Sunday September 9, 2012
Courage as main course
FRESH and succulent, the grilled prawns with yellow and red melon cubes made a refreshing appetiser.
The vinaigrette, flavoured with pomelo sacs and coriander leaves, certainly added zest. For the main course, the medallions of wagyu beef settled like silk on the tongue, melting sensuously with each bite like thick, rich chocolate on a warm, summerís day. Heightening the pleasurable experience was the tamarind and red wine sauce, a magical concoction enriched with lime leaves and portobello mushrooms which made this writer commit the dining faux pas of mopping her plate clean with a piece of bread.
Just like any production, this dinner too had its fair share of behind-the-scenes drama.
Initial plans to marinate the prawns in rich coconut milk and toasted ground coconut were foiled when supply came up short, requiring last-minute changes to the menu. An attempt to create uniform-sized crackers from Pangkor Islandís famed fish keropok for the soup also turned up short. Having ground the crackers to a paste, the kitchen team had tried to form them on greaseproof paper only to see them crumble upon lifting. A non-stick silicone pad would have done the trick but the resort didnít have one.
But the story of grit would come from Wai Look Chow, the 43-year-old corporate chef for YTL, who despite a throbbing toothache that caused half his face to swell, soldiered on to present a memorable spicy tamarind soup with pomfret slices.
Wai, a father of three boys, had ignored urgings from Lafer and the camera crew to rest, saying that to do so would be to ďmiss the golden moment of his lifeĒ. After two weeks of following the crew to the fruit orchards and rice fields for photo shoots for their book, Two Chefs, One Cuisine featuring Malaysian and German recipes, there was no way he was going to let the team down for the gala dinner. Not when Laferís fans from the Lafer Cooking Club had flown all the way from Germany to taste the fruits of their culinary collaboration.
A native of Negri Sembilan and raised in a village in Tanjung Malim, Perak, Wai, of Hakka descent, reckons heís been through worse, like the time he sliced his forefinger carving a candle 20 years ago. The cut required seven stiches to close. Wai had not backed down then and he was certainly not going to let a swollen left jaw do so now.
Giving the affair a local twist is locally hand-made spinach vermicelli from the Tan Kim Aik noodle shop in Pangkor, which is now into its third generation. The verdict from the chefs revealed the strands to be slightly hardier than the commercially made ones which have a more floury texture.
A little debate also arose over Waiís Nine Islands Fish Soup, a tangy tamarind broth with pomfret slices and the above-mentioned vermicelli. One diner said the fiery nature had made her tear but Heike Oeser, 48, of the Lafer Cooking Club claimed the soup hardly raised a sweat.
A post mortem revealed Wai had not been overly generous with the dried chillies in his concoction: eight stalks for some eight litres of stock, but the addition of torch ginger must have created the fiery sensation for the milder palate. Nevertheless, the soup was sipped with much gusto, by diners and also the kitchen staff, as Wai had mindfully kept aside a tureen for his team as an after-work reward Ė with extra noodles of course.