Wednesday, November 14, 2018

ALL SHOOK! UP OVER POLISH TATAR FOOD


Organised in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Malaysia, I had my first-ever Polish dining experience featuring a four-course menu by Guest Chef Marcin Budynek (below pix, left) at the Polish Tatar Food Festival at Shook! which is on its last leg today.
After graduating from the Poznan Culinary Schools in his homeland, Chef Marcin’s culinary passion saw him gleaned global experiences across Italy, England, Chile, South Africa and Spain. The enterprising chef also runs the Marcin’s Culinary Academy and helms his own Bistro Dobra Zmiana and Tawerna Fisza restaurants on top of hosting popular daytime television cooking shows in Poland.
Historically, Polish food is an intriguing mixture of traditions and cultures: Germans, Tatars, Turks, Armenians and Lithuanians among others. The nomadic Tatar — a Muslim ethnic minority whose roots can be traced back to the Mongol Empire who setled in Poland at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th century brought with them one-pot meals cooked on open fire and dishes such as beef tartare, manta (dumplings), hot soups thickened with meat and vegetables, pilaw (pilaf) and baked goods.
From the get-go, diners can whet their appetite with curtain-raisers of Beef Tartare, Beef Chebureki with Crème Fraîche or Bezduszniki - Tatar Dumplings with Chicken or Vegetables. Dotted with spicy mustard, the raw minced beef is palatably tantalising with the occasional bursts of saltiness, tartness and sharpness evoked by the inclusion of capers, chopped onion and cornichon pickles mixed into it.
The Beef Chebureki looks exactly like our local curry puffs — a half moon shaped baked pastry with lightly spiced minced beef filling minus any chilli hotness. As for Bezduszniki - Tatar Dumplings with Chicken or Vegetables, they are possibly the original speciality that gives rise to wor tip or Chinese pot stickers and gyoza.
Soups are also popular in Polish cuisine. In the summer months, choldnik or Cold Beetroot Soup tops the list. The refreshingly tangy soup boasts a brilliant pink hue thanks to the blended beetroot. Cucumber julienne and hard-boiled egg lend textural interest whilst yoghurt and lemon juice endow the soup with rounded creaminess without being overly cloying. A fresh herb known as purple radish gives it a nice peppery finish.
Both the Cream of Sauerkraut with Beef Ribs as well as the Beef and Lamb Stew are so hearty and substantial, they are practically a complete meal on their own. The former is palatably tangy with a silky lushness to it whilst the latter, served with unleavened bread roll, tastes comfortingly voluptuous like being enveloped in mum’s embrace.
 
Grains, meat and freshwater fish are dominant in the Polish diet as are cured meat and sausages. Sour cream and yoghurt are preferred while common vegetables include beets, cabbage and potatoes. The various main courses: Baked Duck with Potato Cake, Roast Lamb Shoulder with Vegetable Pilaf and Salmon with Butter Emulsion with Casserole of Beans and Pickled Vegetables offered are reflective of those traits.
My portion of baked duck is reminiscent of duck confit; the faintly gamey and briny meat evokes the aroma and deep flavour of Lunar New Year-ish waxed duck. Served with a slab of potato cake similar to hash brown, the rustic dish redolent with the musky earthiness of mushroom is complemented by savoury duck jus.
Research shows Polish Tatar and Asian food share more commonalities than we realise. A good example is the lamb and pilaf combination in which hints of spices perfumed the rice and meat. My dining partner happily polished off everything as the dish was comparable to a well-made biryani worth its grain. Although we didn’t try the salmon, the fillet looks good, accompanied by a generous serving of beans in tomato sauce.
Entertained by authentic Tatar music performed by Maria and Marcin Ruminski from Poland throughout dinner, I relished every bite of my Traditional Tatar Stulistnik Pastry with Lemon Cream and Fruits. Smeared with lemon cream, the roll of delicate paper-thin flaky pastry is complemented by fresh berries.
The Tatar fondness for dumplings extend to dessert. Proof of the pudding is the pair of Steamed Sweet Manta Dumplings with Cottage Cheese and Fruits. Simpler yet no less appealing are the cushiony-soft Sweet Buns with White Buckwheat and Poppy Seeds.
Available tonight from 7pm until 10.30pm, you can opt for a three-course dinner at RM160 nett per person or four-course dinner at RM180 nett per person. Guests can also choose selected dishes from the menu at à la carte prices.

For reservations and enquiries, please call Shook! @Starhill Gallery, tel: 03-2782 3875 or email shook@ytlhotels.com.my.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

HOT STEAMBOAT NIGHTS AT CHATZ BRASSERIE


Kimchi. Ma La. Tom Yum. Herbal Chicken Soup. Chatz Brasserie at PARKROYAL KL aims to lure hot pot enthusiasts with its Steamboat promotion, every Sunday to Thursday for dinner.


Priced at RM83 nett per person, you can enjoy the Steamboat (minimum two diners per table) from 630pm-1030pm. The most distinct choice of soup base is Kimchi, followed by the tongue-numbing Ma La stock concocted from Sichuan peppercorns. Crowd-pleasing Tom Yum and Herbal Chicken Soup are available too.

Our favourite soup is the tangy-savoury Kimchi soup. Despite its oily appearance, the mildly zingy Ma La soup soon warms our hearts up with its stealthy hotness and long, lingering finish. Both the Herbal Chicken and Tom Yum gain greater appeal after the numerous ingredients enrich the initial soup base.
We urge you to refrain from dumping every ingredient into the hot pot simultaneously. Strategise. When the soup comes to a rolling boil, start by adding more solid items such as assorted Mushroom: button, abalone and shitake into it. Enoki requires less time to cook so keep a close eye on this. The various fungi tastes great when soused in Herbal Chicken, Tom Yum or Kimchi soup.
 
Then fish rolls and fishballs from the selection of Ocean Seafood can go in followed by the day’s catch of fish fillet, Sulu sea prawns, half shell scallops, flower crabs, jellyfish, crabsticks and Norwegian salmon fillet. Avoid overcooking the fish and seafood in the steamboat as they taste best at the right doneness. Delicious regardless of the type of soup used, the seafood’s inherent sweetness shines clearer in either Herbal Chicken or Tom Yum stock.
 
Also on the steamboat menu is Red & White Meat: Australian beef tenderloin and tripe, New Zealand mutton and free-range chicken strips. From our sampling session, the slices of gamier beef and mutton fare better in more piquant broths of Ma La or Kimchi. Timing is everything so never leave the meaty slices languishing in the steamboat too long or you’d end up with tough, rubbery meat.
Likewise, treat the Garden Picks of Tianjin cabbage, Chinese leek, Cameron lettuce and Hong Kong choy sum with care when popping them into the hot soup. IMHO, a lightning-fast blanching will do justice. Black fungus is the only item that can withstand prolong boiling. Best soup choices? Herbal Chicken and Kimchi.
Hearty eaters will find adequate substance from Fish Noodles, Glass Noodles, Meehoon (rice vermicelli), Emperor Noodles, Beancurd and Eggs. While the fish noodles doesn’t hit the mark (the Chatz team promised to make amends on this), the different noodles prove to be excellent tummy fillers as are the beancurd and eggs.

Condiments and Dipping Sauces comprise the ‘tried and tested’ chopped garlic and red chilli, house-made bird’s eye chilli dip, sukiyaki sauce and black and white sesame dipping sauce. A tad ho-hum for seasoned steamboat lovers but we presume the hotel’s main target market comprising in-house guests and foreign visitors are unlikely to fault the assortment available.
For reservations at Chatz Brasserie, call tel: 03-2782 8301. Address: Lower Lobby, PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Jalan Sultan Ismail, KL.