Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tossed Cafe: Restaurants turn into a quiet place in Ramadan 2020

'Meriah' is how Haerris Riani describes Ramadan 2019 at his cafe, Tossed in Jaya Shopping Centre, with at least half-a-dozen tables of customers breaking fast every sunset, tucking into lamb biryani with complimentary drinks and desserts.

This Ramadan is the reverse - empty seats and hushed evenings are expected throughout the fasting month, with physical distancing curbs unlikely to be relaxed for restaurants soon. But iftar in 2020 isn't scrapped, with eateries like Tossed counting on takeouts to spice up buka puasa at home.

Ramadan 2019 at Tossed

Like many mall-based venues, Tossed - which first opened in 2014 - now maintains stringent health rules. Only staff members are permitted in the cafe; everyone signs health declarations and undergoes regular temperature checks. Face masks and hand sanitisers are available for their use. Haerris has set up sejadah prayer mat spaces, so his staff stay in for prayers. They also remain in the cafe for lunch, leaving only to send out food, visit the restroom or return home.

In early April, Haerris held out hope that it would be safe enough for dining in by now. Tossed promised discounts for group diners throughout Ramadan, with progressively higher savings for larger tables.

Those discounts have been infused into deliveries until May 23. “We calculate the discounts by the number of main courses. If you order three mains, you'll enjoy a 10% discount; for four to five mains, 15%; and six or more is 20% off," Haerris says.

"We held this promotion last year and had positive feedback. Customers like the concept, because a lot of people iftar with large groups, not alone. We had numerous bookings last year - six to ten tables each night. It was very lively, meriah."


The cafe's Ramadan repertoire is extensive - lamb biryani makes a comeback as the dish of the month, alongside local classics galore, from asam pedas fish to laksa Johor, gulai lemak udang to sweet-sour chicken and more. Western specialities include plenty of pastas.

Tossed also offers daily kuih-muih that changes throughout the week, freshly made each session (requiring one-day advance orders) for this season's fix of bingka ubi and kuih lapis Nyonya. Click here for the entire menu and to order online.

Before March, dining in contributed some 90 percent of Tossed's revenue. Deliveries won't make up the shortfall, but Haerris is grateful to Tossed's longtime loyalists for helping the cafe survive. “I'm actually quite stunned that we're getting a good response from regulars (for deliveries). I'd say, we are getting by. We're not at the red line. We’re sustaining ourselves, which is the aim at the moment.

“Dining in won't pick up till the end of the year. So get online and get in touch with all your customers with a database. I WhatsApp them, I email them. You have to be proactive - create a sense of ‘Tossed is online, you can order, you can even pre-order.' Give them options and space to support.”

Tossed's deliveries include a #FeedTheFrontliners effort, enabling customers to treat delivery riders to a meal, drink or fruits. "A lot of riders will be on the road, so they won't have time to purchase their own meal to break fast," Haerris notes.

While people are fasting, they shouldn't have to go hungry if restaurants can feed them. Tossed hosted orphans for buka puasa in 2019; this year, it hopes to send meals to an orphanage if it can afford it. “During Ramadan, we should be giving sedekah if we’re able to. We had a lot of support from customers last year, so we approached an anak yatim home, and the children came over after maghrib to have iftar here."


Another scene from Ramadan 2019 at Tossed

Tossed is one of nearly 120 restaurants participating in Eat Drink KL's Faith For The Future. Purchase a cash voucher at eatdrinkkl.com/faith and enjoy a 10 percent discount off your bill when you redeem the voucher within four months. The restaurant will receive your payment within three working days. Click here to read about Faith For The Future.

Reporting by EDKL writer Aiman Azri. Interview excerpts were edited for brevity. Images are courtesy of Tossed.

This is the sixth part in our series on how people working in Malaysia's restaurants, cafes and bars are confronting their current challenges.

Click on titles below to read more:
Chiu's: A Restaurant Founder's Pandemic Work Diary
Barista blues: A Malaysian cafe's precarious future weighs on its workers

This post first appeared on eatdrinkkl.com


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Krung Thep At Home: Classic Curry Pastes, Seductive Thai Sauces

Curry pastes crafted from recipes that reach back a century, sauces that tingle with the taste of Thai traditions: Damansara Heights' Krung Thep can help you recreate Bangkok's sultry soulfulness in your own kitchen, with a new range of bring-home ingredients for your personal pantry.

Chef Piyanat Yowabut (call him Chef Gug) and his team have cooked up a storm with these house-made pastes and sauces, thundering through our taste buds with various chillies, a sumptuous shower of spices and a distinctive drizzle of herbs.

Chef Gug's secret to these sauces is authenticity - he reveals that his inspiration comes from a Thai cookbook that's estimated to be 100 years old, with its recipes believed to be even older.

Born in Khon Kaen, one of the four major cities of Thailand's northeastern Isan region, Chef Gug consistently believes in constructing his bases from scratch; these pastes and sauces are painstakingly prepared with a pestle and mortar, faithful to generations-old practices.


Krung Thep's efforts should make home cooking breezier. 

"For the red, green and yellow curry pastes, we precook everything," Chef Gug says. "The curry paste is cooked, the spices are in there already. Just heat up with water or chicken stock, then add in meat, seafood or vegetables with coconut milk."

The sriracha and pad thai sauces are even simpler to use. "You can eat them with omelettes or snacks like fried chicken," Chef Gug recommends. The sriracha sauce showcases a blend of chillies, pickles, garlic and cucumber, while the pad thai sauce features Thai-imported tamarind and palm sugar.

Each freshly made sauce or paste is sold at RM15. Delivery is RM5 within 5 kilometres and RM10 for 5-10 kilometres. "The curry paste can be kept for maybe a week in a chiller; the sauce lasts in your fridge for up to one month," Chef Gug advises.

For extra tips on cooking like a chef with these pastes, click here for Chef Gug's recipe video on whipping up aromatic, creamy green curry chicken. Krung Thep promises the pastes are worthwhile for budding home cooks as well as professionals.

"If you were to buy all the ingredients that make up our base individually, it wouldn't be cost-effective at all, unless you’re cooking for a family of 20 or in batches for six months," explains Krung Thep's general manager Peter Lamb. "All the ingredients on their own cost quite a lot, because each base has more than 10 ingredients. So we hope to offer value for money in an accessible way.

"We recognise the new trend for dining at home and for home chefs. Many people have turned to cooking as one of their pastimes, producing their own food. We feel that Thai food is one of the most desired in the world, but it is one of the hardest to master. So we hope our pastes and sauces will help people effectively prepare Thai food in their homes."


Alongside the pastes and sauces, a pick-up and delivery menu of ready-to-eat dishes is also now available. This selection focuses on cheerful, casual meals, with rice, noodles, curries and vegetables for a convenient lunch or dinner.

All of these are contributing to the evolution of Krung Thep - when the restaurant fully reopens in the future, expect a venue that strives to be safe for dining in while also catering to customers who favour takeaways and deliveries for the time being or who want to shop for cooking ingredients. By then, Krung Thep's repertoire will comprehensively span its cherished specialities of regional Thai cooking as well as crowd-pleasing favourites.

Krung Thep online:
krungthep.my
facebook.com/krungthepkl
instagram.com/krungthepkl

Krung Thep is one of over 100 restaurants participating in Eat Drink KL's Faith For The Future. Purchase a cash voucher at eatdrinkkl.com/faith and enjoy a 10 percent discount off your bill when you redeem the voucher within four months. The restaurant will receive your payment within three working days. Click here to read about Faith For The Future.

This post first appeared on eatdrinkkl.com

Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral: Makan Yuk with Nook's takeaway sets of Indonesian delights

Take a culinary journey through Jakarta and Jambi, Medan and Makassar, enjoying Indonesian cuisine in the comfort of your own home this Ramadan, with Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral's Makan Yuk takeaway sets.

The food-savvy culinary cadre from Aloft's all-day dining restaurant Nook has ensured that these sets promise an awesome time breaking fast with your loved ones, delving distinctively into time-honoured Nusantara flavours.

Select from Lamb, Beef or Chicken sets crafted by Aloft's Executive Chef Arfizan, Nook's Chef de Cuisine Rais and their team. Each set, which serves four to five people, is available from 27 April to 22 May.

Diners who pick the Lamb Set will feast on Kambing Bakar Bumbu, marinated with Asian spices and herbs like turmeric, coriander seeds, chilli powder, ginger and lemongrass. The lamb is slow-roasted for two hours to achieve a tender, juicy texture. An array of side dishes helps to round out the meal.

Ordering the Beef Set? The Daging Sapi Gongso is marinated with Indonesian sweet soy sauce, red chillies and a medley of spices including cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, anise and fennel. The secret to its succulence? The meat is meticulously braised for three hours to absorb the nuances of the marinade, yielding melt-in-your-mouth pleasure.

Finally, you can sink your teeth into the Ayam Bakar Ingkung, the star of the Chicken Set. In this recipe originating from Yogyakarta, Aloft has added its own sassy flavours, marinating the chicken with special bumbu ingredients, coconut milk and Indonesian kecap. This is paired with house-made Sambal Bajak, a sweet and spicy relish, for a cluckin’ good time.

As sweet as the moments spent with loved ones is Nook's Bubur Sumsum. Alternatively, end your meal with dates and dried fruits, while quenching your thirst with chilled juice in the sets.

The Ramadan takeaway promotion, Makan Yuk @ Home, is all you'll need for a buka puasa spread, priced at RM168 nett for the Chicken Set and RM198 nett each for the Lamb and Beef sets. 

Diners are highly encouraged to make reservations at least 12 hours in advance before their pick-up at the front desk of Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral's lobby. Delivery is available too: klook.com/en-MY/activity/29158-nook-aloft-kuala-lumpur-sentral/

Images and information are courtesy of Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral. For more details, call 603-2723-1188 or check out https://www.facebook.com/AloftKualaLumpurSentral

Monday, April 27, 2020

PS150 Group: KL cocktail bars raise a bottle to halting shutdown hangover

A bustling bar on a weekend, with scores of customers sitting shoulder-to-shoulder for hours, sipping and sharing cocktails in intimate quarters: With this scene unthinkable now, how will KL's popular Friday night destinations keep the drinks flowing?

Peter Lamb, general manager of PS150 in Chinatown, Tickets in Damansara Heights and the new PostScript in Chow Kit, believes that bars will survive, despite surging health fears that could keep patrons physically away for months.

"Safety is the new sexy," Peter tells Eat Drink KL. “We must encourage trust to give guests peace of mind, knowing that all precautions that can be taken are being taken, so they can enjoy their experience like they used to."


In this age of anxiety, the PS150 Group is bottling up cocktail kits for home deliveries, with a curation of potions that represent the three bars. Even though people can't head out to drink amid the stay-home edicts, many still crave a soothing tipple or two.

 “The cocktails are in single-serve bottles. between 90ml to 150ml, which is the standard - the same as what you'd have at our bars," Peter says. "Guests only need to have glasses and ice at home, but we can order ice for guests and add it to the order."

The cocktails are crafted and sent out from Tickets - the selection ranges from PS150's tequila-based Puan Rosita to PostScript's Pineapple Tart Daiquiri, with bar snacks like crispy duck popiah to boot.

“PS150 and PostScript are currently located in red zones, which aren't really accessible from a logistics standpoint. Geographically speaking, Tickets is the most appropriate, because a lot of our market comes from PJ, Mont Kiara and Bangsar. So we operate out of a central essential unit for the dispatch, which is Tickets in Damansara Heights."

The PS150 Group expects to continue deliveries even after bars reopen, especially since each of its venues draws slightly different demographics, including tourists who might not soon flock back.

“The deliveries complement us by addressing a different audience and a different occasion," Peter says. "Until consumer confidence comes back, it’s a nice way to enjoy our brands in the comfort of home. It’s also good branding and good imagery in terms of people posting images (on social media).

"We don’t believe things will revert anytime soon, until the world economy stabilises and the governments can effectively reopen doors to travel. We have customers who are cautious, and we totally respect that by catering to individuals through our delivery programme. We see it as an opportunity and an area to develop."

Bars, nevertheless, won't fade out. "There's still no substitute for having the entire bar experience that we provide within our brands - immersive experiences with interaction, with the drinks being made in front of you, the sights, smells and sounds."


Eventually, bars want to welcome people back, while patrons need these places for chilling out and celebrating. Peter foresees a future where bars must promise not merely a playful refuge but a more reassuring one.

“Places will have to focus on sanitisation because people will become a lot warier of poor practices. The bar industry must really look at its production systems to ensure every step is followed for health and hygiene. Systems will come under scrutiny - the storage, making and serving of drinks.

“Before, if you sold cocktails at a good price in a cool place, people came. But now, well-being is a priority. People won't go to bars that aren't paying attention, that are packing customers in - those places will come under criticism from the community. So we need to do everything we can to provide a safe environment."

The PS150 Group has a blueprint in mind once bars restart.

"We believe the market is going to change, with people becoming very sensitive. We're working on our internal seating plans, limiting capacities and ensuring that seating and standing locations adhere to social distancing guidelines.”

"Staff will wear personal protective equipment and undergo hygiene training. There'll be health screenings at our bars and restaurants to make sure that staff, guests and delivery drivers aren't showing symptoms. Those who do won't be allowed in."

Even without a swift thaw in business, Peter remains optimistic. “I think there’s going to be an element of celebration, a rebirth to an extent. We've heard a lot from guests who anticipate this, like an opening up of freedoms.

“We would be crazy to ignore customers who have concerns. At the same time, we don’t want our bars to be sombre affairs. We want them to be fun environments for people to relax and to realise that all measures are being taken within reason."

Reporting by EDKL writer Aiman Azri. Interview excerpts were edited for brevity. Images are courtesy of the PS150 Group.

This is the fifth part in our series on how people working in Malaysia's restaurants, cafes and bars are confronting their current challenges.

Click on titles below to read more:
Chiu's: A Restaurant Founder's Pandemic Work Diary
Barista blues: A Malaysian cafe's precarious future weighs on its workers

This post first appeared on eatdrinkkl.com

Sunday, April 26, 2020

NAK MAKAN To Sponsor 10,000 Free Meals For Ramadan

NAK MAKAN, a new food service platform under Nak Beli, an e-commerce marketplace powered by MYE.G. Services Berhad (MYEG), is sponsoring 10,000 meals for Ramadan in the NAK MAKAN #KitaShare corporate social responsibility programme.

Members of the public can help by nominating a deserving individual or charity within the Klang Valley to receive the sponsored meals. The recipient may be personally affected by the Movement Control Order, or perhaps a frontliner who would appreciate a cooked meal for family members, or even a friend who's facing a tough time and needs a hand.

Nominations for recipients are open from now until the end of Ramadan on 23 May 2020. To nominate, visit the Nak Beli Twitter, Instagram or Facebook account and tag the nominated recipient along with the hashtags #NakMakan and #KitaShare. Nak Makan will contact the recipient for their details and arrange for a special delivery in collaboration with partner MrSpeedy.

Additionally, members of the public can also donate a meal through the platform. The donor can choose who to buy the meal for by adding the recipient's social media handle during checkout.

The NAK MAKAN site - www.nakmakan.com.my - went live on 23 April 2020 for customers to place food orders daily from vendors in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya between 10am to 6pm until the end of the fasting month. NAK MAKAN allows customers to place multiple orders from different vendors in the same transaction, so customers can receive and enjoy a variety of meals at the same time. Customers also have the option to pre-order on the site.

The introduction of the NAK MAKAN is aimed at supporting local food vendors who are not necessarily IT-savvy, by providing them with a platform to market their products during Ramadan and helping them generate a source of income.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Gooddam: When restaurant customers vanish, a subdued silence sets in

The customers who ordered nearly everything. The couples who always enjoyed having wine with their pasta. The regulars who appreciated a quiet corner for dinner.

For Miki Lie, these are the people she misses. After 16 months of leading the front of house at Petaling Jaya’s Italian restaurant Gooddam, she knew their names, recalled their voices.

Suddenly, they’re gone, as if cruelly banished from the eatery, leaving behind an emptiness both physical and emotional, erasing a soundscape of happy chatter and clinking glasses.

The health crisis' effects are not only economic - it has inflicted an insidious toll, robbing restaurateurs of the elemental satisfaction of feeding patrons in the flesh, caring for them throughout their meal and catching their faces light up.


Miki founded Gooddam with chef Daniel Yap in late 2018, after years of running a pop-up kitchen. Their modern Italian dishes were instantly distinctive - house-made tajarin pasta, ribollita-style stew, savoury pizzelle - borrowing inspiration from Daniel's stints and stages near Parma and Piedmont.

Miki relished her role, steering reservations and setting up tables before service, while Daniel led the open kitchen. Part-time staffers helped her greet guests, especially when the 40-seater restaurant was completely packed for dinner.

When the Movement Control Order kicked in, Gooddam closed for weeks before reopening on April 14 with a menu conceived for pick-ups and deliveries. The focus: Comforting, casual fare - mushroom spaghetti with with creamy kombu and truffle butter, mortadella ham focaccia sandwiches, and tubs of traditional tiramisu. It also offers bottles of wine at deep discounts.

“When we first reopened, a lot of our friends and families supported us. So for the first few days, we had quite a lot of orders,” Miki says. "Ten orders were considered very good business per day. Then we started having slow days - last weekend, zero sales. Now on average, maybe five to seven orders."

That's a far cry from a full house. As Gooddam transitions into online orders, a core team of six remains to work in four-person shifts. Miki spends time reaching out to loyal customers to let them know the kitchen is up for takeaways.

"I contact our regulars and tell them, hey, we’re here, we're on an online store. Some of them order through WhatsApp. That's all we can do for now."

Hearing Miki describe it, she longs for the humanity lost in her work. “The interesting part was, we got to meet and see our customers. Some of them, I knew them by name and talked to them - so now that part is missing."

"Most of the time, I knew what they wanted. For regulars, I knew the people who ordered a lot, the people who drank. I could prepare myself for the weekend crowds, prepare the tables to ensure everything went smoothly. Now we never need to set the tables at all - we just wait for orders."

Gooddam was once busiest for dinner; now, most orders emerge for lunch. The restaurant has changed its setting, with seating shoved aside. A small table stands out front for curbside pick-ups, where a menu is shown for passers-by who live nearby.

"We have people from the neighbourhood who haven't heard about us, but they're searching for food. They don't know what kind of restaurant we are, but they're looking for lunch or dinner."

Miki and her team are bracing for these challenging circumstances to persist.

“Even after the MCO is lifted, we don’t have to immediately reopen the restaurant. We have to ensure our customers' safety and our employees' safety - we have to be very cautious.

“If we have 10 people in the restaurant, how do we disinfect everything? It’s a risk. The worst-case scenario is that restaurants reopen and the virus has another chance to spread. So we might not be willing to reopen for dining in. We might do deliveries until there are clear safety protocols. We have to take responsibility for what happens in our restaurant."


To order from Gooddam, click here or WhatsApp 010-766-9708 - please place your orders two hours before mealtime.

Photos are courtesy of Gooddam. This feature's opening photo was taken in 2019.

Gooddam is one of over 100 restaurants participating in Eat Drink KL's Faith For The Future. Purchase a cash voucher at eatdrinkkl.com/faith and enjoy a 10 percent discount off your bill when you redeem the voucher within four months. The restaurant will receive your payment within three working days. Click here to read about Faith For The Future.

Reporting by EDKL writer Aiman Azri. This is the fourth part in our series on how people working in Malaysia's restaurants, cafes and bars are confronting their current challenges.

Click on titles below to read more:

Chiu's: A Restaurant Founder's Pandemic Work Diary
Barista blues: A Malaysian cafe's precarious future weighs on its workers

This post first appeared on eatdrinkkl.com

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sapna's Spicy Sessions: Indian Cooking At Home

If you're looking to fire up your family's appetite with a homemade meal full of flavour and fragrance, Sapna Anand is the chef to seek advice from. Now, you can watch her cook and chat up a storm at 4pm, every Tuesday and Friday, on Instagram Live at instagram.com/goabysapna as she shares recipes ranging from rava dosa to vegetable korma.

Today (Friday, April 24), catch the Goa-born chef at 4pm for a session on how to prepare prawn-and-mango curry!
Many thanks to chef Sapna, whose creations are the cornerstone of the restaurant Goa by Sapna Anand in KL's city centre, for sharing this recipe for Kerala Chicken Roast, a classic of southern India.

INGREDIENTS:
250 grams Chicken thigh, boneless
2 tbsp Tamarind (Assam java) soaked in water or lime
Salt
1 tsp  Black pepper crushed
1 tsp + 1 tsp Coriander powder
1 tsp + 1 tsp  Chilli powder
½ tsp + ½ tsp Turmeric powder
Curry leaves from 3 stalk
2 tbsp Coconut or vegetable oil
2 inch Ginger crushed or finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic peeled and finely chopped
6 Shallots finely chopped
Coriander leaves for garnish

Step 1: chop the shallots, ginger and garlic

2. In a pan, mix the chicken with salt, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp coriander powder and ½ tsp turmeric powder along with the soaked tamarind and salt.

3. Bring it to a boil till 80% liquid evaporates.

4. Heat 2 tbsp coconut oil; add in the ginger, garlic and curry leaves; sauté for 2 mins.

5. Add in the shallots and cook till they soften for about 5 minutes.

6. Add in the rest of the powdered spices, salt and black pepper; stir well; to that immediately add in the cooked chicken along with the liquids, so the powdered spices don't burn.

7. Cook till all the liquid evaporates for about 7-8 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves.


De.Wan 1958 by Chef Wan: Ramadan Family Set & Feast In A Box

Savour the taste of Chef Wan's Ramadan specialities with your loved ones at home this year, with pick-ups and deliveries for De.Wan 1958 by Chef Wan's Ramadan Family Set or Ramadan Feast In A Box.

Place your order at www.dewan.space - the Ramadan menu is offered till 23 May 2020; order before 12pm for same-day delivery or takeaway (delivery is available 11am-5pm; takeaways 11am-7pm).

The Ramadan Family Set is perfect for four to five persons, starting at RM189+. There are many dishes available to choose from, so you can even order a different selection each day. 

Perhaps Pucuk Paku with Kerang, Sotong Masak Lemak Nenas, Ayam Bakar, Asam Pedas Sea Bass, Sambal Terung Petai, Nasi Telur Terengganu, Ulaman Melayu, Sambal Belacan, Air Asam and a Dessert of the Day on the first day, followed by a completely different selection on the next day. If you purchase six days of sets, you'll receive one day free!

The Ramadan Feast In A Box (RM58+ per pax, minimum of 10 persons) is ideal for a large family or single-department buka puasa while practising physical distancing. This convenient box includes Chef Wan's 'Amazing Cooking With Love,' beverages, plates, bowls, forks and spoons, serviettes, cups, ladles, and disposable gloves.