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Posted: Thursday, 10 January 2019 04:39

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Travelogue: A Gastronomy fulfilling Journey to Malaysia

Jan 10: Malaysia, and especially Kuala Lumpur is vibrant, mysterious and exciting and a week there is a journey of discovery, so when his friend Chris Kam Loong Low invited him to give a series of Master classes, our Contributor John Salvi MW accepted with alacrity

I flew from Bordeaux via Amsterdam on KLM and since there were 10 hours to spend at Amsterdam airport, I had a brilliant idea. The Mercure Hotel inside the airport offers a room for the day from 09.00 – 19.00 for a give-away price and I spent my 10 hours very comfortably here.

Chris met me at Kuala Lumpur airport and drove me straight to the Richbaliz Hotel, a small and simple but comfortable hotel in the suburb of Selangor near his home.  Carting me off to the first of the lecture/dinners he took me to a Chinese dinner at the Kingdom Palace for 15 wine lovers.  The menu for my first meal was:

1. Special “Yuan Yang”Starter, a fruit version of Yeng-Shan served with crispy salmon skin,

2. Roasted crispy Duck prepared with herbs,

3. Steamed Giant Garoupa with Preserved chilli,

4. Braised stuffed Long Cabbage with sesame bean curd,

5. Fried Tiger Prawn with dried squid,

6. Braised Vermicelli with fish Paste & spring onion,

7. Sweetened red bean paste with preserve Mandarin oranges skins. 

Regretfully I was too tired after the journey to properly record all the wines, but there were 9 of them. As Chris has been made the Chancellor of the newly opened Kuala Lumpur Chapter of the Jurade de Saint Emilion there was no lack of good Saint Emilion, including my good friends of Château Guadet.

Day 1

The next morning, I was picked up by his partner in Swag Consultancy Sdn Bhd, Prakash Ragavan, and taken for turmeric chicken and coconut rice for breakfast.  We then visited the Batu Caves and the beautiful Indian Temple before feasting on an Indian lunch in a Banana Leaf Restaurant, the Jaipur.  Everything was served on an enormous banana leaf – lamb, fish and rice accompanied by lassi and hot masala tea.  I then took rest in my room via an iced longan drink in the bar. 

That evening was a serious wine dinner at a seafood restaurant, Southern Rock, where I had to comment on each wine and try to match them with a series of fish dishes.  I pleaded that red wine could comfortably accompany some fish dishes.  Among the wines were Maté Brunello di Montalcino, Château Coutet Saint Emilion, Priorat Roero 2006, Beaucastel 2006 and a 1968 Barolo Brunate.  We had to guess the wines and I surprised everybody, including myself, by guessing correctly a wine from Bulgaria.  Charming, interested and generous guests made for a lively and entertaining evening on a Monday.

Day 2

On Tuesday morning, after noodles for breakfast, we drove to Malacca (Melaka), a World Heritage City.  We visited a beautiful temple, the Green Cloud Temple, dedicated to Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.  This is the oldest active temple in Malaysia dating from 1673.  We enjoyed skewers of chicken meat, mainly innards, at the Xiang Ji Satay House (Hainanese Satay) and went for a river cruise in the afternoon.  That night was a fine wine dinner in the Curly Tail Restaurant belonging to Sze Sze and Eli.  Château La Rose Côtes Rol, Saint Emilion, Château Coutet Saint Emilion, 2 Australian wines and a delicious Château Angelus 2011.  This with a tasty sweet/sour fish soup, coconut rice with shrimp and coconut chicken curry!  It seems that my comments were appreciated, and the evening finished late and boisterously and we slept at the Hatton Hotel.

Day 3

Wednesday saw us breakfasting on soup noodles, and after some work on the computer, lunching with Donald and Lily on Nyonya Cuisine (also known as Peranakan).  Nyonya Laksa, Spicy chicken and potato curry and excellent Tofu.  To top this off we went to the coffee shop of Chew Shin Miu, Khaki Coffee Bar, where I had the best Puer tea and a truly divine Panna Cotta made by a very beautiful 19-year-old trainee. 

I followed this with a major foot massage before returning to the coffee shop for a perfect Cappuccino.  That evening was the 4th wine dinner in a row at the Good New World Chinese Restaurant.  Oyster noodles, scallops and mushrooms, Pekin style duck and Beef Steamboat accompanied Château Guadet 2014, Château Quintus 2015 and Marques de Murrieta 2009 in magnums among a considerable  number of other wines.  Everybody enjoyed themselves so much that the evening became thoroughly wild and noisy, but enormous fun.   I collapsed onto my bed at the hotel.

Day 4

It was now Thursday, and we met friends early for breakfast at the Khong Juan Hin roadside foodery for chicken rice, soya egg and a dangerously spicy looking packet wrapped in a banana leaf which I avoided.  We then drove all the way back to Kuala Lumpur in time for me to meet an old friend, Remie Law, who runs a catering business in Singapore.  He took me to his sister’s house where we ate take away Chinese dishes, but my tummy was somewhat upset so I basically abstained.  He left me in an enormous shopping mall to take the coach back to Singapore.

Day 5

Friday was the big day-a full day Masterclass.  Noodle soup prepared me well.  The classes took place in Jerry G’s Restaurant, owned by a delightful Malaysian Airline pilot and there we also lunched sur place on excellent fungus soup and sweet/sour fish.  I talked almost non-stop for 8 hours and we gave an in-depth tasting of 7 wines, which we analysed and learned to taste like professionals.  It ended up becoming rather more personal than I usually care for, but everybody seemed truly interested and Chris was happy.

That evening was a big surprise.  We had a Chinese dinner with John Ng in the same restaurant as the first night.  Good dinner of seafood noodles, rice with crab and crab roe, duck and my favourite crystal shrimp.  Went to bed early and passed a bad night.

Day 6

Saturday morning, very early, Chris said his back and shoulder were hurting, and he had to have acupuncture.  We were supposed to go to Ipoh, but we cancelled the trip and I went with him to have acupuncture ata highly professional clinic, Nourish-Tech Chinese Medical Centre.  This was fabulous, and I made another appointment again for the next day.  Chris, being good friends with the lady acupuncturist, Teoh Paik Hua, and her son, we went upstairs to see the son, Ngiam Chee Jieh, who is a tea connoisseur.    He gave us the most delicious Liu-Bao Tea from the Province of Wu-Zhou and played for us on a beautiful, ancient musical instrument, Fu-Qing, made from an old beam and polished to perfection. 

Feeling relaxed and happy we lunched very simply at a Home Restaurant, Feng Yuan, on steamed Lala (tiny clams), crispy mantis shrimp, soft white tofu and mustard greens.  I took a long rest that afternoon after a glass of iced lychee juice.  Supper that evening was with Chris’s parents, simple but good.

Day 7

Sunday dawned both warm and wet and I was up at 06.45 to go and have Bak Kut The for breakfast.   I was also treated to some delicious, light Puer tea and interviewed with many photo shots by the “China Press Berhad”.  An enthusiastic and apparently well-known interviewer, Ho Shem Yen, wanted my entire life history, although she appeared to have it already! 

This took most of the morning, so we went straight to a Noodle Restaurant, Yu Noodle Cuisine, where Chris’s wife and daughter were waiting.  Excellent mushrooms and fish-balls in mixed noodle soup was our Sunday lunch.  Chris then sprang his surprise and without revealing our destination drove for a long time in slow heavy traffic and heavy rain. 

Surprise, Surprise!

Our destination was SKY GENTING where we parked the car and went up 9 escalators to queue for 90 minutes to take a cable car, Genting Skyway, to the top of a mountain. 

We found ourselves at Sky Avenue Genting, which is an immense fun ensemble with quantities of restaurants, games, cinemas, entertainment halls and everything the heart could desire.  Chris chose the Din Tai Fung Restaurant, one of a famous chain founded in 1958 and specialising in Xiao Long Bao dumplings (often known as Shanghai dumplings) where you must pierce them with your chopstick and suck out the soup before eating the dumpling with the meat inside. 

This was the Genting branch and I remembered that the Hong Kong restaurant was awarded a star by Michelin in 2010 and I ate there with Wilson Kwok.  We had those and other dumplings for what Chris described as “tea”.  The wait for the cable car down was almost as long line.  We arrived safely to the parked car. 

I thought the treat was over but No!  Chris then used his GPS to take tiny country roads in the rain and arrive at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  It was an enormous, spread-out restaurant on a torrential stream swollen by the rain.  We sat just above it and listened to it roar but could not see it as it was dark by then.  Great fish, greens and wild mushrooms and coconut milk to drink.

It appeared that all Malaysia was on the road home and it took almost 2 hours to cover some 30 kilometres, but Chris delivered me to my hotel after an exciting day at around 23.30.  A quick Longan juice and bed.  A great day!

Central market

Monday, and I have been here a week.  Prakesh picked me up at 09.00 to take me to visit central market, but when we got there it was closed.  However, the immense food hall next to it was open and filled with eager breakfasters.    We joined them and Prakesh ordered me a steaming bowl of pork and prawn mixed noodles and soya milk.  Not wishing for me not to see a market, he drove a long way to another one, which was disappointingly clean and sterile.  No more fish jumping about in buckets, no more carcasses dripping blood onto the ground and no more mounds of fruit and veg on mats on the floor.  Everything laid out on neat stalls as in Europe.

I had asked to go back to Feng Yuan and here I enjoyed spicy steamed ginger clams and salt and pepper prawns together with soft tofu and mustard greens.  I enjoyed an afternoon rest and café latte in the hotel before our last wine dinner.  However, Chris had another surprise.  We met John Ng for dinner before the tasting and over steamed fish, tofu, mustard greens, pork and mushrooms we tasted the wine with Tonkit Ali that they are marketing at present as well as a new blend they are thinking of using.  Both were disgusting, and we decided were totally un-marketable.

The wine tasting was in a retail store with a bewildering and impressive array of wines.  A charming owner, Desmond, and an interested audience with minimal knowledge of wines!  One gentleman asked me how many vintages we made each year in Bordeaux!  I talked to them over 5 wines and they seemed to enjoy it.  The tasting was based on the Prince of Luxemburg’s range “Clarendale” and an excellent Château Guadet 2008.  Once again, the Château Guadet was much appreciated.  One of the participants wanted to honour me with a fine bottle so the owner opened a bottle of Château Kirwan 1996.  As soon as it was polite to do so we made an exit and Chris drove me back to the hotel for my last night.

Las Day

This was now Tuesday, my last day and we had breakfast around the corner.  An immense bowl of 2 types of soup noodles with every imaginable part of the interior.  Thus fortified we shot off at high speed to a money exchange where Chris had previously made his arrangements and drew my fee for the week.  We then drove to the very special lunch that he and Lionel had arranged after picking up his wife and daughter. 

This was the oldest restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, 70 years old this year, where everything is still cooked over an open fire right in the heart of the city.  We were 12 persons with 8 adults, the number required for the special dish they had ordered.  The special dish was a deboned duck stuffed with as much sharks fin as possible and slow braised for 24 hours.  Served in a thick and wonderful sauce the boss lady cut it up with a spoon and ladled sharks’ fin into 8 bowls and topped them up with pieces of the duck which melted in the mouth.  Truly fabulous, it is an ancient and noble dish conceived for the Sultans. 

Other delicious dishes accompanied it: the best tofu of the trip stewed with abalone mushrooms, both crab and pork rolls, wonderful wild mushrooms and stewed greens.  A sumptuous last lunch!  We accompanied this with Château Guadet 2008 and sent a photo to the owner Guy Petrus Lignac.  To talk vulgarly about money, the special dish cost €200 that included a red shirt with their logo on it.

We then went to a Dim Sum restaurant in Kota Damansara, Kum Xuan, where I had crystal shrimp dumplings and siu mai.  Finally, to the airport some 70 miles outside Kuala Lumpur!  Here Chris left his family in the car park and accompanied me into the airport and to KLM check-in.  It was a long and slow journey home.  A 13-hour flight to Amsterdam, a  4- hour wait there and a final flight to Bordeaux. 

Thank you, Chris, for a wonderful week.  Travel is great, but it is always a pleasure to get home.

Count John Salvi MW


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