20 May Sambal Shiok – Nasi Kerabu Feast!
Today’s post is a special one, my first experience of Nasi Kerabu. It’s a traditional Malay dish centred around bright blue rice served with an assortment of accompaniments such as dried fish or meat, crackers, pickles, and ‘Kerabu’ herbs. No Smurfs were harmed in the making of this rice! The wonderful colour comes from the blue butterfly pea flower which looks like a cross between an orchid and a viola (the flower not the instrument!). Guest chef Guan said that the flowers they used on the day actually came from his mum and aunties’ gardens back in KL. When soaked in hot water this vibrant flower releases its colour and is one of only a few totally natural food blues in the world. You can also use them to make a herbal tea or even cocktails. If you’re up in Liverpool, Love They Neighbour recently posted a photo on Instagram of their gin cocktail using this antioxidant rich flower – you can drink it guilt free!
My Nasi Kerabu feast was courtesy of Sambal Shiok’s second collaboration with chef Guan Chua from Nyonya Supper Club. I’ve visited Sambal Shiok before to taste their signature Laksa and have been a fan ever since. When I saw their insta story promoting this event I happened to be chilling in my NYC hotel but immediately ran for my card to ensure I got tickets! The beauty of social media ?In between these visits Sambal Shiok won the Golden Chopsticks award for Innovation 2019! Fantastic to see acknowledgement of owner Mandy Yin and the team’s hard work. Hooray female entrepreneurship! ??If you’re already acquainted with Guan Chua you will know that he is a man of many talents. This Kuala Lumpur raised chef used to be a banker but now with his Cordon Bleu training hosts his own Malaysian-Nyonya supper club, gives cooking demonstrations and also has his own blog with reviews and recipes. All in all you can see why Mr Munch and I were excited for this meal ?
To whet our appetites we were offered prawn fritters. These reminded me of tiny hopper style pancakes – crispy edges but soft where the batter hugs the juicy prawn. A little sweet chilli sauce to dip it in makes it complete. Next came the delivery of curries. First to arrive was the lamb curry, more of a soupy style, almost like a stock with coriander and star anise. Tender chunks of lamb are a beautiful thing and this was certainly that! The other curry of the meal was a shrimp curry with pineapple, tamarind and betel leaf. This glossy leaf is shredded thinly and lends a bitterness to the dish, working well with the sour, sweet and chilli notes. For me this curry had a unique flavour due to its more sour nature which I really enjoyed. Balancing this out was fried mackerel, its sweetness acting as a spice relief.
These three mains were to be eaten alongside the Nasi Kerabu – it was truly a feast! When the blue rice was presented surrounded by its entourage it looked so enticing, I couldn’t wait to dig in! Starting with the cracker going clockwise we had vegetable pickles, toasted coconut, Kerabu (herb) salad, cucumber slices, salted egg and of course the famous sambal. Happily, they were offering free rice and sambal refills ??Sambal is a chilli paste or sauce which usually also includes garlic, ginger and shrimp paste. You can have so many variations of sambal – Sambal Shiok’s is not just spicy but has richness to it too. You might want them to ladle it on for you ???The rice itself has a very delicate floral flavour but once it becomes mixed in with the other stronger tasting elements it becomes more about the colour and fluffiness. Its USP is the boldness of the blue and that’s what makes this dish celebratory and special for me.
As you can imagine, I was pretty full at this stage but we must power on because dessert is yet to come! It’s similar to the pandan pudding I had before but flavoured with Horlicks instead to provoke the memory of Malaysian childhoods and comfort drinks. It tasted like the inside of a Malteser! This dessert looks petite but it is rich. Bashed up Nestum (a brand of cereal) on the top gave it crunch and there was a pinch of salt in there to cut through the clotted cream-like thickness. A warm banana fritter on top was the final touch. What a way to end the meal!
I had a fantastic time at this Nasi Kerabu event. It felt like an informal friendly gathering and you could feel everyone was super excited to be there. Sambal Shiok has already posted about their next event which will celebrate the beginning of Eid with The Hampstead Kitchen. If you fancy your own feast experience I’d get in there quick!
Thanks for reading this post, please give it a like if you enjoyed it. I’ll be back next week and in the meantime check out my instagram for food, music and travel photos!
Total receipt (2 people): This was a special event – tickets cost £45 per person excluding drinks. See website for normal menu prices
Rating: 9.5/10 Feast for the senses!