A seat at the annual Norwegian Seafood Gala Dinner in Kuala Lumpur is always much coveted. It took place last Friday, hosted by the Norwegian Ambassador to Malaysia, Hans Ola Urstad. The gourmet dinner celebrates the amazing array of seafood flown in specially from Norway for this occasion. It’s also when the Malaysia Norway Business Council Innovation Award is given out to the Norwegian company in Malaysia that has performed the best, fulfilling various criteria.
Frank Naesheim, who has been for years the Norwegian head chef and main co-ordinator of this event, had, for this dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, brought in a team of 11 chefs from Singapore where he is based. These are chefs of standing, who run well-known restaurants in Norway, Singapore, Resort World Sentosa, and Chennai.
Naesheim’s focus is to make the dinner better and better every year. At the hotel ballroom this year were long tables overflowing with 72 varieties of cold food, and four live stations manned by these chefs who turned out some exquisite dishes. The seafood ranged from king crab, lobster, prawns and scallops to salmon, halibut, cod, monkfish, turbot and haddock.
The centrepiece of the seafood display was the glorious king crab, leaning against an ice carving of a Viking ship. Huge scallops, lobsters, crayfish, prawns, salmon and haddock were the supporting act.
Where would you start at this dinner? King crab! Everyone seemed to have the same thought. The Grilled Norwegian King Crab Leg with mustard and orange sauce was so sweet, delicate and creamy. Later I had the Cooked King Crab Legs on ice, and it was not as nice.
I had a small helping of Whole Cold Poached Salmon and Medallions, then the Smoked Mackerel Salad. Gravlax was a must, so were the different kinds of caviar.
We gravitated towards the live stations. First it was the King Crab and Scallop Pastille with mushroom, savoy cabbage fondue and saffron mussel cream, that had a scallop at one end and the king crab at the other, satisfying my craving for both shellfish. It was superb. Then it was the Cured Salmon with Sushi Rice Espuma and Shrimp Cracker that was so delicate and delicious. Both these dishes were at the station of chefs Otto Weibel and Michael Mueller, both from Resort World Sentosa.
The Prawn Soup with Fennel Salad and the Potato and Leek Cream Smoked Halibut, Spinach and Eggs were so fine and pleasing at the station of chef Geir Skeie and Kathrina Skeie from the award-winning Brygga II, a restaurant in Sandjefjord, Norway.
Then we encountered Singapore restaurateur and consultant Sam Leong (formerly from Malaysia) and had his Home-made Noodles with king crab leg in milky chicken consommé. It was simply amazing – the smooth noodles in the flavourful chicken and crab stock.
From his wife Forest Leong was the Sous-vide Salmon Fillet with red capsicum coulis and tamarind sauce. The salmon, touched with paprika, and the coulis, fell apart in the mouth.
It was not possible to sample every kind of seafood at this dinner. The desserts were displayed in the lobby of the ballroom and all I could manage was just a scoop of lingonberry ice-cream.
Chef Naesheim enjoyed the challenge of organizing the dinner and cooking for 690 people this year. He proudly announced at the start of dinner that Bacalao or dry salted codfish, a Norwegian specialty. would be served. “Fisheries are increasing in Norway,” he said, “and cod fishing has increased by 20 per cent.” As for king crab, “the colder the water, the better the flavour.” Naesheim, who is known as the Salmon King in Asia, runs Snorre Food Pte Ltd in Singapore where he imports quality Norwegian seafood for Asia.
The MNBC Innovation Award was won by Yara International ASA, the world’s leading supplier of mineral fertilizers. It also produces environmental protection agents to prevent air pollution.
The evening ended with a performance by well-known Norwegian singer Marit Larsen who gained fame as a teenager, as part of the pop duo M2M, selling more than 12 million albums and singles.