Modern Malaysian food reigns supreme at chef Raymond Tham’s new resto
After about two years of serving modern European cuisine with Asian twists at Skillet at 163, chef Raymond Tham has switched lanes. At his new restaurant, Beta KL in Kuala Lumpur, modern Malaysian food is the order of the day. He talks us through the regional flavors and oft-forgotten ingredients — like those in the hero dish, simply called Chicken — that take the spotlight at his latest venture.
Lotus chips. “The lotus chips are mainly added for texture. I create thin slices then deep-fry them to give the dish a bit of crunch. As a whole, the chips add a subtle flavor and make the dish more visually appealing.”
Pesto sauce. “The sauce is created with Bentong ginger, spring onion and coriander. Occasionally, I also enhance the flavor with Chinese rose wine. The wine itself is used in lot of Chinese dishes — such as roast duck — but people don’t realize it because it’s subtle.”
Lean chicken meat. “My personal preference when it comes to chicken is the breast meat. I soak it in brine, with a bit of sugar, ginger and spring onion. Then I cook it sous vide — this tenderizes the meat — before pan-searing it.”
The garnish. “Chive flowers are added to give the dish a garlicky sweetness, and coriander adds aroma to the overall flavor. In a way, the composition emulates the married flavors of ginger and garlic in traditional Malaysian chicken rice.”
Chili. “Freshly chopped slices of red chili give the dish a splash of color and a hint of spiciness.”
Bentong ginger. “The local ingredient showcased here is the ginger from Bentong, a town in the state of Pahang. Unlike other varieties, Bentong ginger has a delicate taste. It doesn’t feel like a punch in the face.”
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Looking for a place to hunker down? Pop into these re-purposed heritage buildings on the fringes of the city center:
APW, in Bangsar, is the modern face of a space that housed a printing factory that was established in 1965. Look in on trendy cafés, bars and restaurants, a co-working space and a barber shop. There are also event spaces in which pop-ups, markets and exhibitions are held. fb.com/apwbangsar
Zhongshan Building, in Kampung Attap, occupies a block of interconnected shophouses that date from the ’50s. Venture within to find a growing eclectic community — it’s made up of an art gallery, bakery, record shop, used bookstore, bespoke tailor and more. fb.com/thezhongshanbuilding
This article first appeared in the May 2018 issue of Smile magazine.