|Smooth and tender, a whole chicken is soaked in cooking stock, the chef conscious of delicateness and flavours that infuse the meat with skin on, before it is sliced for serving, with condiments made from ginger, sweet black soy and chili.|
Joseph Chan did it again - organise a group of us to have a sit down dinner at Temasek, one of the most enduring places in the Sydney region to continue to provide Malaysian and Singaporean fare and cuisine all these past 30 years. This time we had eleven diners ( due to one apology, who was not feeling well) and the round table was graced by people from various origins - South Africa, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc. I was seated between my dear elderly aunt Laura and Greg from Castlehill. The place was as expected abuzz with many other diners, with a sprinkling of Caucasian families and groups, all intent to delve into the fare found abundantly in the food courts, cafes and streets of Singapore and Malaysian conurbations.
|Grilled chicken satay sticks are served with sliced bits of pineapple, cucumber and onions. The true test of this street food dish is the quality of the accompanying peanut-based gravy.|
My best nominations this time at Temasek were for the Hainan chicken rice and the grilled satay skewers (photos above). It is true that the chicken stock flavoured rice has now come to represent Singapore's national dish, even if it originated amongst immigrants to the Kelang Valley, Penang, Kinta Valley and Singapore from Hainan island in the 19th century. Immigration to then British colonial Malaya (with the current Malaysian peninsular in political union then with the island of Singapore) meant a segmentation of trades and business to ensure that everyone of the various races earned a livelihood. It is said that the Hainanese immigrants arrived too late for the tin mining rush - and that a strong understanding of niche specialisation arrangements already taken up by the Chinese immigrants from other provinces in southern China meant that the Hainan arrivals had to revert to commercial cooking. I notice there is no such segmentation in modern day Australia, or is there? These Hainanese arrivals turned out to have a forte with cookery and food outlets - and created the Hainan chicken dish now of legend in south-east Asia.
|Fluffy and light roti, which are best dipped with a light and dilute curry and obviously of Indian origin.|
That evening I did find the Malaysian styled creamy chicken curry was a tad over salty and lacked the spiciness that I had hoped for. I noticed that the sambal spinach (kangkong) was plainer than I wanted. Have these dishes been modified for mainstream diners in multicultural Parramatta?
Tomato cuts stir fried with egg omelette may not be a Malaysian idea, but more of a Fujian concept, raised to extra tastiness using Australian sourced ingredients. The beef rendang is Malaysia's national dish and also available from Temasek. What I enjoyed was the or chen, or oysters stir fried with omelette - a rich dish health-wise but Temasek has found the right level in serving this dish that is neither too creamy nor too burnt. Best picked up by chopsticks, the oyster mix should melt in the mouth and release a hint of fresh seafood.
|Beef rendang, normally more dry curry paste back in Malaysia.|
For dessert, we had the opportunity to sample the red tortoise (ang koo), a snack normally reserved to celebrate the birth of a male infant or mark a special joyous occasion. Bite sized, the red looking round cakes contain mashed and cooked mung bean paste inside, whilst glutinous rice flour is utilised to make the outer skin. This Straits Chinese specialty is hardly made by many these days and was such a special treat. The food of Malaysia and Singapore, as you can see now, comes from a fusion of cooking styles that synchronise with migration and history.
|Nothing like smoked tea to down the oils and spices away.|