Toss for prosperity at DoubleTree by Hilton JB

I’m at the Makan Kitchen in DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru, for the preview of the auspicious buffets, served during this Chinese New Year season.

GM Daniel Alcaraz [4th from Left] toss for prosperity with
guests at the Makan Kitchen, DoubleTree by Hilton JB
At the lobby, I’m warmly welcomed by General Manager, Daniel Alcaraz, and Director of Business Development, Charles Eman.

This hotel holds a special place in my heart simply because it’s located opposite the site where I grew up in our grandfather’s house at the former No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng.

GM Daniel is also familiar with this as he witnessed the launch of my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, last July in a meaningful event held here, in this very hotel.

We talk briefly about my book, marvel at its journey to success and I graciously accept the GM’s congratulations as it joins other titles in the 2017 MPH BestNon-Fiction list!

Chef Leong Soon Tiam uterring
traditional good wishes as he adds
flour crisps to the Yee Sang platter 
Meanwhile, in the private dining area at the Makan Kitchen, Chinese Banquet Chef Leong Soon Tiam, is putting his final touches on a selection of key items for our glimpse of some dishes in the festive menu.

One thing for sure, the Chinese kitchen within the Makan Kitchen has earned a proud reputation for serving the goodness of delicious double-boiled soup in the Cantonese tradition of rich and fortifying soups.

A quick glance at the tasting menu starts my mouth watering in anticipation of the Emperor Chicken Soup brewed with Dried Scallops and Black Mushrooms. Mmm…

Chef Leong takes center stage as he prepares the Prosperity Smoked Salmon Yee Sang for our prosperity toss.

All eyes are upon him as he tops the julienne of fresh vegetables with five-spice powder, a drizzle of plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil, chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds and Chinese flour crisps and slices of Smoked Salmon on the Yee Sang platter.

My serving of piping hot Emperor Chicken Soup
And because he’s Chinese, I’m hopeful that he will utter the traditional good wishes while adding each ingredient, to complete the Yee Sang tradition.

At first he seems rather bashful but I guess he must have caught my strong hints because only on adding the second last ingredient of deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows, that he cracks a smile and says in Mandarin:

Bian di huang jin,” in a wish for prosperity for the whole floor to be filled with gold!

And with the final ingredient of sweet plum sauce, Chef Leong says, “Tian Tian Mi Mi” in a wish for everyone to have sweet and loving relationships!

Three types of dim sum [Clockwise] Chive Dumplings,
Siew Loong Pau and Truffle Dumplings
This small but significant contribution from the chef makes the prosperity toss even more meaningful as we share this Chinese culture and tradition with non-Chinese media friends and hotel team members.

With chopsticks in hand, the GM joins us in the traditional lo hei (Cantonese) or toss for prosperity.

We are invited to our seats arranged at several tables and a portion of Yee Sang salad is served. This is followed by portions of the dishes highlighted in the Chinese New Year festive menu.

Then my bowl of Emperor Chicken Soup is served piping hot from the steaming cauldron in the Chinese kitchen.

Careful not to puncture the pastry of the Siew Loong Pau
I remind myself to patiently wait a few minutes to let the steam clear lest I burn my tongue and fail to taste the goodness of this delicious hot brew… rich with the goodness of chicken, dried scallops and black mushrooms.

Another delicacy that diners can expect to savour from the festive buffet are three varieties of handmade dim sum specialties. These are no ordinary dumplings.

Served in traditional bamboo trays, the first set I’m served are Siew Loong Pau – Shanghainese meat dumplings filled with superior soup stock.

There is an art to eating these delicate ‘little dragon dumplings’ and I’m careful not to puncture its pastry (and spill the soup!).

Golden Roasted Duck is in the festive menu
Using my chopsticks, I gently lift it off the bamboo tray to sip the soup through the top of the dumpling – folded with 18 pleats – in an elegant and genteel manner.

The next set of crescent-shaped Chive Dumplings are stuffed chockful of minced meat and bits of fragrant chives.

The piece de resistance among the delectable festive dim sum must be the Truffle Dumpling. It may resemble the Siew Loong Pau but is distinguished by its yellow pastry and is filled with minced meat and porcini mushrooms.

I take my time to savour each set of dumplings and privately consider the joys of dining from a buffet because one can return for countless helpings of the same!

Prepare to roll up your sleeves to dig in with your
fingers to savour Singapore-style Chilli Crabs
The tasting menu includes cuts of Golden Roasted Duck, Steamed Garoupa fish with piquant Assam Sauce, Singapore-style Chilli Mud Crabs and Deep-fried Butter Oat Prawns.

This festive season, the pastry chefs go creative with their designs of pastries to commemorate the auspicious Lunar New Year.

The most eye-catching of the lot must be the Orange Macaroon – designed in a rich Red colour with its center decorated by a Chinese character.

While I don’t read Chinese, I can recognise this particular character for “Fook” which means ‘good fortune’ and it is deliberately displayed upside-down!

Orange Macaroon with the upside-down "Fook" character
For the benefit of the others, I ask Chef Leong to explain why it is displayed this way and he describes the Chinese sentiment of ushering in the Lunar New Year with abundant good fortune and prosperity.

And as the Chinese pronunciation of the word, upside-down (tow) also sounds like ‘arrive,’ the upside-down position of the Chinese character “Fook” will read as “Fook Tow” (Cantonese) which has the auspicious meaning of, ‘good fortune arrives!’

Another auspicious looking dessert is the Mandarin Orange. It really looks too good to eat and after hesitating a long while, I sink my teeth into this little ‘orange’ and am impressed with its delicious and delicate choux pastry.

Don't miss this auspicious little Mandarin Orange
made with delicate choux pastry
Whether it’s for the Chinese New Year Prosperity High-Tea or the BBQ Chinese New Year Fortune Feast in the Makan Kitchen, diners can help themselves to a range of lunar new year dishes from the Chinese kitchen in a buffet spread that includes all the popular items in the Malay and Indian kitchens, as well as International cuisine in fresh salads and delectable desserts.

Enjoying a buffet spread is a pleasant change from sit-down banquets so do make your group reservations early because family and feasting is certainly part of this auspicious festive season.

From Friday to Sunday, Feb 16, 17 and 18, the Chinese New Year Prosperity High-Tea Buffet is served from 12.30pm to 4pm at RM108 nett/adult.

From Thursday to Sunday, Feb 15, 16, 17 and 18, the BBQ Chinese New Year Fortune Feast is served from 6.30pm to 10.30pm at RM158 nett/adult.

The Makan Kitchen is on the lobby level of DoubleTree by Hilton JB, at 12 Jalan Ngee Heng, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor.  For enquiries and reservations: Tel: 607 – 268 6868 or email:  Website:

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