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I was brought up in a household where the men were treated like demi gods; my father couldn’t even boil water or make a drink for himself. I swore to myself that my boys would not be like that. That they would be just as 

Could have been a PIE

Could have been a PIE

It was supposed to be a pie. That was the plan anyway. So I started with the carrots, potatoes, celery… Ah yes, now I remember. I bought some celery because I was feeling guilty that I had not been eating enough green lately. Then I 

When it is good to be BLUE

When it is good to be BLUE

A rare whisky; a chef’s inspiration; specially sourced homegrown ingredients laid out for a night of culinary exploration.

Such was the dinner affair mapped out by Johnny Walker Blue Label recently, heralding the collaboration with chef James Won who designed a “discover rarity” culinary journey. The specially crafted four-course menu, paired with the highly sought-after Blue Label at Enfin by James Won in Kuala Lumpur, brought diners to further depths of enjoyment while appreciating the unique character of the whisky.

The Blue Label is generally described as having a dash of raisin sweetness on the nose, with notes of almond, slight bitter aftertaste of herbs, richness of dark chocolate and wispy tobacco on the palate, ending with a long finish.

According to chef Won, the general attributes of the Blue Label struck him as definitive and masculine, and so, to give a balance of flavours, he focused instead on the softer, feminine side of the brew.

Chef James Won taking a breaather.

Many of the ingredients he used championed social enterprise, with due respect to the environment. From the Long Semadoh settlement in the Lawas division of Sarawak to the interiors of Pahang, you get Borneo Heirloom rice grain and Semai cocoa, and there’s also Job’s Tears from Sarawak.

“For example, the dessert is based on single origin cocoa, obtained from Semai orang asli plantations, which gives a different degree of sweetness to the chocolate.

“You get different textures, aroma and a different sort of sweetness,” he described, adding that he always manages to find something new and different about the Blue Label each time he drinks it, and it is these little nuances that have inspired him to come up with his menu that highlighted notes of sweetness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness.

To kick off the night’s dinner, amuse bouche was an interesting trio of Nigiri that was aloe vera stretched over Borneo heirloom rice, prized for its light and chewy texture, beautiful colour and exceptional fragrance, dotted with tropical sturgeon caviar on top, which effectively tasted like a very healthy sushi; a recreation of the egg with parmesan tofu and sea urchin for the yolk – unusual but not too jarring on the palate; and a tartlet consisting of scallop chip, hazelnut and creme fraiche that easily disappeared in a pop.

The entre was all about texture play – briny and buttery Malaysian Tropical Amur sturgeon caviar, with daikon (Japanese radish) and kombu dashi (kelp) puree and brioche.

It’s not a well-known fact, but Malaysian caviar harvested by T’lur Caviar, is quite highly rated in the world. Hopefully, its source stays a best-kept secret, known only to discerning chefs and connoisseurs who appreciate its quality, otherwise once it’s openly thrown out there, before you can say fish eggs, it’ll be over-fished and gone!

There was also roasted Hokkaido scallop and yam bean puree, which slithered down the throat smoothly, leaving one surprised and trying to decipher the subtle flavours. The scallop was torched on one side and kept raw on the other. It was a novel way to experience scallop for sure, though I’m not quite convinced about the icy jalapeno granita. Me thinks the cold, icy tart contrast was probably meant to be a palate cleanser, except that it came with the scallops so everyone was a bit thrown off by the duo!

When chef announced the main course, he said that it was akin to fatty pork, so to expect the rich Omega 3 oils to subtly coat and and lubricate the protein.

The Malaysian sturgeon fish truffle meumere with sturgeon skin collagen sounded like it would plump up my skin immediately, given its unctuous description. It came sitting on a shallow pond of rice kouji, Bario wine sauce and exotic mushroom. It was a pretty solid block of protein, and the wine sauce provided a unique creaminess for a balanced flavour.

I always tell myself that I won’t eat dessert, but chocolate is pretty hard to resist, and especially since it’s Semai single origin cocoa mousse, Johnny Walker Blue savoiardi with Batang Kali single origin cocoa coated Job’s Tear’s, an ingredient which chef Won was using for the first time. Known as Dale Kerukub locally, it is a native heirloom grain cultivated for generations by the Lun Bawang community.

What I liked about it was that the sweetness wasn’t paralysing as some desserts are, and the avant garde plating dressed it up perfectly.

At the end, it wasn’t really the end, because there was plenty of Blue Label to keep the party going!

Thank you, Johnny Walker, for a chance to discover rarity!

The Discover Rarity degustation menu by Johnnie Walker Blue Label is available at enfin by James Won from January 1 to March 31, 2020, at RM688++ and additional RM268++ for pairing with Johnnie Walker Blue Label. 

Guinness Flavour by FIRE

Guinness Flavour by FIRE

Any excuse to party, really, and Guinness’ Flavour by Fire Festival at Gasket Alley, PJ over the weekend was precisely that! But no one’s complaining as who doesn’t love a cookout, and especially if it’s a big time outdoor-sy barbecue with Guinness to quench our 

Having a Blass with modern Asian CUISINE

Having a Blass with modern Asian CUISINE

Wolf Blass began as a humble tin shed in Barossa Valley in 1966 to become one of the world’s most successful and awarded wine brands. With more than 10,000 awards received at national and international wine shows, Wolf Blass continuously strives to produce wines of 

Wine, per chance of MEATBALLS

Wine, per chance of MEATBALLS

Yes, you read right! Wolf Blass had a masterclass for a group of media members serving meatballs with its Gold Label wines!

The key element that stood out in the taste test was the distinctively different sauces used to coat the meatballs – Taiwanese basil vinaigrette, chu hou (Cantonese beef stew), masala and curry – prepared by chef Gary Anwar from Ember Modern Bistro, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.

Meatballs with curry sauce generally went with the Gold Label Shiraz

This was based on four flavours created by Executive Chef Manjunath Mural from Song of India (Singapore), Chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn from Le Du (Thailand), Chef Lam Ming Kin from Longtail (Taiwan) and Chef He Hong Ping from Da San Yuan (Taiwan), who came up with the complementary sauces after tasting the Gold Label Shiraz, Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon and Gold Label Chardonnay. 

According to Wolf Blass brand ambassador Sam Stephens, Wolf Blass is taking a different lead in its ‘Find your Flavour’ campaign in partnership with Michelin Guide.

This is because dining experiences in Southeast Asia indicate that Wolf Blass wines are more complementary with local cuisines through their sauces, due to differences in preparation methods, ingredients and consumption style, rather than the proteins served. 

With these curated sauces as the basis for wine pairing, Wolf Blass reinvents food and wine pairing rules and challenges consumers to look beyond the usual meat indicator, especially when it comes to Asian food. 

“Experimenting with sauces is very exciting as there is such a diversity of flavours. This brings a new dimension to the traditional food and wine guides. Taste is really open to interpretation so there is no right or wrong way to pair food with wine, it’s about what works for you,” said Stephens.

“For instance, I love the Gold Label Chardonnay with the vinaigrette as it brings out the  fresh green apple flavours and elegant expression of the wine.”

Sam Stephens suggested some pairings, but these are not necessarily the same for everyone.

Personally, that was my top choice among the four different pairings too, but there were many varying opinions as well as some loved the complexities of the masala or curry paired with the Shiraz. Chu hou attracted the most diverse reactions as some really liked the sauce with the Cabernet Sauvignon while others felt it didn’t go with any of the wines at all!  

A dedicated microsite ( was also launched to help consumers explore the different tasting notes of Wolf Blass wines to match regularly consumed sauces. A series of videos featuring the partner chefs and their sauces is available across various digital and social platforms. Through this bespoke content, via multiple touchpoints, Wolf Blass hopes consumers will change their perceptions of wine with Asian food. ‘Find Your Flavour’ will be rolled out in phases from now until June 2020.

Make your own Nasi lemak SAMBAL

Make your own Nasi lemak SAMBAL

Everyone knows nasi lemak, the unofficial national dish. It’s the simplest dish ever as it just uses a few main ingredients, half of it doesn’t even require real cooking – cucumber, hardboiled egg, fried anchovies and roasted peanuts. Apart from the nasi lemak – rice 

Spicy starfruit, ANYONE?

Spicy starfruit, ANYONE?

I said I was a diet. I do not eat carbs, I said. And then, I made this! It is my own doing as I just cannot resist chili. Others may have a sweet tooth, my Kriptonite is all things spicy. A friend gave me 

Talking about TEQUILA

Talking about TEQUILA

So this is a first for me … I’ve gone for wine tasting, and so too for whisky, cognac and gin, but tequila is an entirely new animal to me, I confess. And what I’ve learnt is that most of what we’re accustomed to, usually mixed in cocktails, is essentially low grade tequila!

What we know of tequila is almost always taken with salt and a squeeze of lime, but apparently, good grade tequila can and should be drunk neat, or at most with a wee bit of ice to bring out its flavours.

Chris Marshall, one part owner of Distilled, a Singapore-based independent brand development agency representing boutique beverage brands, was in Kuala Lumpur recently to explain the fine nuances of hand-crafted tequila Codigo 1530.

Chris Marshall

Having started as a private recipe tequila contracted by a family in Los Cabos for almost five generations, it was only named Código 1530 much later, meaning “the code” and based on the year when the city Amatitan, (where the brew was made) was founded. Made from the best Blue Weber Agaves grown by local farmers in Mexico, extraction of the best juice is from the first press.

For our taste test, we had four of the five variants: Blanco, Reposado, Rosa and Anejo.

Four variants to test

Blanco, described as “the best reflection of the label”, is produced using fully matured agave that is aged over 7 years without ever touching a barrel to get that rich agave flavour. Chris said it was clean and smooth, but for me, even the scent alone was reminiscent of fumes that could power a car! The taste was just as powerful, with more than a slight burn. One website touted it to be a drink fit for kings, which figures why a plebian like me don’t know how to appreciate this.

More commonly found in the market, said Chris, is the Rosa, rested for four weeks in uncharred Napa Cabernet French white oak barrels. Pink in colour, the drink still packs quite a punch but was a lot more fragrant on the nose and gentler on the palate for me.

Personally, the Reposado like almost like shot of undiluted cask-strength whisky, resonating with more familiar flavours. Aged for 6 months in a French white oak barrel, it exudes bright and sweet agave notes with added complexity of vanilla, toasted caramel and subtle cocoa powder. The vanilla and caramel notes were most apparent, and easiest to drink.

Anejo is from ageing the Blanco in French white oak barrel for 18 months, and gives a refined and elegant expressive. The fruity notes with touch of spice was what I could perceive, and this was my second next best choice.

From the fold of Codigo 1530

Extra Anejo “Origen” is considered Código 1530’s masterpiece, having aged the Blanco for 6 years in the finest Napa Cabernet French white oak barrels. This is said to be a lot like aged whisky and fine cognac, with similar tasting notes, but we didn’t get to try this variant.

Held at Astor Bar in St Regis Kuala Lumpur, the tequila tasting session was also an introduction to guest mixologist Benjamin Padron Novoa, owner of Licoreria Limantour in Mexico.

Benjamin Novoa sharing about Limantour

Codigo 1530, brought in by Dajin Beverages in Malaysia, has partnered with Limantour, ranked World’s No. 10 among The World’s 50 Best Bars. Benjamin will be working with Chris and Codigo 1530 to come up with three cocktails in a new series of tequila mix that will henceforth be part of Astor’s mainstay.

Match made in HEAVEN

Match made in HEAVEN

When chef Jeff Ramsey came by the table to ask about the food, I told him I had a complaint. He heaved a sigh and said, “OK, let’s hear it.” “There’s not enough of the food as it’s so good and I want more,” I