This Mother’s Day, Let’s Go Nyonya!May 11, 2012 | 2,705 views
Ayam Buah Keluak – Evidently the BEST dish of the evening (for me), even the ‘buah keluak‘ known as black nuts were devoid of the very common pungent, bitter taste. The rich, pureed texture of the fillings had this intense flavour that could be best described as earthy and bittersweet.
You know, the funny thing with us Malaysians is that … when any special occasion calling for a feast arises; be it birthday, Valentine’s Day, anniversary, annual reminiscence of the cat giving birth to her first litter, the first step by a toddler or the first growl of “Papa, Mama .. or … FOOD” etc (you get the drift), almost always the first option of dining out would be … WESTERN.
Okay, so we are dead influenced by sitcoms, movies and what-nots whereby celebrations must always include champagne, steaks and a stalk/bouquet of roses.
For once, throw caution to the wind, let your hair down and bring your beloved mother for a sumptuous spread of Nyonya food this coming Sunday. In case you’re scratching your head in disbelief …. do read on. But if you’re puzzled by why this Sunday of all dates ….. then by all means, give yourself a tight slap on the face.
Nasi Ulam – If you’ve been avoiding carbo like the plague, don’t. Imagine an appetizer consisting of simple steamed rice lightly seasoned then tossed in a liberal, vibrant mix of extremely-finely chopped herbs and vegetables. Just be cautious of biting into the bits of FIRE (‘cili padi’) embedded within the plethora of colourful ingredients.
Though I do admit that the first choice for a dining establishment that had ever crossed my mind would be something of Western nature. Can’t blame me though; aside from a few rare occasions when Mother’s Day was celebrated at Chinese restaurants (when Grandma put her foot down and insisted on a round table feast), we have almost always celebrated by feasting on chops, steaks, pastas or pizzas.
Maybe it’s the notion that for a special occasion, you should be eating something significantly different. And definitely NO everyday meal of ‘chap fan’ (economy rice .. blasphemy?!) or ‘kai see hor fun‘!
Itek Tim – A savoury duck soup with salted mustard greens; a crowd-pleaser of a tummy-warming broth that was thankfully without a layer of unsightly oil floating on top or extra-peppery that has been the bane for most Itek Tim churned out from the other Nyonya outlets.
That’s because in Ipoh, we were not blessed with a multitude of choices then. The same cannot be said for the sheer variety of cuisines in Klang Valley of course. Having said that, bear in mind that having one Nyonya restaurant AND one EXCELLENT Nyonya restaurant makes a whole dimension of difference to the discerning diners.
Traditionally, Nyonya cuisine has always set an astronomical standard of perfectionism; the labour-intensive preparation and cooking methods, the particular importance of each and every ingredient that goes into a cauldron of wholesome goodness, and time spent on nurturing the future generation on the vital knowledge and skills; and not to forget the passing down of utensils like mortar and pestle used by the predecessors in the family.
Lemak Nenas Ikan Sepat – A rich and creamy curry laced with a certain sweet and tangy balance of pineapple chunks, and a sharp, briny flavour from the salted fish.
For a month only (11th May until 10th June 2012), Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur brings Chef Debbie Teoh to the fore; cooking up an exemplary course of Nyonya dishes that she’s renowned for. You can read more about her from her official website HERE.
Let me divulge more insights into the feast that lies beyond the facade of ‘just-another-run-of-the-mill’ authentic Nyonya powerhouse.
Gulai Tumis Ikan Pari – Stingray cooked in a sour and spicy tamarind-based gravy; resembling Asam Pedas with a tad richer flavour. The paste was first sauteed, hence the term ‘tumis’.
Where most Nyonya cuisine specialists lay claims to their rendition of signature dishes like Pongteh, Ayam Buah Keluak and Masak Lemak or Gulai Tumis, yet failing to deliver in terms of taste and presentation, Debbie Teoh clearly expressed her passion in her works; with every dish primed to its finest level and without relegating to shortcuts and below par ingredients.
Everything has to be cooked like how it has always been.
Maybe without the whims and fancies of a mortar+pestle framework as she IS cooking a buffet spread throughout this period after all.
Terung dengan Sambal Udang Kering – Brinjals topped with a savoury and slightly spicy mix of chili paste and dried shrimps; a combination also sometimes seen with boiled ladies fingers.
The Ulam Platter of kacang botol (four-angled/winged beans), mint leaves and cucumber was served with an eye-catching bowl of red-orange sambal that was clearly pounded and mixed to a family-tested ratio.
Chunky Seafood Otak-Otak with prawns, squids and fish instead of the usual fish paste only, and the Pulut Panggang at the background were portioned at forefinger’s length and wrapped with banana leaves before grilled; and they were filled with a heady mix of sambal dried shrimps.
Kueh Seri Muka that appeared to be of no significance yet one bite will reveal the true nature of the sweet snacks; Debbie uses yam instead of the common ‘santan’ (coconut milk) to make up the layers.
Cendol – A jade green hue from juiced fresh screwpine leaves (pandan); though the gula melaka syrup left much to be desired.
The light bites and desserts were of exceptional quality too, though the acid test will be when these will be served in a mass-produced manner to cater for the buffet spread.
For this review session, I enjoyed the Ayam Buah Keluak, Nasi Ulam, Otak-Otak and Terung Sambal Udang Kering the most. The Cendol might be pleasing to the eyes with pretty aesthetics of jade green, plump strands of homemade cendol yet the overall ensemble failed to deliver in terms of taste. Most of the dishes will require copious amount of rice to go along with; especially the ones with gravy. The group enjoyed the Lemak Nenas Ikan Sepat a lot, apparently.
At the end of the day, as what Citygal had proclaimed;
“This has to be one of the better Nyonya fares that I’ve tasted in a while …”
The Nyonya dumpling came complimentary of Debbie’s, and not included in the review menu or the actual buffet spread.
Do the Mother’s Day brunch on 13th May 2012?
>RM68++ per adult, RM34++ per child.
Better yet, top up another RM10 so that the father and kid(s) can wreck havoc for once in the kitchen under the watchful eyes of Chef Debbie Teoh herself.
Other alternatives to capitalize on Debbie’s presence throughout this period:
>Weekday Buffet Lunch @ RM62++ per person
>Everyday Buffet Dinner @ RM82++ per person
>Nyonya Weekend Hi-Tea @ RM59++ per person
Chatz Brasserie @ PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur
For reservations/enquiries : +603-2147 0088.
*We dined as guests of PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur