SARAWAK cuisine is basically traditional but the dishes served at the Jungle Cafe have been given a French twist by its new head chef.
Ever since Ramzul Nasri joined the outlet, authentic dishes from the Land of the Hornbills have become startlingly creative.
We used to serve Sarawak food minus the frills, as is done at home, but since Ramzul joined the team, the servings have become delicate presentations, said proprietor Sharifah Fatimah Wan Nawi.
Those who have tried Sarawak dishes will surely be impressed with the effort taken to highlight this native cuisine.
According to Ramzul what he has done to the outlet menu was to give Sarawak food a new look.
I have worked in Europe for 12 years as a chef and I am fond of the French way of presenting food, Ramzul said.
Ramzul's Nasi Goreng Ayuk is one example of this.
Cooked with the famous Bintulu belacan (shrimp paste), the rice dish is served shaped in a mound, enhanced with sliced red chilli and a spoonful of sayur manis (cangkuk manis in Malaysia) and egg on top.
Ramzul said the fragrant belacan helps enhance the flavour of most dishes.
Sharifah who described Jungle Café as the home of Sarawak cuisine within the city said in maintaining the originality of taste, ingredients were brought in from the state itself.
She said the belacan, soy sauce, dried prawns and noodles used in the cooking were not available in these parts.
Another dish that is not only pretty to look at but tasty as well is the Grilled Fish with Umai served on a bed of sayur manis, laced with bird's eye chilli sauce.
Pieces of dory grilled to a golden brown are added to stir-fried sayur manis with garlic, onion and egg.
A similar recipe is the Grilled Chicken with Botok spices topped with flavourful umai.
Umai is a traditional Melanau favourite where raw fish is marinated with fresh lime and chilli, tasting fresh and sourish.
Sharifah said in Sarawak, ikan perang, which was not available in West Malaysia was preferred for umai.
At the Jungle Café, black pomfret or Spanish mackerel is used instead.
The Daging Gula Apong is a Sarawak Malay dish, which has beef cooked in Sarawak palm sugar paste.
Lending his creativity to this dish by placing small pieces of meat on slices of French loaf, Ramzul promotes it as ideal cocktail servings.
He said dishes were usually dressed up when diners ordered set meals or for cocktail receptions.
Other Sarawak favourites like the Ayam Pansoh is an Iban speciality that is prepared only upon special request.
Theres also Sarawak Laksa with the flavours of garlic, shallots, sesame, galangal, chilli and spices in the dish.
According to Monica Khoo, Sarawak Paradise in Borneo manager, Jungle Café was an initiative by the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation and Sarawak Urban Development and Tourism Department.
Our objective is to showcase the best of Sarawak under one roof.
So when tourists visit the centre, they can get a preview of the sight, sound and taste of Sarawak, said Khoo.
Jungle Café is located within the Sarawak Paradise in Borneo building which promotes Sarawak handicraft, art and also showcases traditional weaving techniques.
n JUNGLE CAFة, 25 Jalan Bukit Bintang, KL (Tel: 03-2142 6113). Business Hours: Tues-Sun (11.30am-9.30pm). Closed on Monday.