Monday, November 15, 2010

Eat | Drink | Explore Malaysia Kitchen at Grand Central Terminal

We were super excited when we heard about the Eat | Drink | Explore Malaysia Kitchen event that will be held in Grand Central Station's Vanderbilt Hall. It will be a two day event (Nov 5 & 6, 2010) and it's organized by Malaysia Kitchen for the World. The main purpose of this event is to introduce Malaysia (it's sights, sounds and most importantly, food) to NYC. We missed some of the past events organized by Malaysia Kitchen for the World (Night Market in Chelsea, Night Market under the Manhattan Bridge...etc), but we heard that they were awesome. So, we made sure that we would not miss this event, no matter what.
The event is split into two sessions per day. Lunch starts at 11:30am and it goes on til 2:30pm. The vendors then takes a break and the second session resumes at 4:30pm - 7:00pm for dinner. We arrived at Grand Central Station bright and early on Saturday for lunch. We wanted to get there early to avoid the crowds and stuff. We were glad we did cos by the time we left, the whole hall was just packed to the brim!
This is what part of what the hall looked like. With the bright colored umbrellas and stalls, it somewhat reminded me of the pasar malams (night markets) back home in Malaysia. We were also greeted by lovely smell of freshly cooked Malaysian food...ahhhh pure bliss! :D
As we walked around, we noticed that a lot of the popular Malaysian restaurants in Manhattan as well as Queens and Brooklyn turned up in full force. Among some of the participating restaurants were Bentara, Betel, Cafe Asean, Double Crown, Satay,Taste Good and Spot Dessert Bar. Even the big boys like Nyonya and Laut had stalls set up. This is the best thing ever. We had the chance to actually walk around and compare food from various Malaysian restaurants in the Greater NY area without having to actually travel and visit each one separately.
There are three really popular Malaysian grocery stores in NYC (one in Chinatown and two in Queens). Old Town Asia Market is located in Queens and they too set up stall at the event. They were selling all kinds of Malaysian groceries, from Aik Cheong coffee to various curry mixes. I have extra happy to see my favorite snack on sale....MAMEE!! I am a big fan of MAMEE noodles, I literally grew up eating MAMEE :P It's been a while since I ate a pack of MAMEE, so I just HAD to buy a few packs. I believe they were selling 3 packs for $1. Taking a big bite of MAMEE instantly took me back to my primary school days. I still remember smuggling packets of MAMEE in our uniform pockets and secretly nibbling on it during classes. It was like the coolest thing to do back then.
Apart from stalls selling all kinds of food and groceries, they also had entertainment lined up. There were cooking demonstrations by various chefs and Malaysian personalities. We managed to watch a cooking demonstration by Susheela Rhagavan, the author of the ever popular Flavors of Malaysia cookbook. She also had a book signing session later on that day.
Apart from cooking demonstrations, there were also cultural dance performances by the cultural dance troupe. There were too many people in front of me for me to take any decent pictures of the performance but I managed to slip backstage and took this picture when they were posing for official press photos. I just pretended to be part of the press! :P See, the things I do for this blog.
Alright, now it's time for some food!! We really wanted to sample some of the food from Laut. For those of you who don't know, Laut was recently awarded one Michelin star. It is the first Malaysian restaurant in the whole of US to receive that prestigious award. To receive such a huge culinary honor, they must be really good. So yeah, we were pretty stoked to try their food. They were selling Nasi Lemak that afternoon. We could choose between Chicken Curry ($5), Beef Rendang ($5) or both ($6). We tried both. The Chicken Curry and Beef Rendang came with a serving Nasi Lemak (coconut rice), sambal ikan bilis (anchovies in chili paste) and some cucumber. The Nasi Lemak was rather good but truthfully, it wasn't the best. We tried some of the Nasi Lemak from Nyonya and it was way better than Laut's Nasi Lemak.
We also tried some Mamak Mee ($7) from Satay. The reason why we chose to try the food from Satay was because Satay is located in Flushing, Queens. We wanted to know if the food was good or not. It doesn't make sense for us to go all the way to Flushing to check them out, only to find out that they are not that great. I'm glad that we tried their food. You know why? Well, cos the noodles really wasn't all that great :P LOL! It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the best either. The fried noodles came with some vegetable achat and peanuts.
Apart from all the yummy Malaysian food and entertainment, another good thing about such events is that you get to meet a lot of other Malaysians living in NYC. We managed to make quite a lot of new friends that day. It's always good to meet up with fellow Malaysians, especially when you are so far away from home.
Overall, it was an awesome event! Very well planned out and organized. The best thing that we took away from this event was this booklet. A restaurant guide to all the Malaysian restaurants in the NY tri state area! Not only does it list out the restaurants, complete with address and phone numbers but it also comes with reviews of each of those places. Also, they would point out some of the more popular dishes from each restaurant. I did a quick count and there are over 50 restaurants in the tri state area that serves Malaysian and Malaysian inspired food! Looks like we have to work our way down that list and try to visit each and every one :P So yeah, we had a great time at the 2010 Eat | Drink | Explore Malaysia Kitchen and we will definitely look forward to the next event hosted by Malaysia Kitchen!

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