For a taste of authentic Nyonya flavours
KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — Looking at my pictures of the awesome Nyonya dinner at Chatz Brasserie, Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur makes me want to go back again. Firstly, there was Debbie Teoh, the foremost Nyonya chef in the country, introducing us to each dish on the table. And when I spied the nasi ulam, that was it. I knew I was in for a delightful evening.
I bite into the hand-cut slivers of roots and herbs, each exuding its own fragrance, mixed with the rice together with salt fish and dried prawns, and I’m in gourmet heaven. I have not had Nasi Ulam like that in a long time. You can absolutely trust Debbie to bring such authentic Nyonya flavours to the fore.
Then we are on to the Itik Tim – duck soup with salted mustard vegetables – and it has the same devotion to replicating the original. It has that salty and sour tang that balances out the richness of the duck, a little sweetness from the onions and spice from peppercorns and ginger. It is a lovely soup.
Who can forget that wonderful Hu Pio or Fish Maw Soup she made for us last year, going through the whole laborious preparation of simmering the chicken carcass for the stock and adding the fish maw, shrimp balls, carrot, cabbage and yam bean. It’s again on the menu this year.
I was looking forward to the Ayam Buah Keluak curry, and there it was — the mangrove nuts, almost spilling out their creamy filling. The nuts need to be scrubbed, then soaked for two days, before cutting a hole in them and removing the insides.
The dark chocolatey nut is pounded, with salt and sugar added and combined with egg white before being stuffed back into its hard shell, and cooked with chicken curry. Immersed in the delicious curry, the intense, sour and complex nut filling drew in all its flavours and was so yummy. You want to scrape out every bit of it.
Debbie's repertoire of Nyonya dishes encompasses both the northern and the southern Nyonya styles, with distinct differences between them. Her father is a Baba from Malacca, and her mum is a Nyonya from Penang. Now how perfect is that? Debbie is also author of cookbooks like "Underwraps", "Asian Titbits", "Authentic Nyonya Tastes" and "Nyonya Flavours", and is a Nyonya food consultant for Tourism Malaysia.
The Gulai Tumis Ikan Pari was expectedly hot, sour and fragrant with the daun kesom, slivers of bunga kantan and lemongrass. The fish is a delight to eat, the meat flaking off its cartilaginous bones. It’s a curry to entice you to eat rice, as does the Lemak Nenas Ikan Sepat. It’s a little salty from the salted fish, tart and sweet with the pineapple, and gently mellowed with coconut milk in it. A curry with pineapple is always a treat, especially this classic Nyonya one.
Debbie’s Eggplant with Dried Prawn Sambal was scrumptious. I couldn’t stop eating this roasted eggplant slathered with this hot and intense sambal. The soft eggplant was perfectly matched with it.
The Ulam Platter with four-angle bean, fresh mint and cucumber and dried prawn sambal was so familiar to me. We used to have this same pounded dried prawn (not fried) mixed with sambal belacan and lime juice tossed together with fresh cucumber slices. I thought the fresh mint was so good with this sambal, and the crunchy four-angle bean too.
We always have Otak Otak with fish, but Debbie had done a chunky one with fish fillet, prawns and squid in this creamy, spiced coconut and egg mousse with daun kadok that was packed with flavour. The chef herself likes to eat Otak Otak with toasted bread, which sounds like a great combination.
Dessert was cendol, the slightly firm green strips made with aromatic green pea or hoen kwe powder, in coconut milk and gula Melaka.
The Serimuka with a bottom layer of blended yam with coconut milk was truly wonderful. I enjoyed biting through the soft creamy topping and into an exquisite yam layer.
Debbie makes wonderful Nyonya "choong" too. We each took home one of these dumplings of glutinous rice tinged blue from the blue pea flower, and stuffed generously with a spiced, sweet chicken filling.
Debbie’s Touch of Nyonya promotion is on till June 10. It’s a buffet, with lunch from Monday to Friday at RM62++ per person, and dinner all week at RM82++. There’s also a weekend Nyonya high tea at RM59++. Call 03-2147 0088 to book.