Of course, this in itself wouldn't have benefited us in per se, but YAY, Aunty Melba has decided to start her Kristang Private Dining Supperclub. So once again we get to taste the wonderful flavours of Portuguese Malacca, from the very acquired taste of Keluak Curry to the universally loved sago gula melaka.
I was thrilled when legendary blogger A Whiff of Lemongrass aka Thamby included me in her carefully curated list of invitees, to sample and review Aunty Melba's menu. I'm not sure who Meena is, but anyway, it was really a menu to wow.
We started off at the patio, sipping Jelly Rose Selasih, a familiar drink to most of us, a sweet rose syrup with crunch basil seeds that look like eggs of some sort. The jelly gives it additional crunch. This drink can be easily spiked with some vodka or gin, I reckon, and would be lovely(ier).
Dinner started with these delectable stuffed crab....I always am amazed at people who have the patience to make dishes like these. I cannot even begin to imagine the labour involved, from peeling the crab flesh to presumably washing the shell and making sure it's intact, it boggles the mind. And it's such a pretty starter as well.
Seybak, almost like a salad, a complex cornucopia of lettuce, cucumber, taufu pok, and crowned with chewy pig's ears (which I admit I am not a fan of), and some pork shoulder or belly FOR ADDED UNCTUOUSNESS.
The condiments, comprising of Aunty Mel's pickled chilli, salted fish sambal, cincalok is such a desirous platter on it's own, and was actually underutilised through the course of the dinner as there was just too much going on, and this poor platter was relegated to almost oblivion. Aunty Mel commented her condiments were looking so lonely and unwanted.
For me, this Keluak Curry is undoubtedly the star of the show....That earthy flavour from the buah keluak, chunks of delicious pork ribs, swoooon, I myself had three nuts. Now, keluak is not everyone's thing.
Interesting fact about the Keluak Nut, courtesy of wikipedia.
Pangium edule (Indonesian: keluak or keluwak; Malay: kepayang or payang; Dusun: pangi) is a tall tree native to the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea). It produces a A LARGE POISONOUS FRUIT the "football fruit") which can be made edible by fermentation.
The fresh fruit and seeds contain hydrogen cyanide and are DEADLY poisonous if consumed without prior preparation. The seeds are first boiled and then buried in ash, banana leaves and earth for forty days, during which time, they turn from a creamy white colour to dark brown or black. The method relies on the fact that the hydrogen cyanide released by the boiling and fermentation is water-soluble and easily washed out.
Which begs the question, WHOOOOOO the heck discovered it in the first place and how on earth did they live to tell the tale?
So yeah, back to Keluak, it has a earthy flavour, very err...robust, strong almost ground coffee like texture, and adds a dimension to curries and rice that is beyond my vocabulary. In short, I love it. And it's not easy to find places that do it well. And certainly you wont get such generous portions, as the nut is only cultivated from wild swamps and is not commercially farmed.
Curry Debal (Devil Curry I presume) with a twist, using bacon bones instead of the usual chicken what not. I didn't know bacon bones give such an added dimension to a dish. Heck, I didn't even know bacon bones existed, let alone are used in this manner. Seriously though, if you are on low carb diets or keto, this could be really challenging, because these dishes really, and I kid you not, need rice.
Fish Sambal Vinagree. Generous slices of Tenggiri (Mackerel), slathered with that tangy heaty sambal. Now had there been fewer dishes, this would definitely have finished in a jiffy, but how can fish compete with beef and pork for these Kristang dishes?
Papa Vincent's black sotong sambal. And here we thought the use of squid ink was an Italian thing and went all ooh and ah at their pastas. Well, apparently mankind has been using squid ink since time immemorial. Aunty Mel regaled us with discourse on how it's not just a matter of cutting the squid with the ink but involves very a precise operation. The squid is stewed till tender.
Just when you thought the keluak curry was the star, along comes this plate of just keluak....Had I died and gone to keluak heaven? Keluak sambal, soooo sooooo good. Again, the caveat here is that keluak is a highly acquired taste. To me, it was bliss.
Pineapple Prawn Curry, this dish I would say is more mainstream, and is definitely palatable to anyone who enjoys prawn.
And there we have it, the whole table of goodies.
When people say there is always room for dessert, I believe it. It really is a mind over matter kinda thing.
Coconut cake, an extra bonus, buttery, coconutty, lovely texture and super moist. Baked in a traditional bronze mold handed thru the generations.
There is also a method to slicing the cake, as Aunty Melba demonstrates. It's cut along the grooves.
Her legendary sugee cake and golden syrup jelly. What can I say, Eurasians do make the best sugee, that's why I would never dare attempt it. Gorgeous grainy texture, with butter oozing through, and the fragrance of rose and brandy.
Minimum number of diners is 6, and a max of 10. It's BYO, no corkage(very important info).
She can be reached at @chefmelbanunis on Instagram, and her lovely home is located in Ara Damansara.
Tel: Chef Melba 012-4020500