[Penang, Malaysia] Malay lunch at Irama Dining

Lunch today was at Irama Dining, a two-month-old Malay fine dining restaurant on the second-floor of the retro Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce building.

Lovely dining space, dominated by a striking mural of a traditionally-clad Malay dancer, painted by local artist, Mandy Maung:

Malays are Muslims, so a Malay restaurant, being halal, do not serve any alcoholic drinks. We started off with some chilled Sirap Selasi - rose syrup, scented with pandanus leaves, with basil seeds.

Starters

  1. Cucur Jagung - corn fritters, containing shrimps, onions and chives. The fritters were delicious - crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside. The fritters were served with a dip which closely approximated Penang rojak sauce, wth a distinct fermented shrimp paste scent.

  2. Otak-otak - this is the Malay adaptation of Thai hor mok, though the version here was very mild in flavour. We were to discover in the course of our meal that the chef here had a very light hand with the spicing, resulting in a much gentler take on normally robust, chili-spicy Malay cooking. The otak-otak here is very tasty, though - very much like a savoury, turmeric-tinged custard. It’s drizzled with thick coconut cream and served with little round prawn crackers.

  3. Solok Lada - this is a dish from the Northeastern state of Kelantan: green peppers stuffed with gently-spiced filling of minced fish-meat and grated coconut, then steamed. It’s an utterly delicious dish, and the rendition here turned out to be one of the best I’d ever had.

Mains
4) Beef Rib Rendang - slow-cooked till nearly fall-off-the-bone-tender beef rib here had deep, soulful flavours.

  1. Lamb Shank Kurma - also slow-cooked, but the kurma is a light-coloured curry, with strong hints of cardamom, and more gingery than chili-hot.

  2. Udang Masak Lemak Tempoyak- my personal favourite for this meal: whole shell-on prawns cooked in a coconut-rich, turmeric-scented gravy, pepped up with fermented durian!

We ordered an additional side-dish: Ulam-ulaman, which is a very Malay accompaniment to any meat dish in a meal: a cornucopia of fresh herbs and local salad leaves, always served with a chili dip:

We had two types of rice: the Nasi bunga telang which is steamed rice, tinted blue using the ternatea flower:

And the Nasi beringin, which is rice cooked with lemongrass and pandanus leaves.

Desserts
The two desserts we ordered to share were very traditional ones - one of which I’d heard about, but never even seen in Singapore, let alone taste it:

Bubur Sumsum is a smooth custard-like steamed rice flour pudding, served with palm sugar molasses. Absolutely delish.

The other dessert we ordered was more common: Serawa Pisang, which consisted of chunks of bananas, sweet potato and sago, cooked in coconut milk, and sweetened with palm sugar. Perfect ending to the meal.

Address
Irama Dining
2, Penang Street, Georgetown
10200 Penang
Tel : +6012-914 0908
Operating hours : 11am-1am daily

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Man, that all looks so good. Even the weird blue rice :grinning:

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Everything looks great (save for the last one, Serawa Pisang). Would love the custard pudding!

I watched BBC’s A Cook Abroad Rachel Khoo episode in the gym today. Fantastic food everywhere, my god! She ate sambal ,in which there’s durian paste, with the natives of Orang Asli tribe. I thought that was interesting, the addition of durian paste.

Sometimes the partner asks “when are we going back to Malaysia?”, I say “dunno, I’d rather not. It’s kind of dangerous there at the moment”, or some BS like that… haha. Our time in Malaysia was much to short and back in 2000 in our youthful reckless days we knew next to nothing about Malay food.

Full episode is on youtube.

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The “Cook Abroad” series was really good. Particularly enjoyed Dave Myers in Egypt

One of my fave series on TV - never missed a single episode.

You need to come back again soon! Call me if you do. :grin:

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Back for lunch at Irama Dining yesterday. We started off with a couple of chilled drinks: as the restaurant is Muslim-owned and halal, no alcohol is allowed on the premises, not even BYO. We had two in-house concoctions:

  1. Bandung lychee chinchow - a sweet, milky, almost dessert-like, drink made from rose syrup, evaporated milk, lychees and Chinese grass jelly.

  2. Pandan Gula Melaka - yet another “let’s-skip-dessert-after-this” drink made from a combination of coconut milk and palm sugar, with a nice pandan fragrance. It also contained Chinese grass jelly, but more finely-cut in this case, and cendol noodles.

Opting for a light lunch, the two of us decided to share our food, ordering one appetiser platter and one main dish:

  1. Appetiser: Pulut Kelapa with Rendang Kerang - these are golf-ball-sized compressed glutinous rice rolled in spiced, grated coconut, tinted yellow with fresh turmeric. They were served alongside curried cockles. Flavours were subtle, and not as chili-hot as one would imagine.

  1. Main course: Pais Barramundi (grilled, banana leaf-wrapped barramundi fillets), with a side of Nasi Beringin (pandanus-lemongrass-scented rice).
    “Pais” is a Malay recipe where fish is marinated in spice blend of onions-turmeric-chilis and other condiments, wrapped in banana or turmeric leaves, then flame-grilled or charcoal-baked.
    Quite a good rendition here, but what elevated the whole dish was the bowl of spicy-sour dip called air asam kerisik, which was somehow omitted in the menu description. This rather liquid dip is the Malay answer to Mexican salsa. Here, tamarind juice is mixed with fresh chilis, tomatoes, raw onions, belacan (fermented shrimp paste), toasted grated coconut and sugar/salt.

Unwrapped and topped with the “Malay salsa”, the fish went beautifully with the nasi beringin.

Overall, a much better meal than my previous visit here, even though we ordered more expansively the last time. This restaurant is related to Lagenda on Campbell Street, which also offers Malay cuisine. But, for the moment, the kitchen at Irama Dining is a cut above others of its genre in town.

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Filming for the 3rd instalment of the 10X10 project by the Penang Arts Council exploring local ethnic/heritage cuisine restaurants covered Irama Dining today.

Lunch today consisted of:
Pulut kelapa with rendang kerang, and Pandan chicken

Udang masak lemak with tempoyak

Pais Barramundi with air asam kerisik

Ayam percik Kelantan

Beef-rib rendang
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I’d always enjoyed Irama Dining’s cooking - vibrantly-coloured and well-presented dishes which all pack quite a flavour punch.

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The meals looks really good!

Can we see the video? :smile:

The videos are still in production, but will be streamed sometime in April. It’s a Penang Arts Council project, sponsored by the Penang state government’s agency for Tourism and Creative Economy (PETACE) - so a bit of SOPs and bureaucracy involved.

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Good, will try to look that up!

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2