Test Kitchen Hong Kong
158A Connaught Road West
Shop 3 Hong Kong
TEST KITCHEN presents ‘Food from God’: Malaysia’s Dewakan restaurant
Creating dishes that are refined, beautiful and innovative while focusing on local ingredients is a hallmark of Malaysian cuisine. In this popup dinner series with chef Darren Teoh and his team from Kuala Lumpur’s Dewakan, we’ll discover how modern European and other techniques such as fermentation, smoking and grilling make the culinary experience all the richer.
Dewakan is a portmanteau of the Malay words ‘dewa’, meaning god, and ‘makan’, meaning ‘to eat’. To chef Darren therefore, Dewakan means ‘food from God’. “We honour and serve the bounty of the local lands, we are a locavore’s haven and heaven. We celebrate our farmers, our fishers, and our artisans. We combine and connect indigenous ingredients and produce from our farms and jungles, mountains and seas, which manifest itself onto the plates before you – the culinary canvas upon which we paint.”
The menu at Dewakan that will be served at Test Kitchen is based on this manifesto of fresh, naturalised and indigenous ingredients that celebrate and respect culinary traditions, creativity and terroir, as Chef Darren Teohexplains in his own words:
Our Menu – With explanations from Chef Darren Teoh
This dish has been with us since we started the restaurant. Mangoes are made into a piquant curry and aerated before serving. It is representative of a lot of things that we do at Dewakan.
Oysters and Starfruit
Fresh oysters with a starfruit juice split with lime leaf oil. We serve a version of this dish with slow cooked prawns and local indigenous herbs. The starfruit juice is tart and together with the lime leaf oil lends a fragrance to the briny oysters.
Banana blossoms steamed and served with grilled fiddlehead ferns, tao cheo from the same guy that makes our soy sauce, pickled rose and Kerdas. We thought we would bring something from home to share with Hong Kong. The Kerdas, Archidendron bubalinum, are the pods of the Kerdas tree that have a faint garlicky flavour when shallow fried.
Goat Tartare with Pumpkin
Seared and lightly-smoked goat leg that has been tossed with some of last year’s pickles, salted mustard greens, smoked chilli and sand ginger. The flavours are deep and earthy with a slight spice from the smoked chillis. The tartare is served with raw pumpkin compressed with a charred spring onion oil.
Roast eggplants are smeared with a meaty sauce of keluak and covered with grated candlenuts. We serve this with a froth made from ham and the candlenuts. The Keluak is a seed from the Pangium Edule tree, native to the mangroves of Malaysia. They are toxic when they are fresh and have to be treated before using. We break them down into a puree and use them as a sauce that some say has the same aroma as truffles.
Fish with Durian
Deep fried fish coated in a sauce made from durian, torch ginger flowers and Vietnamese mint. The usually pungent fruit is tamed with the rest of the aromatics, mellowing it to a gentle accompaniment for the fish.
Black Banana Porridge
We make a porridge with Bears Keladi, a type of hill rice from the Lun Bawang people in Sarawak. The rice is grown in the highlands and irrigated with mountain spring water. We cook the porridge with black banana which are plantains made in the same way as black garlic at Dewakan. The porridge is served with some condiments the same way we eat congee here in Malaysia.
Sayur Manis Sorbet
Sayur Manis directly translates to sweet vegetable. It is a shrub that we harvest the leaves that are traditionally stir fired or used in soups. We make a sorbet with it and serve with aerated milk and roselle powder.
About our chef:
Chef Darren Teoh doesn’t talk about his work in simple, snappy sound bites; in fact, he doesn’t talk much about it at all. It speaks for itself. In the kitchen at Dewakan. Darren sets the stage for imaginative, inventive servings of modern Malaysian cuisine; and at Dewakan ’s dinner tables, Bario rice porridge and Bidor duck breast become bona fide events. His building blocks are indigenous ingredients, such as kulim, ketumpang air, and bunga kantan, that lend his cuisine an unmistakable Malaysian terroir – so much rarer is the chef who can tango with familiar flavours, and with it, create something straight-up subversive.
Darren grew up in a family of good cooks. His grandmother would sun-dry spices on rattan-weaved baskets, pack it up into old bottles, and bring it to an old flour mill along Ipoh Road in the city centre to be grinded down into a spice mix for curries. Nobody’s curries tasted the same. These memories contribute to how he defines cooking; his grandmothers’, mother’s, and aunts’ reverence for ingredients form the framework of what he believes food should be.
There are many paths to success, and Darren’s path is paved with ingredients, technique and tools. Darren is always going to know more about indigenous ingredients than his diners; he’s going to know more about charcuterie and the craft of curing duck ham than his peers; he’s going to know about the Temuan community in Pahang who tend to cocoa trees to be sold to the local chocolatier, from whom he sources chocolate.
As a result, Darren’s dishes are a reverential deep dive into the nuances of Malaysian cuisine and cultures, creating radical moments of reckoning that’s as fun to think about as it is to eat. His food contends beautifully with his heritage and his history, and his clarity of what came before – and what lies ahead is a coming of age for modern Malaysian cuisine.
Perhaps we should judge a chef by his ability to cook Malaysia’s most famously lowbrow food, the Maggi instant noodles – Darren’s favourite dish to cook at home, which might label him a heretic in some circles. All of which is to say: Darren makes a great bowl of Maggi instant noodles.