I am enjoying the 2010 Malaysian Kitchen Campaign a great deal. The opportunity to find out more about one of the most fascinating but relatively undiscovered Asian cuisines (and eat a lot of it in the process), right here in London, is an opportunity not to be missed.
I was lucky enough to have been involved in this campaign for the launch of the Malaysian Dining Card at Kiasu (reviewed here), and more recently as part of a “Malaysian restaurant tour” which included Awana, Satay House and Tukdin.
The event was organised to showcase what these restaurants will be offering at the Malaysian Section of this year’s Taste of London Festival.
Our first stop was at the fine-dining restaurant “Awana” on well-heeled Sloane Avenue in Chelsea where we were warmly welcomed by Hailong Wang, the restaurant manager. The restaurant is very elegant - furnished with teak wood and batik silks, it feels chic and rather reminiscent of those large colonial homes still found in parts of Malaysia.
Having read some mixed reviews by fellow food bloggers, I had a few reservations about Awana and was half-expecting the food to be a let-down. We started with a demonstration of “roti canai” preparation at the restaurant’s Satay Bar, before sampling a selection of starters.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the food was pretty much in keeping with the restaurant’s fine surroundings. The “Beef Curry Murtabak” was excellent as was the “Kueh pai tee” (top hats), and the “Sajian Laut Salad” (tiger prawn and crab meat with pomelo and sour mango salad). The satay skewers were also very flavoursome and the meat had been cooked perfectly.
These dishes tasted fresh and sophisticated and highlighted the chef’s culinary finesse. This was a very positive (and promising) introduction to Awana and what it has to offer. I look forward to returning there one day soon for a full dinner and a more detailed review.
We were then whisked away to our next stop, “Satay House” in Paddington. The restaurant is small and casual with a modern feel about it.
Our first round of main courses was served at this delightful restaurant, and in my opinion, one of the most successful dishes was the “Udang Galah Goreng” (king prawns fried in turmeric, chillies, lime leaves and coconut milk). The prawns were meaty but still soft and their richness was offset by the lime’s citric flavours and the delicate coconut milk.
The “Rendang Daging” (slow cooked beef in spices, herbs and coconut milk) was also noteworthy. I enjoyed the rich flavours of cinnamon, cloves and star anise infused in the very tender meat.
I love aubergines and so quite enjoyed “Terong Goreng Berlada” (aubergines stir-fried with ground chillies and shrimps) despite feeling that it was a little overspiced.
Less successful dishes were the “Satay” (chicken and lamb skewers served with a peanut sauce) and the “Kway Teow Goreng” (stir-fried flat rice noodles with seafood, egg and vegetables).
The former was slightly on the tough side whereas the noodles lacked the delicious combination of flavours that I have experienced from this dish elsewhere.
Tukdin Flavours of Malaysia
Our final destination was at “Tukdin”, a charming little restaurant on Craven Road, Bayswater. The restaurant felt very Malay (as opposed to Hokkien-Chinese or Indian); the clientele appeared to be native, and wonderful smells of spices, coconut milk and grilled fish were wafting through the air as I came in.
It was nice to see entire Malay families eating together, and I could sense a delightful camaraderie among most customers who were probably regulars and clearly knew each other. Malaysia has three main ethnic groups – the Malays, Chinese and Indians. Since the Malays are predominantly Muslim, there was no alcohol or pork on the menu, and all the meat served was halal.