i like this food review. need to visit the restaurant soon!
the owner is a mcoba too ! hehehehehe 🙂
BUFFET STYLE: Help yourself to the day’s specials.
When architect Shahizan Hasnan decided to turn restaurateur, his mother’s cooking was the inspiration. EU HOOI KHAW gets a taste of the results.
SHAHIZAN Hasnan wants to bring back the tender loving touch into Malay traditional cooking. He recalls the time when his mother used to spend hours just to get four to five dishes for lunch ready, when spice and chilli pastes were ground by hand and the food painstakingly prepared.
“We couldn’t do the rendang tok for you today because it needs two days of preparation,” explained the owner of the newly opened Baiti’s in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
No matter, as there was the enticing presence of two rows of clay pots at the side of the restaurant filled with Masak Lemak Cili Api Udang Galah, Kurma Ayam, Pucuk Paku, Sambal Kerang, Beef Rendang, Masak Lemak Cili Api Ikan, Ayam Goreng Berempah, Mango Kerabu, Ayam Goreng Berempah, Pandan Chicken, onion omelette and Pengat Durian. It’s the day’s specials, with more to be ordered from the a la carte menu.
Cooking has been Shahizan’s passion from the time he was studying architecture in Scotland. He has decided to put aside his profession for the time being, after eight years in it. “A lot of art that goes into Malay cooking is now gone, and I aim to keep the pride of it alive.”
He has the help of his mother Datin Hanim Haji Nordin, to train the cooks, test the food and give her seal of approval. There is a refined touch about the dishes, that don’t have too much oil, salt, sugar or coconut milk, a rare thing indeed in many Malay restaurants.
The gracious lady added to her wide repertoire of dishes as she moved from state to state with her husband (a chief police officer) and family. Shahizan has taken upon himself the task of recording his mother’s recipes in proper measurements, with the aim of compiling them into a book, for posterity.
Shahizan’s favourites are the lontong and nasi lemak that he cooked while living abroad.
Both are signature dishes at Baiti’s. The nasi lemak is cooked with basmati rice; the appetising aroma of santan wafts into the air as the rice is served hot on a banana leaf on the plate, with sambal ikan bilis, fried ikan bilis, serunding, peanuts, hard-boiled egg, pineapple acar and keropok.
Basmati rice does not give you that sudden rush of energy that often leaves you lethargic; its slow release of energy, and its lower glycaemic index make it suitable for diabetics. Shahizan hopes to make that known.
We liked the nasi lemak, with the hot and sweet sambal, with a sour tang. There is jelatah or acar at the side, made with pineapple, chilli, cucumber and big onion. The other condiments of fried ikan bilis, a fragrant serunding and egg make it a complete, satisfying meal.
We tasted a very delicious lontong that has a darker orange tinge in its coconut gravy, attributed to a grand uncle’s recipe in Singapore. The taufu pok soaks up this spicy but not too rich gravy with hints of fried dried prawns. Long beans, carrot, lots of fried shallots and of course the cubes of nasi impit or rice cake made this complete.
The Mee Goreng is a must at Baiti’s. It reminds me of the Indian Mee Goreng that I used to have in Ipoh. The thin yellow noodles are moist, each strand embraced by the spice and chilli paste (a special “warisan” sauce), and egg. Squeeze the small lime over the noodles and they taste so good. The noodles are not oily at all unlike those at the mamak shops.
Shahizan had selected the masak lemak cili api udang galah, asam pedas ikan tenggiri, ayam kurma, pucuk paku and pandan chicken for our lunch as well.
The light yellow creamy gravy for the Udang Galah was surprisingly light, yet flavourful. It was an excellent pairing for the rich, fat prawns. “It’s just chilli, fresh turmeric, serai, coconut milk and skimmed milk,” said Hanim.
The ayam kurma had a similar refined quality; with no heavy spices and rich coconut assaulting your tastebuds. For the first time I enjoyed chicken kurma which still had all the requisite flavours while cooked with a subtle hand.
The pucuk paku just had a touch of coconut milk, and stayed green through light cooking.
I have made asam pedas the litmus test of a good Malay or nyonya restaurant. This passed with flying colours. I liked the sharp sourness, hot chilli and the fragrance of bunga kantan in the thick gravy hugging the fish.
I did find the Pandan Chicken a little oily, because it needed to be deep-fried.
We had saved room for the Nasi Kunyit with Pengat durian. The yellow glutinous rice was excellent, with each grain separate from each other, and just out of this world with the pengat durian. The out-of-season durian from Pahang had been procured with some effort.
Baiti’s has begun catering services, and hopes to provide home delivery soon. “Orders can also be done looking at our menu on the internet,” Shahizan said.
He hopes to have paintings displayed on the long maroon wall at Baiti’s soon. It’s a space for artists who can also sell their work.
The restaurant is open from breakfast-time until 11pm. Staples like toast with kaya and eggs, and coffee, and nasi kunyit with a curry dish are available throughout the day.
Baiti’s is located at 36 Persiaran Zaaba, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Call 03-7729-9918 or visit www.baitis.com.my