Sunday, 25 November 2012

Malaysian food diaries II: Sukiyaki at Suki-Ya, KL

Here in the UK, we have a tendency to think of Japanese food in terms of sushi and ramen. However - as covered in my last post - there is much much more to Japanese cuisine than raw fish and noodles. While some of the more interesting dishes haven't fully caught on here (yet), they are definitely popular across the rest of Asia, and I took full advantage of this on my trip to Malaysia.

Sukiyaki (also known as Japanese hotpot) is a delicious DIY-style meal. Perfect for sharing, it consists of a big stew pot filled with stock (sweet, teryaki-esque sukiyaki and salty shabu-shabu are two popular flavours) in which diners cook a variety of vegetables,  dumplings, noodles, and (tastiest of all) slivers of thinly cut meats.

I first sampled the delights of sukiyaki at Suki-Ya in Singapore last year, when my boyfriend and I stumbled across (and into) a branch in the mall near our hotel. We loved it so much we went twice, and were determined to return if we ever got the chance.

Much to our delight, we discovered that there was another Suki-Ya (one of only four branches across Asia) in the Japanese section of the swish Pavilion shopping centre, a mere ten minutes walk from the hotel we had booked for our first night in KL. Unable to resist, we headed there for dinner.

Tokyo Street in the Pavilion Mall, KL

At Suki-Ya, the traditional cooking pot is split down the centre, allowing you to sample two flavours of stock if you wish - we went with sweet sukiyaki and salty shabu-shabu (the other options are miso soup or spicy, vinegary kimuchi). The pot is placed on a hot plate in the centre of the table and diners add vegetables and other ingredients from an impressive 'all you can eat' buffet featuring, among other things, five types of mushrooms, a variety of root vegetables, various forms of cabbage, a range of dumplings (eggy, fishy, and cheesy) and a selection of noodles.

We left the noodles until last (the waiters recommend adding them to the thickened stock at the end of your meal), but piled our plates high with an assortment of the other ingredients, plus a few dipping sauces. The delicate, slender-stemmed mushrooms (huge bunch on top of my plate in the photo below) are my favourite, but I also love the larger, meatier mushrooms: these are especially good in the sukiyaki stock, as they really soak up the sweet flavour. However, neither of us were particularly keen on the fishy or cheesy dumplings (and without English labels, it was a bit of a guessing game to avoid them!) - perhaps these are more of an acquired taste...

Waiters bring round plates of finely sliced meats on request - in Singapore, there was a choice of beef, pork or chicken, while in primarily Muslim KL, lamb was offered in the place of the pork. The beef is the best, in my opinion, needing mere seconds in the bubbling broth to achieve a perfect medium-rare finish. My top tip (as demonstrated by our waiter) is to dip the cooked beef into a dish of raw beaten egg before you eat it...heavenly*!

For a mere RM 29.80 at lunchtime or RM 39.80 at dinner (about £6 and 8 respectively, at the time of writing) you can eat as much as you like, with unlimited servings of meat and vegetables, and top ups of stock if you need them. The only limit is time: tables come in 120 minute slots, although you can purchase more time if you need'd have to have a serious appetite to need it though: with all the soup and vegetables this is an incredibly filling meal!

I really hope the Suki-Ya chain makes its way over to Europe soon: sukiyaki is a fantastically social, hands-on way of eating, something really different from the norm - not to mention delicious - and I think it could be incredibly popular here.

Gratuitous touristy KL photo!

*I know this sounds gross, but it really is delicious! Follow my blog with Bloglovin