Eating Out

Published: Friday February 21, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday February 21, 2014 MYT 11:48:47 AM

Exploring Nordic flavours

Chef Nizar Achmad's canapes feature salmon, a popular Nordic ingredient.

Chef Nizar Achmad's canapes feature salmon, a popular Nordic ingredient.

Chef Nizar Achmad wants to expose Malaysians to delights of Scandinavian cuisine.

FEW ARE as excited about Nordic food as chef Nizar Achmad.

Nordic food is often depicted as bland and mainly made up of seafood, berries, roots and rye.

As Nordic countries experience cold weather for half the year, its cuisine usually involves old preparation techniques such as drying, smoking, pickling and curing to preserve the ingredients.

The Indonesian-born chef, who lived in Stockholm for 14 years, said Nordic cuisine is all about letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

“You have to play with the season. In spring, we like to pick our own berries and truffles. It is all about fresh ingredients, not over-spiced, no chemicals and we avoid fusion techniques,” he said.

Chef Nizar, who calls Malaysia his temporary home, wants to expose local taste buds to the delightful, fresh Nordic offerings.

The Beef Gubbrora, a serving of finely chopped beef tartare steak with eggs, an onion and capers on bread.
Beef Gubbrora, a serving of finely chopped beef tartare steak with eggs, an onion and capers on bread.

As a guest chef at Beast in Kuala Lumpur not too long ago, chef Nizar prepared a scrumptious menu of Nordic cuisine with his own twist.

The delectable line-up kicked off with chef Nizar’s heart-warming homemade snaps, a shot of alcoholic drink traditionally consumed in Scandinavian countries, and a selection of canapés.

Chef Nizar served two varieties of flavoured vodka as schnapps; lemon and chilli, and cinnamon and star anise.

The lemon and chilli vodka warms and prepares the diner for the meal ahead. For fans of liquorice, the cinnamon and star anise infused vodka is the perfect choice.

There was also a selection of bread served with homemade butter for starters. Unlike regular butter, chef Nizar’s had a smoky and meaty flavour to it, thanks to a good mixture of herbs.

Nordic Salad was served to start off the main course with pickled beetroot, baby carrots and mango, artfully tossed to produce a display of colours on the plate. The sweetened pickles gave the salad a good crunch and the honey mustard sauce flavoured the dish, just right.

Next, came the Beef Gubbrora; finely chopped beef tartare steak with eggs, onions and capers on dry bread. True to the Nordic style of food preparation, the beef was slightly smoked.

A generous helping of poached egg, perfectly done, added a nice creamy touch to the meat.

The Chanterelle Soup with Walnut Cream was a delicious concoction packed with mushroom goodness. The fungi gave the thick soup a delightfully earthy taste.

The Swedish Meatball is familiar to most city folks. While chef Nizar’s meatball is served with the usual potato mash, brown sauce and cranberries, it is still a world away from the store-bought variety most Malaysians know.

The taste is less gamey, and while a tad salty, it is the size of a fist. The fresh cranberries add a sour tinge, giving the meatball a hint of fresh fruitiness.

The Soft Chocolate Cake, not too sweet or rich, is a good way to wind down a heavy meal.
The Soft Chocolate Cake, not too sweet or rich, is a good way to wind down a heavy meal.

After three heavy dishes, the Light Smoked Cured Cod came as a pleasant break. The cod sat in a clear cucumber and caviar broth peppered with mulberries. The broth was light but heavily infused with the taste of caviar, making it more flavourful. The cod’s soft flesh and its taste was enhanced by the caramelised sugar on top, along with a sprinkle of salt.

The Beef Ribs, Truffles, Spring Onions rounded up the mains on the heavy side. The ribs came with butternut puree and anchovy dressing, which blended very well the truffles.

The Soft Chocolate Cake ended the meal beautifully. The cake was rather compact, and not spongy. This teamed wonderfully with the slightly sour light tequila elderflower cream.

An assortment of nuts and berries did more than garnish and added a fruity touch to the cake. The chocolate cake was not too sweet or rich and was a good way to wind down a heavy meal.

Chef Nizar’s array of Nordic food not only satisfies the taste buds but is also a visual feast as he believes that diners also eat with their eyes.

In the coming months, Chef Nizar is looking into more ventures to grow Nordic food in Malaysia.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Chef Nizar, Nordic food

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