Taste Of Discovery @ Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu

My honest review dedicated to Debra and Sebastian (Both residing in Moscow, Russia) and to the Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu 

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1-The Discovery of myself

I am a Sabahan and I am now proud to say that I belong to the Kadazan Dusun ethnic group. Unfortunately and honestly, I don’t speak the language nor do I know everything about its culture. The reason was, I spent too much time outside Sabah.

Months before I started this blog, I actually spent some quality time with my best friend, parents and grandmother, catching up with whatever I should have. I read books and journals in order to ‘qualify’ myself to write about my own tradition. Shame on me!! I mean, my friends will sarcastically quip me for being able to write and converse in Thai language but not in my own mother tongue.

Come on curios!! When it comes to Kadazan Traditional Food, that was an issue actually when I had to be in Sabah again (well since I was a kid, to be honest).  I used to say NO and NO or WHAT? Seriously? The Nonsom, Bambangan and especially the Sago worms were categorized in the BIG NO NO list. Yes, I was too carried away with food from the ‘somewhere’ away land, sorry Grandma. I started to seriously writing last year and I concentrated on the things that were not associated with my ancestor. A big mistake.

One fine day @joehairie (my official photographer) bluntly told me that it is time to change my paradigm, my world view so to say.He lectured me from A-Z about my culture a.k.a  tradition and said that I must have to be proud of it (no excuse-he made sure he highlighted that term).  I did. I’ve changed. But I became so curios (as in curious) about everything related to Sabah Traditional Food and @joehairie will have to be the ‘guide’ each time I want to taste this and that. Sorry mate!!

God must be watching me as recently @kulafoods found me through Instagram (as I wrote in the previous post). Their wish, guess what, to sample the Sabah Traditional Food. The destiny did not end there. On March 24, 2016, I was one of the invited foodies to attend the foodies meet up at the Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu. Guess what? We tasted the Kadazan Traditional Food and to add fun to it, the meet up was held at the Table Of Curiosity, ever heard that name before? Oh yeah, I am The Curios Traveller. I discovered myself  more through the Le meridien Kota Kinabalu ‘Taste Of Discovery’…

2-Taste Of Discovery @Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu

According to the Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu website, the Taste of Discovery promotion also known as Tampatan Discovery. That theme of theirs is related to the effort of featuring Sabah Traditional Dishes with concentration to the Kadazan Cuisine. Le Meridien redefined the Traditional Kadazan Cuisine, bringing it up to a higher level, fine dining concept so to say, but still maintaining the use of original ingredients.

Traditional Kadazan cuisine involves mostly boiling or grilling which employs little use of oil, and with locally unique modifications and nuances as well as particular usage of locally available ingredients, particularly bamboo shoots, sago and fresh water fish. From simple appetizers of unripe mango dressed with soy sauce and chili flakes to a variety of pickled foods collectively known as noonsom, tangy and pungent flavours from souring agents or fermentation techniques is a key characteristic of traditional Kadazan cooking.

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Ayam Bambangan- Photo by Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu

The Taste Of Discovery is about engaging your palate  with the flavours of salt, vinegar, spicy and sweet trough such traditional gastronomic creations as the Hinava, Pinasakan, Tiger Prawn in Banana Leaf,  Ayam Bambangan, Tampatan Trio and Sago Special. Below are the specific dishes and its price as found in the Restaurant’s Menu.

VINEGAR

Traditional ‘Hinava’ Appertiser (RM 30.50)
Marinated mackerel With lime, ginger, chili and garnished with local salad.

SALT

Pinasakan Sada in Wild Borneo Herbs (RM 44.50)
Slow braised mackerel in taco baco sour gravy, served with bambangan, lime chili
and hill rice.

SPICE

Tiger Prawn In Banana Leaf (RM 53.50)
Local spiced Tiger Prawns grilled in banana leaf and served with steamed hill
rice, wild onion salad and prawn paste.

SPICE 

Ayam Bambangan (RM 53.50)
Baked spring chicken marinated in bambangan lemongrass gravy, served with steamed hill rice and stir fried wild fern shoot

TAMPATAN TRIO  An Exciting Combination of Traditional Hinava, Tiger Prawn in Banana Leaf & Ayam Bambangan -Served with steamed hill rice and discovery condiments (RM81.50)

SUGAR  Sago Discovery
Chilled Sago served with palm sugar, coconut milk and Haagen Dazs vanilla
ice-cream (RM 28.00)

For the foodies meet up on March 24 2016, we were presented the same dishes as in the menu but presented in different plating (individually and group) specially customised and suited for the event. The Taste Of Discovery menu is available all day as an ala carte but you may request for special presentation that is best suited to your event but do make an advance reservation.  There was one extra dish that was served for the foodies meet up, Ambuyat. It is not listed in the ala carte menu but I guess it was an initiative by the Hotel itself to highlight another local traditional dish.  I must admit now, that this was the first time ever that I tasted Ambuyat  and it was so delicious especially when dip into the Pinasakan Sada in Wild Borneo Herbs.  The Chef, Mr. Stimol Rondi, is one talented chef. He created the dish cleverly, presented it in such a  proper way that made the foodies ‘eat the food with eyes first’. A classier presentation and tasted amazingly yummy delicious.

Lets take a ‘journey’ to the culinary world of Kadazan Traditional Food by looking at the amazing dishes captured in photos. Again, take note of the presentation and plating which were different from the original ala carte as Chef Stimol Rondi redesigned everything specifically for the foodies meet up (you may request the same or according to your liking, all you need to do is talk to the Chef, in advance).

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On top-Fried Salted Fish. Below from left-Tuhau, Hinava and Bambangan
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This was the extra dish that is not listed in the menu, Ambuyat.

Ambuyat is a dish derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm. It is a starchy bland substance, similar to tapioca starch. Ambuyat is the national dish of Brunei and a local delicacy in the Malaysian states of Sarawak, Sabah, and the federal territory of Labuan, where it is sometimes known as LinutAmbuyat is eaten with a bamboo fork called a chandas, by rolling the starch around the prongs and then dipping it into a sauce, of which there are many varieties. For this meet up, the sauce was from the Pinasakan Sada in Wild Borneo Herbs. 

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I dipped the Ambuyat into the gravy, tasted yummy delicious!!!
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Steamed Hill Rice.
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Tiger Prawns. For this meet up, the tiger prawns were cooked with pumpkin (thus producing yellowish thick gravy) and served in hot plate. For the normal ala carte, this dish will be presented in banana leaf.
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The delicious Ayam Bambangan.
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Stir fried Wild Fern Shoot with prawn paste or Pakis Masak Belacan.
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This was how my banana leaf (plate) looked like when I mixed with every main course.
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Dessert-Chilled Sago with palm sugar , coconut milk and Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream.

3-How was the Discovery?

“Its not just about eating good food but its more about discovering myself  through The Taste of Discovery-Eating is indeed a journey” @curiostraveller

The best traditional food I ever consumed. This type of food, redefined by the Le Meridien through its creative and passionate Chef Stimol Rondi, really amazed me. At the time of drafting this entry, I felt like I am still at the Table Of Curiosity, consuming every dish available. I do hope that I will have another opportunity to come and eat these magnificent tasty dishes. The creative creation eliminated the negative perceptions of mine  (long time ago) towards Kadazan Traditional Cuisine. The joy of eating the dishes is equal to getting the most expensive caviar in the world. That much, the comparison, at least for me lol!! I have to say again and again, thank you so much Chef Stimol Rondi and of course to the entire team in the Kitchen. Many thanks to The Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu for giving us, the avid foodies, the golden opportunity to sample the redefined Kadazan Traditional Food. It was an epic discovery for us.

Wait!! Who are Debra and Sebastian? They are my niece and nephew, both residing in Moscow with their parents. They have been living abroad for quiet a long time. Sebastian was born in Mexico City and after that the entire family moved to Guangzhou, China before moving again to Moscow, Russia. Why is this so important and need to be highlighed in this entry? Well, they are the same as me (well, me before now)…they know little about their tradition and culture, let alone the language. Sebastian speaks little Malay and I guess he speaks Russian much better. I dedicate this entry to both of you. I hope that one day, you guys come home and re discover your culture and tradition, be proud of being a Kadazan Dusun. I cant thank you enough to the Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu for this amazing Taste Of Discovery. It really made me re discover myself. Last but not least…. a memento in a form of a precious photo..me with Chef Stimol Rondi.

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Chef, you are my hero!! Ini kalilah Chef. Boleh bah kalo ko!!
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You cooked for @kulafood Australia. Well done Chef Rondi!!

Craving for the Taste Of Discovery? Wait no longer, get yourself and your friends/family/colleagues to:

Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu

Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens
Sinsuran, 88000 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah, Malaysia

Phone: + 60 88 322222
Fax: + 60 88 322225
Email: foodbeverage.lmkk@lemeridien.com

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