This year, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur’s Dynasty Restaurant will be taking part for the 15th time in the Malaysia International Gastronomy Festival.
It is fascinating to see how chefs can come up with different menus, year after year.
Take executive sous chef Kok Chee Kin who has been fronting the hotel’s Chinese restaurant entries since 2012.
From that year onwards, the Pahang native, who started out as a restaurant helper at 18 years old before joining the hotel line, has attracted a fair amount of attention for his culinary presentations as well as his boyish good looks.
This year, Kok brings 30 years of experience into the festival with a four-course menu and gives us his take on the power of adaptation.
He takes the freshwater king prawn and kuey teow as an example.
This well-loved favourite among seafood aficionados stars a large, succulent crustacean and silky, melt-in-your-mouth rice noodles. Both sit in a gravy of supreme stock flavoured with oyster sauce.
The noodle idea for his festival entries did not just come out of the blue.
Back in 2012, he paired jumbo prawns with somen (thin white Japanese noodles). The year 2013 saw him using home-made abalone noodles topped with freshly peeled crab meat.
In 2014, wheat vermicelli was featured with prawns steamed in Chinese wine. Last year, Kok got whimsical on noodles coloured with carrot juice.
But when it comes to meats, Kok really digs deep. The first two years, he stuck to beef but after that, he started to try different things.
The chicken creation in his 2014 entry saw him jellying the herbaceous drunken chicken soup into a timbale. Lending a touch of authenticity to the construction was a topping of wolfberries, with a lining of red dates and chestnuts on the side.
This year, he opts for braised duck leg. Marinated with five spice powder and star anise, it is deep-fried and steamed for four hours, which explains why the meat is tender. The duck is accompanied by Australian abalone and fish bladder.
Kok calls this soft, slightly springy piece of fish innards the fussiest ingredient on this dish because it has to be boiled, soaked in water overnight and rinsed before braising.
The star of the dish is not the garnishing of gingko nuts and enoki mushrooms sitting on a slice of paper-thin zucchini but the full-bodied, oyster sauce enriched gravy. Made with a supreme broth of Chinese ham, scallops, chicken bones and pork loin, it is boiled overnight and used prominently in the restaurant’s menu.
Kok’s mains come after an appetiser of steamed Chinese canapes and a lobster consommé.
Typical of Chinese restaurants, the appetisers have been given auspicious names.
They named a parcel of steamed fish paste and scallops infused with brandy, XO Fortune Money Bag. But there is another main draw here – crispy pork belly. Nine out of 10 times, this is the first to be “attacked”.
One can see Kok has put a lot of thought into the garnishing. Purple violas with yellow centres, radish ribbons and spring onion stalks as parcel strings sit beside vegetables, meat and seafood.
This level of attention is also seen in the dessert course with sugar daisies and halved raspberries sitting on the Osmanthus and chestnut jelly. A sugar nest, made by drizzling melted sugar on an overturned tea cup used as a mould, housed a deep-fried sweet potato ball with a golden creamy yolk filling.
This year, the MIGF has called participants to follow this theme: “High Octane Chefs”.
“The first thing that came to mind was the image of a sports car. So, I set about creating a nutritionally rich menu, where diners would walk away with full stomachs and not be left wanting,” said Kok.
But he also has his own philosophy to share with festival diners.
“I believe you have to be passionate about your work. I also believe in honesty, in giving the diners their money’s worth. No cheating. For example, if you are going to serve your customers a seven star grouper, don’t say you are giving them an east star grouper. There is a difference,” said Kok.
One responsibility he takes upon himself is to know where the hotel’s food supply comes from. He once visited a chicken supplier’s farm in Rawang to check on their processing operations.
Dynasty Restaurant’s festival menu is from Oct 1 to 31.
- DYNASTY RESTAURANT, 1st Floor, East Wing, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-2716 9388). Business hours: Noon to 2.30pm,6.30pm to 10.30pm. Non-halal.
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