Discovering the Flavours of Malaysia with Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia: A land of wonderful wildlife, incredible landscapes, magnificent temples, and of course, sensational street food. If you’re a foodie at heart, it’s certainly an Asian destination you won’t want to miss.
With that in mind, as part of Malaysia Airlines latest exciting campaign, the airline sent two renowned chefs - Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell - to Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on a delicious Taste Tour, with the aim of celebrating traditional Malaysian cuisine and exposing its flavour-packed fare to a wider audience. The result? The two chefs launched their temporary pop-up in London’s Spitalfields, which ran November 26 – 29th. The set menu comprised four courses, a dessert and a welcome drink, all inspired by the tantalising tastes of Malaysia. We sat down with the chefs behind the project to discuss the taste tour, and find out why Malaysia’s cuisine just has to be tried:
Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell sampling Malaysian Cuisine - Image: Jonathan Sharp Photography
Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell sampling Malaysian CuisineImage: Jonathan Sharp Photography
Tell us in detail about your Taste Tour of Malaysia, where did you go and what did you do?
We spent just one day and night in Kuala Lumpur, but we certainly didn’t waste a moment. An overnight flight from Heathrow with Malaysia Airlines meant we arrived refreshed and raring to go. On arriving at the hotel, we were lucky enough to be invited to a private cooking demonstration with the Exec Chef of Traders Hotel who showed us the traditional recipes and cooking techniques for national favourites Roti Canai and Nasi Lemak.
Following the masterclass, we headed out to experience the sights and sounds of Jalan Alor which is not to be missed. We capped off the evening with cocktails in the Sky Bar at Traders Hotel which boasts a pretty unbelievable view of the Petronas towers.
The next morning, we flew with Malaysia Airlines over to Penang for four nights. Again, we made the most of our time in this beautiful region, visiting a floating fishing farm, tropical spice garden, Penang Hill and more restaurants and hawkers than you could shake a fork at. We stayed in the incredible Rasa Sayang resort who really showed us the meaning of Malaysian hospitality.
Taste Tour Malaysia - Image: Jonathan Sharp Photography
Taste Tour MalaysiaImage: Jonathan Sharp Photography
What was your experience of the night markets in Kuala Lumpur?
Jalan Alor is a truly unique food experience, with street food traders and restaurants as far as the eye can see. We ate our way down the main street, trying as much of the local cuisine as we could – dishes such as Black Pepper Crab, satay, smoked chicken wings and deep-fried vegetables.
Black Pepper Crab - Image: Jonathan Sharp Photography
Black Pepper CrabImage: Jonathan Sharp Photography
How, if at all, did Penang’s foodie scene differ to KL’s?
There seemed to be a lot more food on offer in smaller quantities in more locations. Almost every street corner or car park features a hawker or street food vendor, meaning more variety in cuisine. The history of Penang also means there are strong influences from India, China and the British – it’s a melting pot of cuisine and culture.
Kuala Lumpur had the feeling of a developing city, with restaurants taking up most of the food vending space. In Penang, the food seemed to dictate the lifestyle. Hawkers are generational, meaning recipes and cooking techniques have been in families for generations. That’s something we just don’t see as much in the UK.
Malaysia Taste Tour full menu - Image: Jonathan Sharp Photography
Malaysia Taste Tour full menuImage: Jonathan Sharp Photography
What was your personal highlight of the trip?
I really couldn’t narrow it down to just one. Visiting Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur was incredible. Little India in Georgetown, Penang was such an interesting experience for Rik and I as we use India as our inspiration in our own London restaurants, Kricket.
We went to a great little bar in Georgetown called Mish Mash, where we had cocktails, crispy pork belly and frogs’ legs. The crispy pork belly was so good we ordered another round.
A definite highlight would also be getting the boat out to one of the floating fish farms off the coast of Penang. We caught our dinner for that evening, cooked-up by the very talented team at the Malaya Dining Room.
Malay Fried Chicken - Image: Jonathan Sharp Photography
Malay Fried ChickenImage: Jonathan Sharp Photography
What would you say distinguishes Malaysian cuisine from other global cuisines?
Malaysia, because of where it is and its rich history, seems to draw on so many different cultural influences from Chinese to European. This shows in the food as well. The flavours are pronounced, strong and far from subtle, which made them ideal for our sharing-style feasting menu.
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For anyone travelling to Malaysia, what standout dishes would you recommend them to try? Are there any specific foodie hotspots in KL or Penang they can’t miss?
Nasi Lemak, roti canai, pepper crab and chicken satay are absolute musts. In general, the standard of cooking out in Malaysia is high, so you can’t really go wrong with where to get them!
Nasi Lemak - Image: Jonathan Sharp Photography
Nasi LemakImage: Jonathan Sharp Photography
What was your biggest learning from the taste tour?
I think it would have to be the cultural and historical influences on Malay cuisine, specifically in Penang.
Mangosteen - Image: Jonathan Sharp Photography
MangosteenImage: Jonathan Sharp Photography
Tell us about your London-based pop-up. What kind of dishes featured on the menu?
We wanted to take a fresh and modern approach to Malay cuisine. We put our own spin on traditional dishes that we found during the trip. Due to the rich, punchy flavours found in Malaysian cuisine, the dining experience took the form of a shared feasting menu, featuring Duck Heart skewers, Enoki mushrooms and our own take on Nasi Lemak to start. This was followed by Malay Fried Chicken served with Sambal Mayo, Butter Garlic Crab and a Beef Shin Kapitan curry. The menu culminated with fresh Mangosteen served with Pandan ice cream which is a light finish to a fully flavoured meal.
The aim was for guests to come away from the meal with an appreciation for Malaysian cuisine as it deserves to be recognised by a wider audience. We were truly humbled by the welcome we received in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. We’ll definitely be back!
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