Monday, June 16, 2008

Roti Canai In The UK

By Choi Tuck Wo

The best of Malaysian food is now being served at the heart of London’s West End – JomMakan!

AMID shouts of satay, roti canai and mee goreng ringing loud and clear in the kitchen, you can be forgiven for thinking that you’re right smack in a restaurant in Malaysia.

Clad in uniforms based on traditional baju melayu designs, the line cooks received orders from customers and quickly set to work to whip up Malaysia’s mouth-watering, street hawker dishes.

Passionate team: Mohd Zuhri (centre, in t-shirt) together with his mostly multi-national staff outside JomMakan Restaurant in London’s West End. — By CHOI TUCK WO

With its open kitchen concept, customers can get to see their food being prepared before it is served piping hot on their table.

Don’t hold your breath, though. The staff busily grilling your satay, tossing the roti canai or pulling the teh tarik can be a Nigerian, Hungarian, Romanian, or even from Sierra Leone.

It’s amazing that a bunch of young and passionate non-Malaysians, who have never heard of or tasted Malaysian dishes in their lives, are actually preparing them with gusto.

And all this is happening right here in London. You can thus savour your favourite nasi goreng kampung, mee bandung, laksa, satay, roti canai or even nasi ayam kukus (which is Hainanese Chicken Rice) that is as good as, if not better than, those prepared by Malaysians.

Welcome to JomMakan Restaurant, the 140-seat prototype flagship restaurant in the heart of the capital city’s West End, which is cooking up a storm in Britain.

The outlet is the first quick service restaurant (QSR) under the Malaysia Kitchen franchise programme aimed at promoting JomMakan restaurants worldwide.

Through this concept, Malaysia hopes to set up 200 Malaysia Kitchen outlets globally by 2010, including in major cities like Frankfurt, Berlin, Belgium, Sweden, San Francisco, New York and Sydney.

Gastronomic innovation

“This is a new beginning for Malaysian cuisine,” declared Mohd Zuhri Abdullah, managing director of JomMalaysia (UK) Limited.

He said Malaysian food could be prepared quickly and easily by anyone based on the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) using ready-made pastes, rempah and sauce flown in from Malaysia.

As such, he said, they could be very versatile and flexible in whipping up Malaysia’s favourite dishes without being dependent on Malaysian chefs.

“The great thing about our satay is that we grind and make the peanut sauce fresh at our premises,” he said, adding that they offered 100% Malaysian cuisine.

At the moment, the restaurant has introduced 48 popular Malaysian dishes including side orders like otak-otak, popiah, gado-gado and cucur udang. Others like ais kacang will be added later.

And JomMakan is more than a restaurant; a gallery displaying Malaysian ingredients and paste is taking shape where customers can place their orders after consuming the food.

Zuhri said they were looking for joint ventures with local or Malaysian partners to open outlets in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow or even Edinburgh.

Plans were also afoot to set up three small 70- to 80-seat restaurants in other parts of London by the end of next year, he added.

He said they arrived at the QSR concept for London because it was a vibrant city where gastronomic innovation and creativity were the order of the day.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to be in a place where we can be successful in developing and innovating Malaysian cuisine through pushing and branding this concept,” he said.

Let’s eat

Response to JomMakan has been hot with more than 300 people having signed up as members through its website (www.jom during the first three days of its soft launch on June 2.

“It’s amazing that we’ve got a great mix of people from all over the world, including countries as diverse as Iceland, Norway and Russia,” said its operations manager Victoria Searl.

She said these potential customers were obviously interested in Malaysian cuisine and were planning to eat at the restaurant on their next visit to London.

Searl admitted that Chinese and Thai food had long been Britain’s favourite cuisine “but now it is Malaysia’s turn”.

“Our food seems to be flying out of the kitchen,” she enthused, saying the popular dishes included mee goreng, mee goreng sayur and satay.

Located strategically near London’s major landmarks like Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Chinatown, the restaurant is set to attract both office workers and tourists.

JomMakan is operated by Malaysia International Franchise Sdn Bhd (MyFranchise), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Perbadanan Nasional Berhad.

And since its opening by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Tuesday, the restaurant has attracted both locals and VIPs alike.

As the name JomMakan (Let’s Eat) suggests, the restaurant is fast becoming the coolest place to savour quality Malaysian food in central London.

Source: The Star


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