A Malaysian Blog about Food, Family and Friends – by Lyrical Lemongrass
My birthday celebrations officially ended on Sunday, the 28th of September 2008 (a little over a month after the actual day), at about the same time that Felipe Massa of Ferrari drove off from the pitstop with a length of hose trailing behind him, with a very stunned mechanic at the end of it, but hey, who was I to complain about the very rude and untimely interruption to my homecooked birthday dinner? Mmmm….delicious prawns, Mum….tell me the secret of this lovely pork dish…..whooooosh….hey….where’s everyone? Hello? Seriously, Massa could have chosen a better time to pull that stunt. I insist on a replay. Of the homecooked dinner, I mean. And I want all TV sets to be turned off.
So yeah, the grand finale was the dinner hosted at my parents’ place, ending with that lovely sour cream coffee walnut cake kindly baked by Fatboybakes. My mum’s amazing. Choosing not to be complacent about cooking, she is still experimenting with new recipes. We try asking for the recipes sometimes, and she gives us a cheeky look. It’s just an easy recipe, she says. Easy for Gordon Ramsay, probably, but hello, we’re talking about your daughter here. The amateur bumbling mess who is the poster child for Murphy.
I was the lucky recipient of a birthday lunch on the same day, a lovely treat from the Weekend B^*ch © who had postponed our last appointment due to his jetsetting lifestyle. If the lunch had been timed for a month earlier, it would have been a stress-free experience. But last Sunday? What ought to have been a rather leisurely trip to Paradise Palace turned out to be a horrifying journey to traffic hell. It would have taken a very desperate person to brave the jams in busy Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman on the last weekend of Hari Raya only to encounter blocked exits along Jalan TAR and other nonsensical diversions, and to ultimately realise that the only way to enter the Sogo carpark would be to bulldoze through a third of the population of KL who were trying to take advantage of the last few days of the Raya sales. So after a roundabout trip to nowhere, I was back to square one. The LRT station in a quieter side of Kuala Lumpur. I know he was trying his best not to say I told you so, but can you blame me for trying? We finally arrived at Sogo, an hour after my failed attempt at driving there, in true rakyat style.
I admit I know little of Burmese food. I was reading a paper written by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) on Undocumented migrants and refugees in Malaysia: Raids, Detention and Discrimination which indicated that out of 1.8 million migrant workers registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs (and mind you, this is a small percentage of the total number of migrant workers, including those who have come in illegally), Burmese workers form the fourth largest group of migrant workers in Malaysia. As such, it is a pity that despite the vast number of migrant workers in the country, we know so little of them, their food, and their culture.
The restaurant has been around for a long time. Situated at a corner on the 6th floor of the mall, one can’t miss the ostentatious and elaborate gold decorations fringing the facade of the restaurant. Save for a few carvings and statues, the decor inside is simple.
The first thing that comes to mind after sampling Myanmar cuisine is that the food isn’t as spicy as I expected it to be. Mohingar, an ubiquitous Myanmar dish, resembles our local Malay version of the assam laksa with a soup base made of fish, cooked to a dark broth, and served with rice vermicelli. The soup has the distinct taste of lemongrass and prawn paste. Apparently, dhal powder and rice flour are also used, but these are not so easily discernible. Chopped coriander leaves enhance the flavour of the dish, while a spritz of lime juice lifts the flavour. The noodles lack the springiness of our local vermicelli, and thus, it is easy to eat it with just a chinese soup spoon.
The Sour Radish Soup is precisely that – sour, due to the liberal use of tamarind juice. It feels more of an appetiser to prepare the palate for other spicier dishes. What I really enjoyed was a dish that was strangely named Forget Me Not. Basically a steamed hilsa fish, it is cooked with lemongrass and tomatoes and tastes very much like our local sardines in a can. It is amusing to see the description in the menu ending with Wow! Bones can Chew. (I like the enthusiasm!)
Less exciting is the Fried Roselle Leaves, perhaps because it is more of an acquired taste. The flavour is sharp and immensely sour, and the pungent smell of the dish comes from the bamboo shoots that are cooked with the leaves. The Chicken Padamyar is rather ordinary, has a strong cumin flavour and is less spicy than a south indian chicken curry, but satisfying, nevertheless.
Tea is a favourite beverage of the people of Myanmar (but apparently, coffee culture is fast catching up there). A quarter of the glass is filled with thick condensed milk and then topped with a milky tea while the final layer is a clear thin tea. I am not sure if the layers are aesthetic or functional, but be warned that this tea is extremely sweet.
And as a final treat, he baked me a lemongrass butter cake, oozing masculinity, in true HairyBerry style. It was an amazingly delicious cake that was complex in flavours and reminded me of Hari Raya.
I have no basis for comparison, and I am not sure whether the food at Paradise Palace is dumbed down for Malaysian palates or if the borderless world extends to our cuisines as well. The flavours are familiar and it is almost like eating at home. Comforting.
For other reviews, check out Masak-Masak.
6th Floor, Sogo Shopping Centre
Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.