Malaysia is one of those countries that I came very close to visiting but never quite made it to. My brother studied in Malaysia for several years, but me, being a broke graduate back then, never got around to planning a trip to visit him (a decision I regret profoundly).
I have also never tried Malaysian cuisine before. Although a number of restaurants have sprung up in London recently that specialise in Malaysian cuisine, I am yet to explore them. Much like the country, the cuisine remains relatively unknown to me.
Which is why, when an opportunity presented itself to review a Malaysian Supper Club (via Love Pop Ups London), I immediately grabbed it with both hands! The supper club is called Makan Malaysia (Makan means “to eat”) and is jointly run by Su and Kat, who are childhood friends with a shared passion for food and cooking.
Originally from Malaysia, both have made the UK their home and share their culinary expertise by organising intimate supper clubs, pop-up dinners, online shops and catering for themed weddings and events.
Kat is still in a full time job and their aim is to retire completely from their day jobs by the end of the year and turn Makan Malaysia into a full time commitment. They work very well together, each tapping into their strengths. Su, who naturally comes across as a people person, handles all the marketing and sourcing of ingredients. Kat, reportedly the shy one, project manages the kitchen with her super organisation skills.
The ingredients are feverishly sourced by Su from local Malaysian and Indian stores in Reading, who also supply to local Asian restaurants and takeaways. Most of the time, the food is cooked in Su’s certified home kitchen and brought to different venues for final touches. They have had events all across London, in Reading and Henley-on-Thames; the one we attended in Battersea was their sixth supper club.
The location for this most recent supper club was London Cooking Project, a unique venue in Battersea (a short bus ride from Clapham Junction Station). During the day, this light-filled space functions as a community kitchen for the locals and underprivileged who come here for a hot meal. But during the weekends, its vast, open-plan kitchen and dining space offers young and upcoming chefs and cooks a platform to showcase their food in the form of supper clubs and other related events. Not only do they provide the venue but support the events by supplying their own kitchen porters to help clean and wash the dishes. The only issue I found with the venue was the acoustics, which were not conducive for intimate conversations amidst a large gathering, something that is needed in a supper club scenario.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Su, whose infectious and enthusiastic smile immediately put us at ease, dispelling any anxiety of dining with complete strangers.
Over mouthfuls of Rainbow Crackers (made of tapioca and fried in oil, served with a Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce), we got to know our neighbours a little bit, most of whom were very well-travelled and have been to Malaysia before so are aware of what authentic Malaysian food really tastes like. I was becoming increasingly aware this was going to be a tough crowd to impress and looked forward to hearing their opinions about the food. Su and Kat definitely had their work cut out.
Conversations about food and travel deepened over the first course of moreish and spicy Sambal Samosas, crispy Sesame Tofu Pops and silky Money Bag Dumplings (made of rice flour), the latter of which were engorged with a delicious, earthy vegetable filling.
I liked my starter of Hainanese Roast Chicken on a Bed of Beansprouts. It came served with Ginger Garlic Sauce, Sambal, Sweet Soy Sauce. The chicken was succulent to taste but I thought it was a bit heavy on the dark soy sauce. The tangy, chilli sambal definitely lifted the dish by adding a bit of zing to it.
Next up was the Assam Boi, which is something I haven’t had before. It was dried sour plums and acted as a palette cleanser before the main course. It reminded me of a sour sweet I had back home in India as a child. I wasn’t mad keen on it, but it was good to try something I have never tried before.
The course I was most looking forward to was the Main Course:
Nasi Biru (blue rice)
Beef Rendang (dry coconut curry)
Acar Timun Nenas (pickled cucumber and pineapple)
Telur Masin (salted duck egg)
Coconut Flaked Seaweed
It was a kaleidoscope of exciting flavours and interesting textures on a plate. The signature blue rice (the distinctive colour coming from steaming it with natural butterfly pea flower, lemon grass and pandan leaf) had a very subtle earthy and lemony flavour to it. It worked well with the salty eggs and spicy sambal seaweed. The beef was rich and chock full of meatiness.
The strong finish came from a trio of desserts that included:
Kuih Lapis (steamed layer cake infused with rose water)
Pandan Infused Sponge
Pulut Tekan (sweet, sticky rice infused with butterfly pea flowers)
By the end of those courses, the wine had well and truly flown into my system so I will be honest here and say I don’t remember the exact taste of it all. But I remember having a distinct fondness for the Pandan Infused Sponge and the steamed layer cakes which were deliciously gelatinous, chewy and playfully colourful to look at.
The success of a supper club not only depends on the quality of food but how it makes you feel at the end of it. Kat and Su put their heart and soul into it and managed to create a jolly and buzzy atmosphere where everyone got cozy with their neighbours and by the end of it all were smiling and laughing. It felt like one big dinner party of friends with delicious food and flowing wine.
Overall, the food was delightfully regional and very well-received. My discerning, well-traveled neighbours thought the food could have been spicier but I was happy with the medium level heat. The menu had global inflections of Indian and other Asian cuisines that naturally resonated with me and left me feeling inspired to explore more of this eclectic cuisine.
If you want to find out where Makan Malaysia are holding their next Supper Club, please check their website www.makanmalaysia.co.uk or follow them on Instagram @makanmalaysiauk
Disclaimer: I was invited to review the supper club and our tickets were complimentary via Love Pop Ups London but all opinions and photos are mine.