Malaysia. Truly Asia.
The current Malaysia tourism campaign echoes the unique diversity of its cuisine. Spiced, fresh, fried or barbecued, the dishes of Malaysia include influences from Indonesia, China, India and Thai.
On my first trip to Malaysia this year, I found it glorious to feast on Malay-style ayam goreng fried chicken for breakfast, Hainanese chicken for lunch, Nyonya assam laksa for dinner and Indian rotis in between.
Many of these memories come flooding back during our visit to the Flavours of Malaysia buffet at the Grace Hotel, held as part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.
Rojak buah mixed fruit salad with prawn paste
Themed international buffets tend to be a bit hit-and-miss but my fears are quickly allayed once we do a lap of the dining room. There is no shortage of variety of dishes to choose from - in fact it will take you at least 2-3 trips to just sample all the savoury items on offer.
Jelatah marinated pineapple and cucumber salad
The chefs behind the counter have been flown in specially from Kuala Lumpur for this event, and they work industriously throughout the evening, preparing fresh flaky roti, roti jala (lacy crepes), satay skewers and mee rebus (Malay noodle soup) for hungry hordes.
The joy of the buffet is you can try a little bit of everything and then come back for more. We make several trips back and forth.
A cold bar holds various Malaysian salads including pasembor mixed salad with peanut sauce, bergedil ayam chicken potato patty and jelatah marinated fruit salad. Rojak is a do-it-yourself combination although it's not quite the same with a bowl to mix it up in, and the sambal belacan prawn paste soup is not half as sweet and salty and fishy as it should be.
Two cauldrons of soup in the middle of the room hold ayam berempah chicken soup with spices and sup itik Nyonya salted vegetable with beancurd and duck soup.
All the savoury dishes are kept in warmers, most with a trademark spiciness that gently builds on the palate.
Sambal telur fried eggs with chilli sauce
My highlights included the sambal telur deep-fried boiled eggs, the sambal terung eggplant with chilli, beef satay skewers and kurma kambing lamb with spices and coconut milk.
Daging masak kicap
Beef with thick soy sauce
Kari ikan dengan bendi
Fish curry with lady fingers
Sambal terung Nyonya style brinjal (eggplant) sambal
Lamb cooked with spices and coconut milk
Making fresh roti
The most popular item is the roti, stretched before your eyes in a wondrous display of pastry acrobatics, and cooked on the grill to a flaky crisp.
Roti jala is also available, a special funnel allowing the chef to cook the crepe batter in a lacy lattice design.
Waitstaff dressed in traditional costume
Sambal udang prawn sambal
Chicken and beef satay
Penang char kway teow stir-fried rice noodles
A drinks menu offers a number of choices. We find the teh tarik ($4) a little disappointing, more of a white tea with a dash of condensed milk, instead of the super-sweet frothy beverage that's aerated by pouring from one glass to another at a great height.
Ais kacang ($6) is a huge serving, a mound of shaved ice with rose syrup, corn and jellies arriving in a parfait glass.
Of course savouries are really just the must-endure obstacle before the main event: dessert. It's actually where I started photographing first, drawn helplessly to the bright and colourful display of sweets.
It's a bonanza of sugar and coconut milk, starting with deep-fried banana, sweet potato and yam fritters and ending with serawa pisang banana in coconut sauce.
My attention rests squarely on the kueh, bite-sized morsels of steamed dumplings that are rich with coconut. Favourites include the chewy bingka ubi kayu tapioca cake, stuffed ang koo mung bean cake and the steamed kuch kochi san tan, filled with grated coconut and sweet palm sugar.
Onde onde palm sugar and pandan balls
But onde onde are the bomb, literally exploding in your mouth with a squelch of liquid palm sugar syrup.
There's plenty to eat and discover, and we do so with selfless thoroughness. Truly Asian, of course.
Ang koo mung bean cake
Kueh koswee rose flavoured cake
Kueh talam coconut and pandan cake and
kueh lapis layered cake
Bingka ubi kayu tapioca cake
Kuch kochi san tan
Steamed dumplings with coconut and palm sugar filling
The chefs from Kuala Lumpur flown in specifically for the Malaysian Food Festival
Grab Your Fork dined as a guest of the Grace Hotel
The Malaysian Food Festival at the Grace Brasserie is part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.
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Grace Brasserie at the Grace Hotel
Level 2, 77 York Street, Sydney
Flavours of Malaysia
Dates: October 7-29, 2010
Times: Lunch Monday-Friday and Sunday 12pm-2pm
Dinner Friday and Saturday 6pm-9pm
Cost: Lunch Monday to Friday $38, Lunch on Sunday $48, Dinner $48
Bookings: +61 (02) 9272 6636
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
SIFF 2010 - Cabramatta Allsorts Barbecue
SIFF 2010 - Fishing for a Difference at Etch, Sydney
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10/13/2010 03:17:00 a.m.