All for the love of mum
“I miss my mother,” said the soft-spoken 35-year-old from Kelantan. “I think the dishes she cooked were the most tasty in the world. I don't think I have managed to re-create the lovely flavours, but I have given my best and will work harder in time to come.”
Most of the dishes, which feature traditional goodness in contemporary presentations, are prepared to the recipes of his mother who passed away two years ago.
Ashar has 17 years of experience in Western cuisine to help him conceptualise the menu of modern Malay cuisine that has replaced the restaurant's fusion selections.
“I'd always had the basics of Malay cooking, but had seldom applied them before my mother passed away, even though I loved Malay food,” he reminisced, with a tinge of sadness in his tone.
Gulai Kampung Ayam (Village-style Curry Chicken) reminds him of the Hari Raya he celebrated with his mother.
“I am from a poor family. My mother would slaughter the kampung chicken we reared behind our house only when it was Hari Raya, and she would put many ingredients into the cauldron to cook the dish,” he recalled.
He said Pindang Lautan soup was derived from another “pauper's delight”.
“We could not afford a refrigerator in those days, so my mother would cook fish with salt, tamarind and galangal, and we could keep the dish for two or three days,” he said.
As its name suggests, Ren-dang Warisan (Heritage Ren-dang) is made to a recipe pass-ed down the generations. “Un-like other cuisine, Malay food does not have standard recipes. Rendang, for instance, is different in every state.
“My family recipe does not use spices because we feel that they will overwhelm the flavours of lemongrass, turmeric and other ingredients,” Ashar said.
“My neighbour, who is an old man, once requested specifically for my wife's Cucur Udang when he was ill. I was curious so I tasted it, and found that it was really good. “I don't know where she learnt it from, but I guess having a picky husband helps her improve her cooking skills,” he said.
The restaurant that overlooks the city's skyline serves a la carte and buffet meals.
Ashar has given “crazy names” to the dishes and invites diners to have fun figuring out how they would taste.
For example, Kasih Menanti (Love Awaiting) is a dessert made of durian paste and glutinous rice and there are options like Tiga Dara (Three Maidens), Teruna Kampung (Young Man from the Village) and Dusun Pak Mat (Pak Mat's Orchard) to titillate your taste buds and imagination.