Friday, June 5, 2015

Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen 2015- Could It Be Better?

“There are 3 ways to my heart- Buy me food, make me food, be food.” I have always been proud of Malaysia’s capability to satisfy the most demanding appetites. Being brought up in this country, I am spoilt for choice. Therefore, it is very difficult not to relate to food because Malaysia is food!
Malaysia is food
My sister and I
Our country’s food scene boasts variety and taste. Some of the best being camouflaged as street food behind alleys or as village stalls. How can we bring them together to our fellow tourists? If only we could gather our nasi lemak royale from Alor Star, Ipoh chicken rice, satay celup from Melaka, mee kolok from Sarawak, longan drink from Petaling Street and keropok lekor from Kemaman for the American tourists who need to be taken away from the doughnut staple or the English travelers who has tried enough fish and chips.
Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen 2015
The Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen’s intention is exactly that. Smack in the heart of the city at Dataran Merdeka, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture staged an international standard food fair. The whole field transformed into a melting pot of 60 food counters that represents the best of Malaysian gastronomy. Another initiative of the like that I know of is the Lot10 Hutong at Jalan Bukit Bintang. Malaysians’ favourite food stalls from all over the country are invited to set up a branch at the food court. Being a tourist checkpoint, Lot10 Hutong offers the convenience of indulging in the best Malaysian foods all under one roof. Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen is a 3-day event spanning from 29th-31st May 2015. When I got its invitation as media, there was a blend of pride and curiosity.
Marquee at Dataran Merdeka
Live performances
Huge venue for the event
When I arrived at the food scene, my first challenge was to get a parking space. We were denied entry at the underground parking at Merdeka Square and the guards had no idea where our alternative car park could be. The public parking at the vicinity of the Royal Selangor Club definitely could not accommodate the crowd it was aiming. My sister, who was so kind to go with me, had to go rounds before discovering that the nearest alternative parking was at Daya Bumi. Organizers perhaps were too busy in the kitchen that traffic concerns seemed overlooked.

Finally found parking!
There was only one entrance to the huge field. It was easy to identify and provided a focal point for exits and entrances. However, it was not so convenient having no option to exit the place especially when the car is parked at the other end of the field or when one decided to end the visit at the opposite end of the entrance.
Sudah makan?
The registration for media was a big let-down. I received my media tag but was not ushered to the event hall. Knowing that I have to attend the opening ceremony, I enquired my way in to the main hall. There were no ushers despite the many staff in red uniform. At the event hall, the members of the media were confused to where we should be seated. We were repeatedly asked if we have registered despite already wearing the media tag. There were two halls for the opening ceremony- one for the Queen, which we definitely cannot have access to and one for the media. The confused media flocked together in tiny groups asking for directions and were let to different incorrect destinations. After a few inquiries and half an hour later, I was still loafing outside the two halls, unable to be let into the correct media hall.

Well there was consolation to the disorder. While waiting for the opening ceremony, top chefs assembled for a photography session. I took the opportunity to meet chefs like Chef Wan, Chef Norman Musa, Chef Ismail Ahmad and Chef Anis Nabilah in person.

Media tag
The assemble of chefs
With the famous Chef Wan
The Opening Ceremony
Finally we were let inside the media hall. The opening ceremony was officiated by our Queen, Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah. The rain could not wait and it poured before the arrival of Her Royal Highness. I waited patiently admiring water trickling down the window panes backdroped by the classic Sultan Abdul Samad building.

After an hour and a half later the Queen arrived at last! Her Royal Highness and I were separated by an LED screen. We watched her officiate the event from the other room. We were then served sandwiches, desserts and MAS satay.
Patiently waiting while looking out at the Sultan Abdul Samad Building
The Queen officiating the event
MAS satay served after the opening ceremony

The Food Fair
My sister and I gallivanted at the fair, visiting the booths. All food was halal. There were 8 zones all together:
·         The Negeri Zone sells specialty cuisine from different states.
·         The Warung Zone showcased the country’s best street food fare
·         The Manisan Zone served sugary delights
·         The Food Trucks Zone allowed mobile eateries to present their food
·         The Warisan Zone demonstrated age-old recipes
·         The Samplings Zone offered samplings from 5-star restaurants
·         The Dulang Zone served a communal eating area
·         The Mayor’s Courtyard offers gourmet dining experience with top chefs

The Big Kitchen was showcased as a foodie’s haven. However, even to a non-connoisseur like me, I did not find it much of a haven. The marquee was grand and publicity was great but the variety displayed was not the full representation of Malaysian food. To the locals, food was pretty easily available outside the food fair. To the tourist eye, of course it was an experience to bring home.

Strolling on the field gave a relaxing feel. If it was not for the wet grass that made our toes squishy with mud, the atmosphere was charming.

Stalls at the food fair
Keropok lekor
The Sampling Zone
The sampling zone attracted my sister and I. The huge sign gave us the impression of free food at first. However, upon entrance, the price tags revealed the truth. Visitors could taste food ala carte from 5 star restaurants for the fraction of the full price. My sister and I ordered an oyster each from the buffet spread of Federal Hotel for RM9nett. The zone was interesting but there was lack of participating restaurants.
Samplings at a fraction of the price
The mini buffet spread of Federal Hotel
Tried the oyster for RM9nett
Bijian was participating too

The Manisan Zone
Another zone caught our eye. The sweet zone offered a pretty fair deal of sugary delights. We noticed the decoration was of pompoms and balloons that capture the rich and vibrant repertoire of Malaysian desserts. However, I still opine that there were many more interesting desserts that were absent.

The sweet decoration
Durian delights
Seri muka for tasting
Japanese ice-cream Pino
Sangkaya from The Curve
Apom with Nestum instead of peanuts
The Food Truck Zone
The Food Truck Zone was at the end of the field. There were four food trucks for people on the go. The area could be more welcoming if there were some seats for people who want to enjoy the moonlight and stars. It would be charming too to have the Milo truck giving away little free sips of chocolate drink.

Food truck
Despite the few setbacks I am proud that Malaysia has inaugurated its first national level food fair. It is indeed an effort to boost Malaysian tourism and an event to grandstand our cuisines. It is inspiring to see Malaysians abroad coming back to contribute to the country. Chef Norman Musa, a UK based chef has returned to specially curate the event. Everything has its first. I sincerely hope that the Big Kitchen will be a legacy and will be more successful than before.
KL Big Kitchen glowing by night
All the best to the next KL Big Kitchen!