By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, May 5 (IANS) Malaysian cuisine can be termed the closest cousin of South Indian cuisine. Nevertheless, Malaysian dishes taste different, said a top chef at The Raintree, St.Mary’s Road, a star hotel here.
That may sound like the advertisement line for a ketchup brand. “It’s different”, but what executive chef Hushmoin K. Patell says is true.
“The ingredients used are similar to South Indian ingredients. But Malaysians use a lot of shrimp and shrimp paste as a flavouring agent or for garnishing purposes,” Patell told IANS.
Malaysian cuisine is known for its use of spices, shrimp paste, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, cardamom, star anise, fenugreek , galangal and coconut milk – the last adds a delicious creamy touch.
The dishes do not give out the strong flavour of galangal or lemongrass, as in the case of Thai curries.
The South Indian influence in Malaysian cuisine is bound to be with the historical invasion of Srivijaya by Rajendra Chola I, who had also forayed into Indonesia.
Subsequently, during the British rule of India many South Indians migrated to Malaysia.
Anchored by Malaysian chef Mohamad Asri, the hotel’s restaurant Colony is hosting a Malaysian food festival from April 22 to May 8, 2016, for buffet dinner.
Forty-eight-year-old Asri is anchoring for the second time a Malaysian food festival in India. The first time was in 1996 at a star hotel in Delhi.
The menu offers five non-vegetarian and six vegetarian dishes, four starters – two each in vegetarian and non-vegetarian, two kinds of rice and five desserts, including is kacang – Malaysian shaved ice.
“The Malaysian chicken satay is different from Thailand’s chicken satay. Malaysians use palm oil. We have not used palm oil here, but still maintain the authenticity of taste,” Asri said.
According to Patell, the Malaysians use a lot of shrimp as the flavouring agent even in their vegetarian dishes.
“They consider meat to be non-vegetarian, while use of shrimp paste as a flavouring agent or shrimp for garnishing is considered vegetarian,” he said.
“We have done some adaptations in the vegetarian dishes keeping out the non-vegetarian items,” Patell said.
While Chinese noodles are available on Indian streets though modified to Indian tastes, Patell said perhaps Malaysian curries too can be made and sold on the streets here.
Asked about South Indian dishes, Asri said he likes the dosa made here.
“The dosas here are much more crispier than what is made in Malaysia,” he said, offering the ayam soup or the chicken soup.
The soup, with finely cut chicken pieces, was flavourful and could not be associated with south Indian dishes.
The chicken satay with roasted peanut sauce was also good but the surprise item was the sweet potato fritter or sweet potato bhaji.
It was time for the main course and Asri suggested coconut rice with okra curry and pajeri aenas-pineapple curry.
The Malaysian dish (unlike the South Indian counterpart) was sticky and made with grated coconut, coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass and some seasoning.
The coconut rice with both the curries tasted good. The pineapple curry was sweet at first, but then the spicy flavour took over – surely a must try item.
On the non-vegetarian side, the steamed rice with ayam kalio (chicken cooked in red coconut gravy with aubergine) was tasty.
Similarly, the ikan masak mera (fish cooked with chilli and tomato) was also good and would also go well with steam rice and okra curry.
For the sweet tooth there is a wide choice: pengat pisang (sago pudding with banana and coconut milk), onde onde (steamed rice dumplings stuffed with palm sugar), kuih ketayab (pancakes stuffed with a sweet coconut filling), sago gula melaka (sago pearls cooked in coconut milk and cream topped with caramel sauce) and kuih lapis (layered cassava cake).
Where: The Colony restaurant at The Raintree, St. Mary’s Road, Alwarpet
Available as a part of dinner buffet 7-11 pm
Price: Rs.1,450 excluding tax per head
Dates: April 22 to May 8
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected])