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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Malaysian Food Festival at the Grace Hotel, Sydney

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

Kurma kambing
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

Beef satay

Penang char kway teow stir-fried rice noodles

Ais kacang

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.

Dessert buffet

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
15 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/13/2010 03:17:00 am


  • At 10/13/2010 7:28 am, Anonymous Min Ai said…

    Yay! Thanks for posting about this! I'm booked in to go in about 2 weeks and can't wait now! I also tried their Philippine food festival and think the Grace Hotel have got this festival stuff down packed! :) I have a strategy with this buffet though... going to pile up on the kuih before settling down for the mains.. :P At the Philippines festival the beautiful desserts were a bit bare by the time we got around to them! :)

  • At 10/13/2010 9:26 am, Anonymous Julia @ Vinyl Design said…

    I'm not a big fan of buffet but this one looks really good and I love Malaysian food (I could eat roti forever) I must go!

  • At 10/13/2010 11:01 am, Anonymous Celeste @ Berrytravels said…

    This is making me home sick so so much! Seriously contemplating making roti jala now to combat home sickness. =3=

  • At 10/13/2010 11:11 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    mmm so much kueh i cant wait till i go this weekend!

  • At 10/13/2010 11:32 am, Anonymous billy @ a table for two said…

    I just went yesterday and have to say I am very disappointed with the food. A few more common Malaysian delicacies such as nasi lemak, beef rendang, ikan bilis are missing.

    The one that I really liked was the Egg Sambal, and surprisingly the mung bean soup!

  • At 10/13/2010 12:51 pm, Anonymous Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Oh wow, look at all those desserts! Yum! The savouries are definitely an obstacle to those beauties!

  • At 10/13/2010 1:35 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Oh gosh, I don't think I've ever come across desserts like those, let alone in a buffet all-you-can eat setting! One day, I will get onde onde. I must.

  • At 10/13/2010 1:44 pm, Blogger Anna said…

    Helen, it looks incredible - what a fantastic event to attend! The roti look oh so yummy, as does everything!

    You've got me all excited about my upcoming trip abroad :D (not Malaysia, but in the 'hood'!)

  • At 10/13/2010 1:54 pm, Anonymous jess @ fushmush said…

    kueh! yum!

  • At 10/13/2010 3:21 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    omg i was actually at grace on friday hoping to get a table for sugarhit. they told me they had a malaysian buffet upstairs but we didnt go cause we thought there will be alot of spicy food and my bro cant eat it. BOO! now i really wanna go :(

  • At 10/13/2010 3:41 pm, Anonymous Jenny @ Musings and Morsels said…

    We are so lucky to be living in a melting pot like Australia, aren't we? I'm so jealous it wasn't me that experienced this! There's just something about Malaysian cuisine - messy, spicy and soulful. I can't imagine anyone not liking that.

  • At 10/13/2010 8:38 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    I can't help but look at this buffet and be reminded of the amazing one we had at our hotel in KL. Sadly I wasn't allowed to take pics of the actual buffet, just what I was eating at the table. That egg curry you photographed is getting me all .......

  • At 10/15/2010 8:51 am, Blogger the dainty baker said…

    Ooo and AHHH ... I want to go!!! OMG hope its not booked out!

  • At 10/25/2010 1:09 pm, Anonymous shopgirl said…

    When I went, many of the food were not on the buffet eg. mee rebus, ondeh, kuih koci,char koay teow, tomato rice etc.. in addition to that teh tarik was not part of the buffet and cost additional $4 and the ice kacang cost $6. Just wondering if anyone had to pay for the teh tarik & icekacang?

  • At 10/25/2010 1:28 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Thank you everyone for your comments!

    Min Ai - I didn't get a chance to make it to the Filipino festival. It sounded fantastic so must make sure to get there next year!

    Billy - I thought it was interesting to have more unusual Malaysian dishes but having said that, one can never have too much ikan bilis!

    Hannah - You would love onde onde. I'm sure of it ;)

    Ladybird - How exciting. Have a fantastic trip!

    Sugarpuffi - The food is pretty spicy, but maybe this will be the incentive to get your brother to learn the finer appreciation of chilli!

    John - lol. Whoah is it hot in here?!

    Dainty Baker - I'd ring them to find out their current availability. Hopefully it's not too late!

    shopgirl - A shame that not everything was on the menu. For what I hear, they've been rather manic on weekends. The drinks are additional - I've now amended the post to accurately reflect this. Thanks for picking up on this. And no onde onde? That's the best part!


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