Friday, July 09, 2010

Western food in Malaysia - a laymen's interpretation

I'm not a food blogger, but I like to rant about what I eat, once in a while.

This is not the way how you shoot proper food photos. There are way too much distractions on the table, the depth of field is too shallow, the white balance is off, etc etc. This is just a jpeg file straight out of camera. Just goes to show that even a professional camera doesn't get everything right all the time.

Western food has always been a fascination of us Malaysians. Although we have never seen nor tasted the real deal, we still flock over to establishments that sell it and heap millions of praises upon it even though it costs heaps more expensive than your RM 1 home cooked nasi lemak. It doesn't taste as delicious either.

Note - I'm talking about the blue collar workers' chicken chops, fish and chips, and steak, not the fine dining grilled oysters which comes in very small portions (costs a fortune too, but it tastes great.)

Salad - Most establishments unfortunately do not know how to get salads right, perhaps due to pure ignorance or the unavailability of raw materials. I like the concept of fresh garden salad, consisting of fresh rocket, baby spinach and lettuce leaves and tomatoes tossed in a light flavours of olive oil, salt and garlic.

The establishment which I visited tonight had a pathetic mixture of frozen vegetables (peas, carrots and corn) mixed with mayonnaise. There was another popular and pricey restaurant at Crown Square, Kuching where there was an overdose of vinegar, salt and pepper in the salad. You couldn't even taste the texture and flavours of the vegetables at all because of the strong flavoring.

Chips / Potatoes - Malaysian restaurants are extremely stingy in their portions of potatoes / fries. In Melbourne, you can find fresh, large potatoes very easily. If you'd like something 'cuter', baby potatoes are easily available.

As you can see in this regrettably dark image, this 500g steak only comes with a small potato, and two spoonfuls of creamed spinach. Sadly, its being served at the Steakhouse at the Hilton Hotel in Kuching. International 5 star hotels should be able to know how to serve good western, right ?  :s

The meat portions of most establishments are relatively okay. RM 30 will get you a huge chunk of pork rib steak. You'll be relatively safe with chicken chops (you will rarely find a place which gets it wrong, but if you do, my sincere condolences to you), but finding a place with good beef and lamb is very rare / non existent. In KL, the seafood can be quite expensive, so don't expect a lot of fish varieties (eg. blue grenadier, barramundi,  salmon, cod, etc).

It's not just western food in question. I think any foreign food cooked in KL by a non-native cook doesn't taste as good as the food cooked by the folks themselves. I was trying the chicken bulgogi dish at a Korean restaurant (Haeun Khon) at Amcorp Mall yesterday evening. For what it is , it is OKAY, but it lacks the lustre and 'kick' of the bulgogi which I've tasted in Melbourne which is cooked by Koreans and served by Koreans. I know there are some authentic Korean restaurants around in KL somewhere, but until I get to taste the food (as my wallet allows), I'll keep my fingers crossed.

I guess I have to accept the fact that while I'm still in Malaysia, I'll have to be content with substandard and expensive western (and foreign) food. It's pretty ironic that an Australian city allows me to savor authentic food all over the world before I've even visited the country.

Oh well, such is life.


1 Comment:

AnandaSim said...

I think you have to get used to different pricing levels and different perceptions. There are some very expensive restaurants in Melbourne but in general the social structure in Melbourne is that good food of many cultures is available at working man's prices. In Malaysia, the working man is not rich and the country is capitalist. This means for good food, local is nice and cheap. For "foreign" food, the pricing is for upper middle class wallets or even rich wallets. Malaysians also have a tendency to dilute the alienness of the food - it's as if the Malaysian taste overwhelms any foreign culture.


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