584 6188
Visit Awana here

food and travel reviews

London restaurant review: Satay House

Satay House The restaurant was opened in 1973 by the late Jaafar A. Shawal with his wife Zaharah Hashim. They had already established one of Malaysia’s first fine-dining restaurants in Kuala Lumpur called the Shawal Restaurant, and operated a hotel and beach resort on the West coast of Malaysia.

The couple wanted to bring traditional authentic Malaysian cuisine to the increasing Malaysian community in London and to share the cuisine with the rest of the population. It’s been a favourite haunt for Malaysian expats as well as locals who enjoy its relaxed atmosphere. These days, their daughter Fatizah Shawal continues to run the restaurant.

Malaysian cuisine isn’t Chinese and it isn’t Indian. It has been influenced by both, along with Nyonya (Straits Chinese) and the dishes of Borneo. It has some familiar flavours but others which might be new to you. Satay House specialises in the traditional ‘Malay’ style of cooking. It has quite a cult following amongst the local Malaysian population and that’s a sure sign that the food is authentic.

Satay House is a bright and modern oasis. It seems quite small but there is a lower ground floor which can seat 35-40 guests. It’s a cosy spot with an alcove accommodating those who want a bit of privacy. The large tear-drop lamps give an agreeable retro ambiance.

The menu is quite comprehensive, with, reassuringly, some dishes that even a diner new to Malaysian food might at least have heard of. Ask the waitress for her advice on combinations of dishes.

We ordered Keropok (prawn crackers) and Satay (skewers of char-grilled chicken or lamb marinated in spices and herbs, served with peanut sauce), which is something that most would have tried before, but these were moist and flavourful and a good start to our exploration.

Nasi Putih (steamed basmati rice) was served with our Kari Kambing (Malaysian lamb curry) and Ayam Percik (grilled chicken cooked in coconut milk and spices). Many high-street restaurants have shortcuts to food preparation; some use one base sauce for all dishes and just add different spices to finish. All the dishes here tasted individually prepared. The chicken in particular was meltingly tender and the large chunks of flesh made the meal quite substantial.

Sambal Tumis Udang (prawn in spicy sambal chillies) was spicy but not overpoweringly so. This should be a signature dish for Satay House. It packs a punch of flavour as well as heat.

Daging Goreng Kicap (stir-fried beef in soy sauce, peppers and chopped chillies) was the best I have tasted and was tender and rich. A definite favourite of my carnivore guest.

This was my first visit to Satay House. I found the food to be light without the all-too-common oil-slick, delicious and well prepared. The menu offers lots of dishes that are worth trying and would be enjoyed by those who already have a love of Asian food. It’s good value for money in a convenient location between Paddington and the Edgware Road.

Visit Satay House here.
 
Open 7 days a week.
Opening hours are:
Lunch: 12noon - 3.00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm - 11.00pm

Restaurant review: Satay House
13 Sale Place, Paddington, London W2 1PX
Phone: 020 7723 6763
info@satay-house.co.uk

food and travel reviews

London restaurant review: Rasa Sayang

This unassuming restaurant is easily missed. It sits on a side street off the main Chinatown thoroughfare although it still manages to attract a loyal following from the local and not-so-local Malaysian community.

It’s evident that food rather than decor is the draw here. It isn’t over-themed with Chinese lanterns and calligraphy. There is not a jade dragon to be seen. Rather, think Habitat and its Swedish counterpart than the Forbidden City, with a practical no-nonsense appearance. The food, however, a far cry from meatballs and open sandwiches.

asian restaurant review rasa sayang chicken curry Rasa Sayang offers Straits dishes. This isn’t modern fusion, and if it’s fusion at all it’s ancient. It is a cuisine that nods to all the culinary traditions of Malaysia and its neighbours. It has a spice palate of both Chinese and Indian but the resulting masterpiece is unique.

As snow fell, we drank traditional Malaysian tea, Teh Tarik. This was welcome, hot and much lighter than the versions I have previously tried. Chicken Satay is ubiquitous to Malaysian restaurants all around the world. They often pander to “Western” taste and may be nothing more than skewers of grilled chicken with a dip of peanut butter and a dash of soy sauce. Rasa Sayang has satay that is robust and boastful. It has punch.

Gado Gado is a preparation of bean curd and mixed vegetables with a sweet-spicy sauce. Roti Canai was a simple dish but an absolute triumph. This is the lightest and flakiest roti I have ever had. It is served with a small bowl of curry sauce and should come with a warning - you’ll find it hard to resist a second helping. Much better value for money than a cold curly sandwich for a light winter lunch.

Otak Otak – grilled fish cakes in banana leaf – were delicate and not excessively fishy with a mousse-like texture. Fried Tofu with a spicy mango sauce was a visual delight. Balls of bean curd are deep-fried to produce a crisp crust and a custard-like interior. The tangy sauce was a good counterpoint. A must-try dish for anyone who has professed to hating tofu.

asian restaurant review rasa sayang sago Nasi Lemak is a hearty plateful of steamed coconut rice and chicken curry. A feast for the eyes. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and was accompanied by a selection of condiments and garnishes such as peanuts and dried fish similar to the now-absent Bombay Duck of Indian restaurant fame. This added a pleasant saltiness to the rich curry.

The desserts at Rasa Sayang are fascinating, different and delicious. I am a lover of neither commercial ice cream nor banana fritters so an evening at an oriental restaurant often sees me leaving sans sweet finale. This restaurant has some exotic and impressive temptations in the form of Kueh Dada – pancakes of pandan (flavoured with an extract of leaves of pandanus amaryllifolius) filled with coconut; Kueh Salat – pandan essence and glutinous rice, subtle and sophisticated; Ondeh-Ondeh – sweet glutinous rice cakes.

The sweet stunner was Sago gula melaka – sago pudding in coconut and palm sugar broth. I can see you, dear reader, cringing at the very thought of sago. Yes, we can all remember it from school days (if one is of a certain age), cooked with water and looking and tasting like wallpaper paste. Sago gula melaka is far removed from that horror. It is, in fact, one of the few restaurant desserts that I would want to replicate chez nous. The sago is set, so there is no unseemly rolling around the plate. The palm sugar had a real flavour of rich toffee. Moreish and memorable.

Rasa Sayang has been open for a year or so and it deserves to become an institution. The quality of food is first class and much appreciated by its discerning regulars. It offers value for money and dishes that are said by the expat Malaysians to be authentic. I am planning a return visit.

Asian restaurant review: Rasa Sayang
5 Macclesfield Street
London, W1D 6AY,
Phone: 020 7734 1382

food and travel reviews

Cookbook review: Authentic Recipes from Malaysia

There are just a few Malaysian restaurants in London. I have visited most of them and they range from high-end teak-polished splendour to casual vinyl-topped practicality, but the food so far has ranged from good to outstanding.

asian cookbook review If you like Indian dishes then you will doubtless enjoy Malaysian food. If Chinese cuisine is what you crave then Malaysian food will likely comfort you. Nyonya food was developed by the Straits Chinese and Peranakan (people of mixed Chinese/Malay ancestry) of Malaysia and Singapore. Malaysian food is influenced mainly by the Chinese larder but adds South-East Asian ingredients such as coconut milk, lemongrass, turmeric, chillies and sambal. It has hints of those other cooking traditions but it has developed as a respected culinary entity in its own right.

Authentic Recipes from Malaysia offers 62 easy-to-follow recipes that will give an overview to anyone who wants to learn more about these delicious dishes and their origins. The recipes are divided by food type: snacks, salads, rice, meat, fish, desserts, etc. There is also a glossary of ingredients and you will doubtless find all you will need in your local Asian supermarket or online.

Roti Canai is one of my favourite breads. It’s light and flaky and the ideal tool to mop up saucy curries. The professional makers of these melting breads are artists. They stretch and twirl the thin dough and fold as it’s cooking on the griddle. The authors offer a more practical method but if you have a chance to watch the pros you might feel tempted to indulge in a little airborne culinary theatre.

Seafood is found in abundance all year round in the waters surrounding Malaysia. Butter Prawns is a contemporary dish which draws on all the culinary influences of the region. The result is a rich and spicy concoction that will have the diner licking both fingers and lips. A simple and quick dish to prepare, ideal as a starter or served as nibbles with drinks.

No “authentic” Malaysian cookbook would be complete without a version of the perennial favourite, Beef Rendang. Lemongrass is the herb that gives this spicy dish its distinct aromatic charm. It’s a slow-cooked and meltingly tender beef creation that improves by being kept for a day or so. A marvellous make-ahead meal for the family or for entertaining.

Authentic Recipes from Malaysia has inspiring recipes that will delight anyone who has enjoyed flavourful and aromatic meals in Malaysian restaurants, or those who have travelled to that delightful region and want to replicate memorable dishes.

Authentic Recipes from Malaysia
Author: Wendy Hutton
Published by Periplus
ISBN-10: 0794602967
ISBN-13: 978-0794602963


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