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Monday, 19 June 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Chef looks to childhood for inspiration

AN ALL-you-can-eat tropical fruit fiesta and more than 100 dishes – these are the items on the Ramadan buffet at Temptations in Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel.

Breaking fast is a time not only for Muslims, but also non-Muslims looking forward to sample a variety of dishes.

The Durian Serawa is durian sauce and glutinous rice made with D24 durians and enriched with lots of coconut cream.

The trick to presenting mouthwatering food boils down to knowing what people like to eat. Dishes such as roast lamb, satay, grilled fish, apam balik and durian never fail to draw the crowd.

Not to forget seafood on ice. Not everyone will go for oysters but having them on display adds charm to the entire presentation.

This is the philosophy Malay chef head Ali Tuwin, 45, has held on to for the past 20 years.

Ali hits the right notes by featuring all-time favourite dishes at the buffet.
Ali hits the right notes by featuring all-time favourite dishes at the buffet. 

Ali is known for sticking to classic flavours. At the buffet , you will find his signature dishes – Nasi Briyani Gam, Gearbox Soup and Red Snapper Fish Head Curry.

These are undeniably the chef’s top three recipes and mirror his take on what good food is all about.

Ali is Bajau, an ethnic group of nomadic seafarers. He grew up in Kampung Air, Tuaran, Sabah, and is the fifth of seven siblings. Their meals were fresh, simple and never overly or artificially seasoned.

Blue crabs, tiger prawns and clams combine to bring the flavours of the sea in the Mixed seafood Curry.

This is evident in Ali’s Red Snapper Curry. There are two schools of connoisseurs when it comes to fish head curry: those who spend the entire mealtime picking on the gelatinous bits, eyes, skin and brain; and those who revel in eating the firm white flesh off the head. Here, diners get to enjoy the best of both worlds.

But the dish that bears the closest resemblance to the seafood broth Ali remembers from his childhood is the Mixed Seafood Curry. Its rich and thick gravy has hints of sweetness in the spicy notes. But the ingredients remain true to his seafaring roots. Blue crabs, tiger prawns and clams combine to bring the flavours of the sea.

The Gearbox Soup makes for an eye catching dish because if the sheer size of the helpings.

The story behind the Chicken Briyani Gam goes back to the time when he was still a hungry, wide-eyed boy who had just enrolled at the now defunct National Productivity Centre in Petaling Jaya.

For the first time, Ali tasted the earthy flavours of the peninsula. This delicious initiation is re-lived in the bountiful toppings of cashew nuts, fried onions and cuts of chicken pieces buried like treasures under golden basmati grains.

Fresh oysters and prawns featured at the buffet.
Fresh oysters and prawns featured at the buffet.

But the most eye-catching dish here is the Gearbox Soup. Most restaurants present a daintier version using shank bone of goats but here, they use cow shank bones.

So, naturally, the helpings are humongous! Even the soup bowl could not accommodate one serving. But you can easily heave the bone onto a plate.

You need to put aside your inhibitions to enjoy this. Put your forks and knives down, grab the bone with your bare hands and gnaw away.

Children will appreciate the dessert section in the 'Buffet of Malaysian Classics' at Renaissance Kuala Lumpur.

Children will appreciate the desserts here. They have ice cream and a fountain gushing dark chocolate.

Also featured is the colourful Sarawak layer cake and coconut pudding. But my personal favourite is the serawa durian made with D24 durians and enriched with lots of coconut cream. Sinful but delicious.

The Buffet of Malaysian Classics is priced at RM145 nett per pax and will run until June 24. Children aged below 12 pay half price. Serving time starts at 6.30pm.

TEMPTATIONS, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel, 128, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-2716 9322). Business hours: 6am to 10pm, daily.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.