When I found out that the W Kuala Lumpur was serving a one-night-only event by serving a wonderful journey of authentic Malay cuisine – I knew I had to be there. Inspired by the recipes that were passed down through traditions by the group of chefs who grew up learning and loving these dishes; all it took was one night to prove to us how amazing it feels to go back to our roots.
Think of it as a night to enjoy recipes from their mother’s kitchen because it’s never a bad idea to have a taste of authentic Malay food that we grew up loving. With a burst of unique flavours by using various spices and style influences from Java, Sumatra, Borneo with Arab, Indian and Chinese cultures, our taste palette was spoiled, for sure.
How it started:
If you’ve been to Flock at the W KL, you will easily be amazed at the open-style kitchen concept where you get to dine in and watch the masters at work. When I was escorted to the Flock, I noticed a strong fragrant smell that reminded me of truffle and garlic that filled the whole room. It was then I found out that the smell came from the Kulim fruit that usually originates from the southern region of Malaysia and found in the lowland rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra. I was already so intrigued with the smell and knew something great was brewing in the Flock kitchen that night.
Before my starters by OpenHouse arrived, I was served an amuse-bouche of Smoked Fish Umai and Organic Hen’s Egg Custard. The goal of enjoying the Smoked Fish Umai that comprises deep-sea fish, coriander, red onion, dried shrimp, nuts, chilli, sea grapes, yuzu juice and betel leaf is to pick it up and enjoy it in one bite. If you’re not too familiar with Umai; it’s a traditional dish favoured by the Melanau’s of Borneo where slices of raw fish with spices are served.
As soon as I took a bite of it, my first impression shifted towards the citrusy and nutty flavour of the various components – the umai fish, yuzu juice and dried shrimp was a winner to me. It blended so well together that I could hardly taste the dried shrimp. Next was the Organic Hen’s Egg Custard which I found to be delicious in my books. The rich taste from the soybean, shimeji and garlic went perfectly well with the stir-fried duck. All you need is a few bites from this and you’re good to move along with the next course.
Let the feast begin
Served by OpenHouse, I was told to pick between the Deep Fried Spinach Pakora and the Chicken + Beef Satay for starters, but I went with the Spinach balls instead. When it arrived at my table, I couldn’t help but smell the sweet sensation of the dish, especially hearing the light crunch as I dug my fork into the spinach balls. The combination of bean curd and sweet spicy sauce surrounded the dish, which made a great dipping sauce to the creaminess and crunch. It was surprisingly filling, probably due to the sweetness of the spinach and sauce but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Next up: I ordered the Ungkep Village Chicken as my main which was cooked tastefully in “ungkep” style with a blend of chilli, tamarind, lemongrass, ginger and coriander. Just through the taste, smell and looks of the dish, it easily reminded me of my mother’s very own masak lemak style with a twist. I could taste the variant mixtures of spices that added a tiny kick of spiciness, and as for someone who can’t tolerate spicy food, this was the right level of spicy for me. That wasn’t all though. The star dish of the night had to be the steamed Kulim rice.
The herbal fragrant that filled the room earlier was from the rice preparations to go with our main and it did not disappoint. Not only did it give out a truffle-meets-garlic smell but the softness of the rice went hand-in-hand with my Ungkep Chicken. To add to the overall experience, four variations of sambal was served to meet your level of spiciness. I must admit, the main course was worth waiting for. Not only did it remind me of the comforts from my mother’s cooking, but the Kulim rice was something I’ve never experienced before which made me love every moment of it.
To end the night, it’s only fitting to bring out a dessert that’s familiar to the locals; bubur cha cha. However, I was surprised to see it presented in a way that was different from what we were used to as a “reinvented bubur cha cha”. The components in the served dish were Taro semifreddo, coconut espuma and soil, dehydrated sweet potato chip, black eye pea gel and sago pearls. In my opinion, it did take me by surprise, but I loved how it wasn’t sweet and still left a refreshing impact with the coconut and sago pearls to reach the end of the OpenHouse x W Hotel experience.
The overall experience was a delightful homage to tradition and authentic cuisine that made me wish there was another night where others could experience this with me again. If there is, do count me in.
(Hero image credit: W Kuala Lumpur; Featured image credit: Lifestyle Asia)