Fried Chicken Mamak Style !

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If you are in Malaysia, or have been to Malaysia before, surely you must know how famous Mamak food is, especially in Penang. Mamak people are the Indian Muslim community who migrated to Malaysia centuries ago.

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Their signature dish of ‘Nasi Kandar’ is basically white rice served with many types of curries all at one go, as well as other condiments. I love it when they serve all these on a banana leaf !

Their fried chicken in particular is my favourite. Packed with the flavour of several spices (I’m yet to discover the secret) that gives an explosion to your taste buds when it’s done right, not to mention the crispy crunchy skin, it is best to have when still hot.

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So, this is my first take on their famous fried chicken … and hopefully much more to come ūüôā

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What are your local delicacies ?

It all started when I lived in Saudi Arabia for nine years. Being an expat, and working in a multicultural background, I was often asked by my colleagues about traditional Malaysian dishes, and I hardly knew the answers. Cooking wasn’t my forte; even making a bowl of instant noodles was a big mission for me at that time! Somehow, my poor explanation of Malaysian foods made me swallow hard. But, those questions also made me reflect on the good food I enjoyed at home. Collectively, the vivid memories of foods prepared at home by my mum and grannies, as well as traditionally prepared local foods I had tasted around Malaysia were my benchmarks whenever I described Malaysian delicacies. And these same memories made me crave for mum’s home cooked food and local Malaysian dishes even more !

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At that time, the internet was my only source for Malaysian recipes, other than from my mum, whom I have always regarded as the best cook ever. I could have asked her for recipes and details instead, but somehow my ego was larger than me. Besides, I needed to prove to her that I too, can cook! As a result, after I prepared my dishes, I always ended up frustrated when my food tasted nothing close to what I had expected, in comparison to the flavours that are registered on my taste buds. I might be exaggerating a little, but then again, the listed ingredients sometimes called for the use of artificial flavouring that my mum never used in her cooking (and I don’t fancy either), or typical Asian ingredients that I couldn’t get in Saudi Arabia. Honestly, I do believe these factors affected the final results. Out of curiosity, I am always on the lookout for any relative information, especially regarding substitute ingredients, in the making of original Malaysian dishes that don’t compromise the original taste. So, yes, back then, many long phone calls back home to mum, did relieve some, if not all of my misery.

Known as the melting pot of Asia, Malaysia is a country where food is equally represented in the diverse, multiracial, and multicultural society, as reflected on the gastronomic scene that has expended tremendously. It has a vast variety of food choices ranging from local, international, or fusion, either from hawker street food stalls or at fine dining restaurants, all of which are available at the convenience of the consumers, and to suit all levels of budgets.  Indeed, I am still developing my sensory palate, as Malaysian foods are so rich in cultural and regional influences.

On a side note, I occasionally find similarities in other regional foods. Some of it is very similar in taste, being claimed as traditional local food by few countries. For instance, Nasi Goreng or friend rice in English language, is being claimed as Singaporeans, as well as an Indonesian local dish, while in Malaysia too, we have our own version, and not forgetting Thai fried rice. So, this makes me question the criteria for establishing a dish as a local delicacy. Moreover, how do people validate the identity and authenticity to make such claims ?

Now that I am back in Malaysia, I have set myself the mission to sample and learn as many local delicacies as I possibly can. At the same time, I wish to explore its history and how that influences each and every dish, in order to fully understand the food, to appreciate the local produce, and altogether to embrace the contrast I am living in. Simultaneously, I hope to try cooking many of these new recipes, as well as perfecting my home cooking skills. In other words, I am challenging my own ability in recognising the complexity of the foods I am consuming, thus expanding my own culinary repertoire.

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Bateaux Dubai

“The fondest memories are made when

gathered around the table..”

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There is no better way to celebrate a great friendship than making memories over good food, with a drink or two and lots of laughter along the way. And that sums up the evening I spent onboard the Bateaux Dubai for a dinner cruise last week, together with good friends who came for a holiday here in Dubai.

Bateaux Dubai and few other dinner cruise vessels are docked on¬†the Dubai Creek in Diera, in one of¬†the older parts of Dubai.¬†From the outside, Bateaux Dubai¬†doesn’t look as grand as some of the other dinner cruises that are heavily lit up with¬†colourful lights on them. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first. Moreover, the darkness of the night, with only a small lamp post for light, didn’t impart¬†any pleasure to my already poor eyesight.

However, upon arrival, we were greeted by the cruise stewards, followed by a confirmation of reservation, before they lead us to our table on a red carpet, all ready for a dinner cruise along Dubai Creek scheduled to begin at 8.30 pm.

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It was a jaw-dropping moment for me as I stepped on board. I was mesmerised by the the first glimpse of the interior decoration that is still heavily in Christmas mood. I bet, even without all that, it still looks as posh as a fine-dining restaurant !

Almost all the tables were fully occupied. Ours in particular was set next to a window; infact, the whole boat is enclosed by a full glassed wall and roof, complimenting the exclusive look to the whole interior and table settings. The ambiance was very inviting and warm, with soft soothing music being played in the background.

As we settled in our table,  welcome drinks and small canapés were served by a waiter who  introduced himself as our server for the cruise. The menu was explained to us in detail, as well as recommendations for the evening meal. On top of that, all tables are provided with a basket full of freshly baked breads with high quality spreadable butter. In between courses, we would walk around the outer deck, and were informed once our meals were ready.

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Shortly after leaving the dock, we were served with a cup of deliciously concentrated yet very creamy tomato soup. It was so so good, surely the next table could hear the uhh, ahh and hmmm sounds coming from our table ! Curious,¬†I started to process every single piece¬†of knowledge I¬†have and methods I may have used in making tomato soup, to¬†test and analyse¬†what was served to us that night. The combination of silky texture and creaminess, with an¬†equal balance between tartness and caramelised tomato flavours, was a pretty mind-blowing experience,¬†reminding me of¬†the tomato soup I had at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant few years ago.

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After the cup of tomato soup, the rest was also as good as it gets. I had a lobster and quinoa starter, which was so refreshing, and was served with a thin slice of celery, mashed avocado, caviar and drops of dressing.

Then, I had roasted beef Rossini that was cooked to perfection, and by that I mean MEDIUM and slightly pink in the middle. It was so delicious and palatable, served with a combination of truffle mash, mini vegetables, a few other items (I cannot remember) and a generous drizzle of thyme sauce.

I finished it all with tonka vanilla panna cotta, a scoop of¬†raspberry sorbet, and a rhubarb compress. The tang from the raspberry and rhubarb balanced out the sweetness of the vanilla panna cotta, working very well for¬†me, as I am not¬†a fan of any dessert except for bread and butter pudding at Marco Pierre White’s restaurant.

Once we completed the whole evening, we were greeted by the head chef, who came on to say hello to each and everyone on board, and to have a little chat about¬†meals and menus.¬†Did I mention that¬†they also offer a great vegetarian menu… just in case you are interested ūüôā

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The entire two and a half hour dining experience was in a class of its own indeed. Although the view along the cruise was limited due to the darkness of the night, we still stepped out to the deck in between our meals, making enjoyable conversation under the moonlight with Dubai’s landmarks twinkling against the night sky. We clicked loads of photos for memories, having a great laugh in between, while all the time enjoying the winter breeze of the Arabian gulf as the boat wafted along Dubai Creek.

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A beautiful evening¬†had by all, and we all agreed that it’s going to be so hard to top this one now !

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Just so you know

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Early last year, when I registered to join a cooking school, I was planning to eventually get a job in a professional kitchen. At the same time, I also wanted to explore, in depth, Malaysian delicacies.

On paper, everything was perfect; to finish as one of the top three students, in one of the most prestigious French Culinary School branches here in Malaysia, was a dream come true for me. Soon after, I got the job I’d been dreaming about, only, not knowing that I had landed in a seriously problematic kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t being childish, but the kitchen was in a state of complete disaster. New chefs walked in and out before even finishing their first shift; that is how terrible it was. Too bad, I joined them too, after only two short months of working in my dream job. Sure, if I was still young and just starting my career, I would definitely keep at it, putting up with whatever I have to in order to get things done ! But I am not, and therefore I refused to stay any longer. Plus, I don’t really enjoy cooking for strangers anyway.

My friends laughed at me. They said I was being silly. My family was so confused to think that I left my steady job to be a chef and yet quit before I even got properly started.

I guess that two months in the kitchen was more than enough to scare me away from any commercial kitchens. I don’t think I want to do it again, not for now anyway. Then again, I truly cherish every second in those two months. I had a really great time in the kitchen, and learned a lot too, despite their internal problems at the time. Perhaps, I could say I had the time of my life !

Now that I don’t cook for living, rather more for fun, cooking remains my passion, as well as photography and travel, hence this blog to document my¬†journey.

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