FOOD is something that unites us, or even divides us (in good fun, of course).
As the saying goes, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”.
So a dish or favoured restaurant that you rave about could be one that your friend dislikes, or even detests.
This was evident in the new column StarMetro introduced this year called “Metro Picks”.
Our team of journalists took turns visiting popular places in the Klang Valley for hawker-style food.
Each month we travelled, from as far as Klang to Cheras, in search of yummy treats such as nasi lemak, yong tau foo, pork noodles, curry mee, cendol and Penang prawn mee.
We wrote about our experiences as we hopped from one place to another, and tried different versions of the same dish.
Masala Wheels was one of journalist Priya Menon’s recommendations for banana leaf meals in the Metro Picks column
Shalini Ravindran wrote about her go-to places for bak kut teh in the Klang Valley.
Her story featured the different versions of bak kut teh served in Klang, the town regarded as the birthplace of the hearty stew, and in other parts of Kuala Lumpur.
It was interesting to note that while bak kut teh is traditionally cooked as a broth with spices and herbs, some places also serve a dry version with a spicy kick.
Yip Yoke Teng, shared her requirements for good dim sum — fresh ingredients, fine and balanced flavours, and exquisite presentation.
Besides standard fare such as siew mai, har gao and char siew pau, one of her benchmarks of good dim sum is the steamed fish ball, which must be fresh, springy and taste of fish (not substituted with other ingredients or fillers).
One of the column’s dishes that had divided opinion was Vijenthi Nair’s piece on chicken rice, as it saw readers giving their feedback or posting on Facebook their personal recommendations.
One reader wrote that the journalist’s recommendation was “mediocre” and suggested she try chicken rice at a different restaurant.
Priya Menon shared that her story on banana leaf meals also received a fair bit of feedback.
“Some wrote to say they were excited to try the eateries I suggested, while others stated that the ones I suggested were not the best and recommended I try other places instead,” she said.
Priya will make another round next year, focusing on stalls that sell Indian food.
The Metro Picks column will continue next year, as our team hunts for other dishes such as the best appam, wan tan mee, pasembur and Penang laksa.
Meanwhile, the local dining scene saw the emergence of poke bowls as the “in” food trend of 2017.
Several restaurants and kiosks dedicated to serving their versions of this Hawaiian dish were established in shops and shopping malls in the Klang Valley.
Poke (pronounced poh-kay) are cubes of marinated hand-cut raw fish that top a bowl filled with a rice base, salad and toppings such as nuts, seaweed and egg.
Poke bowls were seen as the ‘in’ food trend this year.
Most stores offer diners the option of choosing pre-set poke bowls or customising their own versions of this healthy and wholesome dish.
Other food trends that cropped up this year included lobster nasi lemak and nasi lemak burger, which were unusual incarnations of the popular Malaysian dish, as well as bamboo briyani.
The nasi lemak burger was so popular that several restaurants came up with their own versions, a fast food eatery even served the dish as part of its limited-edition menu.
The lobster nasi lemak which can be found in the vicinity of Ara Damansara is also available in Cheras, Penang and Sabah.
However, 2017 was also a tough year for the food and beverage (F&B) industry in Malaysia, with the closure of F&B chains such as Hong Kong dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan and South Korean bakery Tous Les Jours, as well as popular food courts such as Ming Tien in Taman Megah and Asia Cafe in Subang Jaya.