Malaka started out in 1997 with a vision to present Pan Asian cuisine to Pune with a signature twist that’s hard to find outside of fancy TV shows and they’ve really come a long way from an already high benchmark that they’d set for themselves back in ’97. In this quest for continuously one-upping themselves, innovation has been an intrinsic part of Malaka’s culture which is also evident from the special menu that they keep coming up with, periodically. Their Classic and Street menus apart, their ‘Special Menu’ is usually Seasonal, and is typically themed around ingredients that are best sourced during that time of the year. Also, given that a lot of their ingredients are grown in-house, the freshness of the ingredients and the flexibility of selecting ingredients is apparent, too (we were witness to prawns and carambola being paired together but more on that, later). Veggies like gourds (bottle gourd, bitter gourd, etc.), pumpkin, beans and tomatoes and fruits like berries, papaya, melons and mangoes are great ways to counter the effects of Summer and the enterprising chefs of Malaka have attempted to use all or most of these, in their avant-garde Summer Menu which we were invited to sample. The bulk of what we had was a laundry-list of stuff that they intend to launch, but not all of what we had that evening may make it to their final Menu. For all reasons healthy, I really think they should include it all, but that may not be commercially viable. C’est la vie.
Now, I should warn you, this particular blog may come across more as a photolog than a blog, so I’ll urge you to watch it on your desktop/laptop on high speed wifi to avoid draining your phone’s data pack. And to enjoy the photos in high-res, of course ! 🙂
Chilled and Hot Watermelon Soup
A lovely blend of classic ‘soupy-ness’ and the refreshing juiciness of watermelon. The watermelon scoops in the soup were a nice touch, too. Even for someone who doesn’t appreciate cold soups, this one’ll cut it.
Sinigang Sa Miso
This soup had a mild tang from the tamarind and the Soy, but should’ve been a warm soup. Somehow, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate this Red Snapper cold soup.
Korean Spicy Cold Noodle Soup
Loved the texture from the pulses and the noodles, but again, not as appealing as the chilled watermelon soup.
Warm Salad of Napa Cabbage in peanut butter. The Thai Crunchy veggies gave it a lovely texture and I especially liked the perfectly acceptable warm temperature that it was served at. The peanut butter dressing went well at that temperature, too. Loved it !
Yan Woon Sen
This preparation was more about texture, in my opinion – the tender shrimp, soft glass noodles and the pulses were a nice mix of textures and the fresh herbs gave it an delightful aftertaste.
Duck Watermelon and Red Pumpkin Salad
The hoisin sauce used to glaze the duck-meat was a delicate balance between sweet and briny and when had with the watermelon and pumpkin, resulted in a flavor burst I just can’t describe. I really hope this one makes it to the final menu.
Indonesian Mango, Pineapple and Carambola salad
While this was a really good preparation by itself, there was so much scope to use contrasting flavors as against using different kinds of tarty and sour ingredients.
The mango’s tanginess and the watermelon’s fresh sweetness went well with the prawn’s neutral juicy meat, but in retrospect, I somehow felt so much more could’ve been done with that preparation. A dash of chili powder or a strong-flavored dip could do wonders for this preparation.
Of the Stir-fries, the Goya Champaru Bitter Melon and Bottle Gourd Stir Fry was unbelievably delicious. I’ve never had bitter melon tempered so well except in the form of deep-fried chips. If this gets on the menu, this is an absolute must have !
Korean Honey Chili Potato
Should I even bother explaining how awesome it was? Naah. I popped half the bowl with the Belgian Wheat Beer I was having without realizing it. The best appetizer that evening. Or maybe I just love potatoes too much.
Lobster butter garlic with Morenga and Thai Chilli
The butter-garlic had seeped into the near-crunchy lobster meat, loved the flavors, the texture; an exquisite preparation, this.
Tiger prawn in Carambola
Pineapple juice and star fruit are rather mild flavors to cook a prawn in, don’t you think? I mean, with the plain dearth of any strong flavors, the juicy prawn couldn’t do much by itself except soak in the rather flat/mild flavors. This one needs a little re-thinking, in my opinion.
Bak Kut The
The Bruneian mutton spare ribs were to die for. The Chinese Crullers, not so much.
Five Spice rolls like the ones found in Penang – crunchy outside from the deep fried roll sheet and crunchy inside from the fresh veggies. The meat was well seasoned, too. Loved this !
Vietnamese Mutton with Fenugreek and Spinach – Overbearingly bitter, these desperately needed a palate cleanser. A complete no, for me.
Grilled Fish in Mint Sauce
Perfectly grilled meat that went well with the sweet-spicy sauce. However, the mint was so subtle it was almost nonexistent. Not to say the sauce was bad; it was great, but maybe not as minty as the chef intended for it to be.
Stuffed Calamari with Peppery Tamarind Sauce –
The only non-fried Calamari I’ve had that wasn’t chewy. The Calamari was surprisingly well done and the tamarind sauce was good too. One problem with this preparation was the multitude of similar seafood crammed into one preparation and the size of each morsel – it was not as appetizing as Malaka’s own Calamari rings so I probably would skip past this and call for the usual. Unless they use some other kind of meat and fry the calamari pockets somehow.
Gulai Daun Singkong Tumbuk
Himalayan trout made with okra?! Lovely, tender grilled fish that went surprisingly well with the ladies’ fingers. Loved how bold this preparation was and how well it was executed !
As for the entrées –
A Vietnamese grilled chicken preparation that went well with the rice noodles and the salad served on the side.
Macau Curried Tiger Prawn with Bottle Gourd & Fenugreek
No one flavor or smell was overpowering, here. The mild flavors had blended into the coconut milk and the prawn was very tender, too.
Massaman Curry Mutton
Rich, yet mild, just the way a massaman curry ought to be. The mutton, however, was not well done. Scope for improvement, there.
And onward we went to the desserts, of which two were sago based and the rest were fruit or chocolate based.
Malaysian Sago Pudding with Palm Sugar
The palm sugar drizzling was lovely but it had not seeped into one single pearl of sago. The sago, per se, was totally tasteless (just the way boiled sago should be) so sans the palm sugar drizzling, it hardly came across as a dessert.
Mango and Sago Parfait
The mango parfait was flavorful but was frozen too hard. Also, the sago was coming out separately and as tasteless – there’s so much scope to blend the sago in.
Coconut and Orange Bake Pudding
Full marks for the texture, but the orange wasn’t coming out strongly. Some orange zest while boiling the milk could possibly bring out the flavors s’more.
Sticky dates pudding
A pretty good dessert per se, but didn’t exactly come across as a pudding.
Vodka Lava with White Chocolate Sauce – the vodka wasn’t too evident but the white chocolate sauce was pretty good. One suggestion for improvement could be to flambé this leveraging vodka, so the vodka would be much more palpable and it would add to the presentation, too.
Banana and coconut roll –
Crisped and lightly sweetened on the outside with a yummy, melt-in-the-mouth textured banana inside. You’d go bananas over this !
With this, and dessert wine we closed our intestine-numbing food-barrage of the finest Pan-Asian experiments Pune has to offer. I’ll be heading back soon to see how much of this actually made it to the menu, and suggest you do, too ! Cheers !
Sorry for the long post. Here’s photos of some stuff I didn’t have –