Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Taste of Malaysia: A tour of three Malaysian restaurants

Last year, I was lucky enough to get a few tickets to go to the Taste of London festival through my sister who works in marketing. Not only did I get to watch a very hungover Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall totally mess up baking a cheesecake, but got to meet a few well know chefs and most importantly of all, got to eat loads of great food. It was a really enjoyable day and as soon as I had left, was already looking forward to the 2010 version.

One of this years sponsors is "Malaysia Kitchen 2010", a year long programme associated with promoting Malaysian food in Britain. As part of their sponsorship, they have created the Taste of Malaysia area, educating the public about Malaysian cuisine whilst providing food from Awana, Satay House and Tukdin, three popular Malaysian restaurants in London. In order to kickstart Taste of Malaysia, I was invited along with a few others on a Malaysian food "crawl" taking in food from these three restaurants. I could hardly turn down an invite involving food from my homeland and happily signed up.


First step on our culinary tour was Awana. Located in the heart of Kensington, this is very much high end Malaysian food. On entrance to the attractive dining room, awash with leather and teak, we were introduced to Hailong Wang who plied us with some of the house speciality cocktails. Adequately lubricated, we were shown to a dedicated area where they grill their satay and fling their dough until they make a bread called "roti canai". It was pretty interesting to watch how thin they get the dough before folding to get a similar multi-layered effect, a bit like in filo, to get a light crispy texture. Soon our food was ready and we were shown to a table to sample it.


Out came a variety of food. As well as the plain roti (served with curry and dal) and some gently charred and quite delicious chicken satay, we were served some beef rendang filled bread (murtabak), pomegranate salad and a little pastry case stuffed with an assortment of tasty little titbits, the name of which eludes me. I have eaten at Awana on a fair few occasions and whilst the food is always quite good, the prices reflect the neighbourhood and it can all add up.

Satay House, Paddington

After finishing our food and thanking our host, we were soon whisked away onto our next destination, Satay House in Paddington. A smaller restaurant catering to the masses, this was already full to the brim with smiling customers when we arrived. Meandering inbetween customers chairs and tables, we made our way to their downstairs dining room, got our drinks and soon the procession of food started.

Satay House, Paddington

The "control" of chicken and beef satay were first to land. Slightly thinner and a little chewier with a sweeter baste. These were still appetising and came with traditional accompaniments of rice cakes, cucumber and onion. Other dishes included prawns, plain fried vegetarian noodles and the best dish by far, their beef rendang. A rendang is essentially a slow cooked dry curry, deeply flavoured with spices and chilli and cooked in a coconut base. This version had a wonderful chilli kick which had a slow burn and did not detract from the highly spiced and fairly tender meat. And just as we finished, deep fried wings with chilli, garlic and soy were brought, almost as if they hadn't stuffed us enough. On the contrary, we (well, definitely I) were struggling under the sheer weight of their hospitality. With one stop to go, I took one, enjoyed it immensely and ignored the rest sitting in front of me until it was time to leave for our last destination.

Tukdin, Bayswater

By this stage, I was on the verge of throwing the towel in, but under the impression that the third stop meant dessert, I gee'ed myself up and entered our carriage rather full and happy. The final stop was Tukdin just "tucked in" around the corner from Lancaster gate tube station. What we encountered when we arrived was not the promise of desserts, but more food. The owner was intent on showcasing his menu to us so who were we to complain.

Tukdin, Bayswater

Malaysia is split into three main ethnicities (Indian, Chinese and of course the Malays) and whereas the first two restaurants felt more swayed towards the Chinese, this was definitely a Malay restaurant. As the Malay's are predominantly Muslim, no alcohol or pork is to be found on the menu, and all the meat is Halal. As the food rolled out, the satay was once again first to arrive. This time served off the skewer, the chicken had an even sweeter baste with a deeper combination of ginger and other spices. Not bad at all. More food kept coming and at one stage, we had to request smaller portions as most of were on our last legs and we didn't want to insult the restaurants hospitality by leaving piles of food behind. Nevertheless, we sampled everything we were given, including chilli mussels, plain fried mee (egg noodles), a chicken rendang, sweet and sour sea bass and my favourite of all, a light variation on a stir fried beef yellow curry.

So, just over three hours, three restaurants and about 15 different dishes later, we were done. It had been an excellent experience and it was great to get a little taster of what will be on at the Taste of Malaysia next week. Out of all the three satay we had tried (our "control" dish, if you may), I enjoyed Awanas offering the most. More subtle flavours and a better char won me over, although opinion was vastly divided amongst the group. Horses for courses some might say. I would have liked to have seen more traditional Malaysian dishes such as rojak and nasi lemak, but really just a minor niggle. Overall, excellent food, great company and big thanks to Sauce Comms for organising. Make your way to Taste of London next week (17th to 21st June) and experience a taste of Malaysia for yourself!

Please have a look here if you fancy checking out a few more of the photos.

Awana - 85 Sloane Avenue, London SW3 3DX
Awana on Urbanspoon

Satay House - 13 Sale Place, London W2 1PX
Satay House on Urbanspoon

Tukdin - 41 Craven Road, London W2 3BX
tukdin flavours of Malaysia on Urbanspoon


Joshua said...

Sounds great, was gutted to have to turn down an invite to this one due to toher commitments.

Pizza Shop said...

Good its really nice, I Love Malaysian foods.

catty said...

The roti at Awana does look amazing, pity I totally missed out on it last time due to the awful service! And that satay is making me HUNGRY.

Krista said...

Love the idea of hitting three restaurants of the same type in one night!

Tsu Lin + + said...

Overkill!! 3 restaurants with starters, mains & desserts all night long.

Been to both Awana & Satay House (I read Satay House is operated by a malay family?) - not bad both. But a less expensive alternative is a "takeaway" cum restaurant with an amazing and extensive menu in Sutton (Noodle House), been there?