Malaysian Brunch Feast
9th April 2012
My Easter Monday’s, are usually a lazy day, for recovering from Easter eggs’ excess and watching a James Bond or Ben Hur repeat on the telly. This year, I found myself making a trek to New Malden, in high winds and rain, all in the name of street food. I knew Yolanda (our Wild Serai supperclub host) would pull out the stops, as she’d co-hosted a previous supperclub, with Goz (Plus-Six-Five), also a diner at the brunch.
The table was set simply, with batik floral printed cloths and fresh flowers. Giant Keropok (shrimp crackers) were piled high on our tables, which I found irrestitable, a bit of a school girl error, to start filling up on such trifles, when so much was to follow…
Sharif (Yolanda’s boyfriend) earnt his brownie points that day, as he barbecued our meat in the adverse weather conditions, for the starters. The chicken and beef skewers were tender and so much better having been charcoal barbecued, as opposed to just being griddled. The satay sauce was delicious, a crunchy consistency, balanced with freshness from red onion and cucumber chunks.
The Mee Goreng Mamak, was executed really well. The noodles were plump and were coated well, in the spicy sauce, without any greasy residue. There was a lovely balance of seafood, with juicy tiger prawns, sliced fish balls and cake and decorated with fried onions.
Next up was the Penang Rojak. I visited Penang (Malaysia), a few years ago and it is known as a ‘Hawker’s Paradise’. I tried the Rojak there as I was told it was a speciality of the area. I recalled that there was a variety of fresh and deep fried items that could be selected (like a pick-a-mix) and the thick treacle like, sticky sauce was ladled on, hence it’s translation ‘mixture’. Wild Serai’s version was a heady mix of pineapple, turnip (which was not my favourite, a little hard), deep-fried tofu (deliciously porous, soaking up the sauce) and fresh cucumber. This was a lighter sweet and sour sauce, using prawn paste and tamarind. The plate was garnished with nuts and rice-crackers.
Roti Jala, was a new dish on me, I’m more akin to Roti Canai (a cross between a paratha and roti) for soaking up my curry sauce. Roti Jala was a thin and latticed pancake. The Jala referring to a ladle with five holes, thereby creating the patterned pancake. The roti was accompanied with a tender Malay lamb curry, which had been tenderly cooked on the bone. It was medium in chilli heat, cooked in coconut milk, making it rich and creamy.
Nasi Lemak and at (60 sen) referring to the Malaysian price you can pick this street food breakfast staple up for. Normally sold on road-sides parcelled up beautifully in banana leaf pyramids. From afar, the street carts selling them look like topiary displays. Likewise, our plates were ‘cleaned’ by the placing of a fresh banana leaf, to eat from. Dainty, heart scooped coconut rice piles were decorated with boiled quails eggs, ikan bilis in Grandma’s special sauce and Nyonya fried chicken. I am such a fan of ikan bilis (dried anchovies), that I love it in anything, whether it be curry, sambals, omlettes and even salad garnishes. This was real soul food, again the textures were so wonderful together, even something as simple as the fried chicken, had been marinated for 48 hours in curry leaves, shrimp paste, lemongrass and blue ginger, making it really crispy and tasty.
Dessert came in the form of an adapted version of Ais Kacang. Beautiful shaved ice, drizzled with evaporated milk, rose and palm sugar syrup, sweet corn kernels, tapioca pearls, red beans, sea coconuts (a cross in texture and taste between rambuttan and lychee) and jelly (mango and honey-dew melon).
Every stir, uncovered new assortment of sweet jewels, bursting with flavour, I absolutely loved the combinations.
A much needed caffeine pick-me up came with Teh tarik (pulled tea), still frothy from being poured at height between two metal tumblers or jugs. Sweet, Malaysian tea, made with black tea and a combination of evaporated and condensed milk.
Not that I needed it, as I was so full of food and contentment, by this point. However, how could I resist just one small banana fritter? This for me, was a true hark back to my childhood, as it was a typical tea-time treat that my Mother would make, using up any over-ripened bananas.
I hugely enjoyed the Wild Serai Seafood Feast and this was indeed a great contender to it, showcasing some great street food. For the vast quantity and selection dishes, £25 is a bargain. Yes, ok in Malaysia this street food is a pittance in £ terms, however this pricing needs to be compared to a ‘dining out’ experience in London and it fares extremely well on value, execution and consideration of diners.
New Malden, normally famed for it’s ‘Little Korea’ (a collection of Korean take-aways, eateries and supermarkets), handy for stocking up, getting your fill of Kimchee or taking a peek as I did through the windows. Alas, I was full on my return to the station, but a little Sushi lady vendor (I know, Japanese not Korean – before you say it), right in the station’s entrance, caught me eye. With a steely look, she meant business and I’m sure could take on any trouble with her sushi roll-mat. Something, for another visit, but how I’ll be able to resist the beckon of Wild Serai’s Malaysian food, I’m not sure…
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