Malaysia Kitchen dinner with Alvin Quah
On Friday night, Jac and I attended a special Malaysia Kitchen dinner at the Good Food & Wine Show with several Perth food bloggers, their partners and Masterchef Australia Season 2 finalist Alvin Quah.
Alvin is an ambassador for Malaysia Kitchen, a global campaign to promote Malaysian cuisine. I was looking forward to meeting Alvin as he was one of my favourite Season 2 contestants. He, along with Marion and Claire, cooked dishes that I actually wanted to eat.
Malaysia Kitchen have held food events already in London, New York and Sydney. I read about the Malaysia Kitchen Food Market held over three nights in a little hidden laneway in Sydney earlier this year, featuring wonderful Malaysian hawker favourites such as nasi lemak, satay, chai tow kway, otak-otak, roti canai and roti tisu.
I hope Malaysia Kitchen will round up Perth's Malaysian restaurants and food vendors to put on a similar event here in Perth. If the Twilight Hawker Market and more recent Winterfest are any indication, Perth loves food markets and would welcome a Malaysian food market event with open arms.
I'm Australian but was born and lived in Malaysia until I was ten years old, at which point my family emigrated to Western Australia. My family is Chinese-Malaysian and not surprisingly Malaysian cuisine holds a special place in my heart. I have lots of wonderful childhood memories of my late grandma's cooking and waking up before sunrise just so I could go to the markets with my mum and sisters to have a hawker breakfast of fish ball noodle soup or char siew wantan noodles before she took us to school. And I will never forget the ice cream man who parked his cart right outside the primary school, from whom I'd buy a single scoop of durian ice cream in a wafer cone for 20 cents, my secret treat that I ate quickly on my walk home from school - my grandma would not have approved of ice cream before lunch or dinner!
The first course was lamb murtabak, crisp roti filled with spiced lamb, served with tasty curry gravy for dipping (or, in my case, drinking) and garnished with startlingly pink pickled onions. The pickled onions were sweet and moreish, the roti delicious.
The main course was the classic Malaysian dish of nasi lemak, served with beef rendang and the usual nasi lemak trimmings of sambal, peanuts, ikan billis (tiny fried anchovies), sliced cucumber and hard-boiled egg. I've been spoiled by my mum's magnificent rendang and thought the beef should've been much more tender. I also found the rice nowhere as lemak as I like it to be! Evidently, the Malaysian homecooking I've been exposed to has given me very high expectations. :)
For our dessert, we were served a selection of Malaysian kuih:
- kuih dadar - soft pandan crepes with gula melaka (palm sugar) coconut filling
- bronok - rose-flavoured sago rolled in coconut
- kuih keria - sweet potato doughnut coated with sugar
My favourites were the kuih dadar and kuih keria. Some of the others found the doughnut's slightly crunchy sugar glaze sickly-sweet but I liked it - not surprising, as I like original glazed Krispy Kremes. Check out Almost Bourdain's blog (now discontinued) for recipes and photos of kuih keria and kuih dadar.
To wash down our sweets, out came tall mugs of hot teh tarik (pulled tea). The tea is poured back and forth between cups, often at great heights - that's the "pulled" part. This gives the tea a frothy top. It's usually made with condensed milk and is a quite a sweet drink.
In South East Asia there are teh tarik competitions where teh tarik makers try to outdo each other with tea pouring at amazing angles and heights, dancing and twirling and all kinds of tea pulling shenanigans!
If you've never seen teh tarik being made before, the video below will give you an idea how it's done.
Alvin was really funny and a delightful dinner companion. He told us when he's out and about, many people mistake him for Masterchef Australia Season 2 winner Adam. We all found this quite hilarious as Alvin looks nothing like Adam - the most obvious differences being Alvin's shaved head and glasses vs. Adam's samurai hairstyle!
We also found out that people constantly get his name wrong - if they're not calling him Adam, they're calling him Albert!
Throughout dinner, people peered at us curiously, some waving, smiling or squealing in starstruck excitement when they recognised Alvin. Some whipped out cameras and phones and took his picture.
I was looking forward to asking Alvin about one of my favourite Season 2 episodes - when he and the other contestants went to London and cooked Heston Blumenthal's signature dishes. Alvin and Marion cooked Heston's "The Sound of the Sea". He told us it was amazing just being in the manor house where where the episode was filmed, let alone meeting Heston Blumenthal. They were all completely awestruck whenever Heston was in the room.
We talked about our families and childhood favourite dishes and laughed as we discussed why so many food bloggers are Asian (including all four food bloggers at this dinner).
Dinner came to a close when Alvin had to get ready for his cooking demo - he cooked chicken rendang and seafood laksa at the Malaysia Kitchen stand.
Thank you to Malaysia Kitchen for a lovely evening. Earlier that day, Jac and I had attended the Good Food & Wine Show and enjoyed sampling nyonya chicken curry at the Malaysia Kitchen stand (sadly, we missed the roti demonstration).
What's your favourite Malaysian dish? Where's your favourite Malaysian restaurant?
357 Albany Hwy
Victoria Park WA 6100
(08) 9470 2333
See my 2008 post about Makan 2