Friday, October 23, 2009

Makan at the Airport

I am hankering for Malaysia. The sights, the sounds, the smells – and OK, the food. Yes, yes, let’s be honest here, especially the food.

Trouble is, I don’t have time to go – not even to make a reservation – but I did have an evening to spend at The Grove Restaurant at the Stamford Plaza Airport Hotel the other night, because the great thing was – Malaysia (and its food) was coming to me!

Makan, is the Malaysian word for eating, and I joined a few other food bloggers and writers at a long table and for a couple of hours we did just that – enjoy makan.

The Stamford’s Malaysian-born Chef Jacky Poon and Chef Daniel, from Singapore, are well-qualified to lead us through the spicy workings of a true Malaysian meal. They show us rojak, and gado gado vegetables with a wondrous peanut sauce, curried hardboiled eggs, chicken curry, stuffed squid, and of course a colourful range of desserts – mango pudding, creamy fruit sago, black rice, balanced by fresh fruit – and then they turn us loose.

Of course the other buffet offerings are not off-limits either and some of the group return to the table with plates heaped high with Balmain bugs and prawns, then later lush slices of tortes and cakes.

I’m happy enough though with mee goreng noodles and tender grilled fish fillets served on squares of banana leaf. I fall for an interesting vegetable called sweet turnip – and it tastes like a cross between radish and apple, crisp, ever so slightly peppery – that is part of the collection of rojak vegetables that we drizzle with a dark caramel-ly sauce.

Chef Poon spells the name of my new veggie-love for me but I get it wrong, and back home I don’t rest until I find it in my good friend and Asian expert, Carol Selvarajah’s definitive book The Essential Guide to Buying and Using Authentic Asian Ingredients. There she tells us my ‘find’ is a yam bean, bangkwang. It comes from South America where they call it jicama (hick-a-mah). It is the nashi pear of vegetables.

This Malaysian Food and Cultural Feast will be on until November 1st. The Stamford Plaza Airport Hotel is on the corner of O’Riordan and Robey Streets in Mascot, near Sydney Airport. And as if the food is not enough incentive, diners will also have a chance to win a holiday for two people to Malaysia.

Now that is makan sense!


Here is Stamford Hotel’s Chef Poon’s recipe for:


Serving for 6-8 person


White Fish Fillet

Portion cut in 50 grams slices

Banana Leaves

Square shapes to cover

Sambal Paste

See recipe below

salt and pepper to taste

6 wedges of lemon

Sambal Paste:

Sliced Onion

200 grams

Peeled garlic


Fresh Turmeric

10 grams

Galangal, puree

100 grams

Hot chilli, puree

40 grams

Lemon grass, puree

40 grams

Lemongrass ,whole but bashed

40 grams

Shrimp block(Belacan)

40 grams

Lime leaves

3 pcs

Vegetables Oil


To cook the sambal paste

1) Place all ingredients into blender and process till smooth paste

2) Add in oil in pan and fry the toasted the shrimp block and add in onion and whole lemongrass

3) Added puree ingredients to the pan and bring to boil

4) Reduce to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for around one hour ensuring the sauce does not stick, or burn, and is periodically stirred

until most of the liquid has reduced and become jam like in consistency.

Place the fish fillet seasoned with salt and pepper on a piece of banana leaf on a hot pan, top with the sambal paste and cover it with another piece of banana leaf.

Cook it for half a minute and then turn the fillet over. When serving, squeeze some lemon juice on top of the fish.

©Chef Jacky Poon, 2009 (used with permission)

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