The thing about tasting a foreign cuisine is that most often you end up drawing comparisons with the food of your country. Especially when the focus is Asian, which bears strong resemblance to Indian food. That is exactly what happened when we dropped by at India Jones at Trident Nariman Point, Mumbai to try out their Malaysian food specials prepared by the chefs from the Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur.
The use of coconut, chillies and spices like cumin, mustard and coriander lends a very distinct yet familiar flavour and appearance to Malaysian cuisine. Ask Chef Saiful of the luxury hotel chain about sourcing all the ingredients for the food festival, and he admits carrying some herbs and spices from home.
We started our meal with a coconut flat bread called Lempeng kelapa. It was so soft that we were pleased to mop it up with the Dhall sayuran or vegetable gravy under a minute. It was so close to roti-subzi that the familiarity was uncanny. Tell this to Chef Saiful and he is pleasantly surprised. The onion sambal was subtly spiced and went well with the Dhall. For appetisers we also tasted the lamb satay, which came with a cashew dip. The meat was slightly chewy, but the strong hint of lemongrass was refreshing. Chef Saiful claims that the lamb is left to be marinated with various spices including cumin or jeera powder for 2-3 days.
Our main course was packed with simplicity, the one thing we appreciated thoroughly. We were served Gulai Lemak Udang Harimau or prawns braised in Malay curry paste, Ayam Masak Merah or chicken cooked with tomatoes and bird eye chilli, Lamb Rendang and Asam Pedas, which is a sweet and sour fish preparation. The prawn curry reminded us of our native recipe, and the fish stood out with its pungent taste. The highlight was the rice or Nasi Hujan Panas, which stood out for its colourful grains. We ended our meal with Kuih Ketayap Pisang, a banana and coconut pancake of sorts with a green coloured floury coating. Again reminded us of those several festive recipes from coastal India.
Our takeaway from our experience of the Malaysian food specials lies in the many similarities between Indian and Malay cooking. If you are looking for some rare and traditional Malaysian food in a fancy ambience, this festival is for you.
The Malaysian Food Specials at India Jones, Trident Nariman Point will be on from October 7 to 16.
The author was invited for a tasting session by the restaurant.