A little atas Pasar Malam flavours at Jen

This Ramadan, Executive Chef Amirudin Jaafar and his culinary team share their memories and experiences of traditional pasar malam or night markets by creating a buffet spread of popular Malay street food but “a little atas” or higher in quality, taste and presentation.

Thirst-quenchers served from receptacles typically
used by mobile hawkers in the Pasar Malam
“Pasar Malan can pop up virtually anywhere. Ask anyone who has been to a pasar malam and they will tell you that it’s an experience unlike any other,” said Chef Amirudin.

In preserving the street food heritage, the menu will comprise a range of more than 150 luscious dishes – many of them pasar malam staples – as well as traditional Ramadan appetizers and dishes, and even Middle Eastern and Malaysian favourites.

Even within a hotel cafe, the chefs work hard at presenting an authentic ambience of the pasar malam with rustic décor in stalls and on serving utensils that are usually seen at the night market.

Traditional Malay kueh are cut into small cubes
The first hint of the pasar malam theme is seen in a row of serving receptacles (I recognise as those typically used by mobile hawkers!) at the drinks station that serve a choice of chilled thirst-quenchers including a Johor favourite, Air Katira.

The eye-catching rows of colours on a large tray nearby are a range of assorted Malay kueh. I like how the kueh are cut into small cubes so that diners may savour a wider variety!

These local cakes are among more than 50 types of desserts in the daily spread prepared by Pastry Chef Zuwairi Shuaib, better known as Chef Zu.

In addition, there are live-cooking stations that serve freshly prepared delicate apam and putu mayam.

First time I've seen traditional tapai beras [Left] and
tapai ubi [Right] in a hotel buffet spread!
It’s fun that these familiar items are giving me a pasar malam feeling but in a setting which is just “a little atas”!

My exploring is distracted by a loud conversation as I overhear the chat among a few ladies crowding around the banquet in the dessert section. As I inch closer, I understand that they are debating about the contents wrapped within two types of green leaves.

I peek over their shoulders and smile when I recognise the leafy packets stitched together by tiny lengths of lidi sticks. The chefs are really staying true to the theme because this is the first time I’ve ever come across these items in a hotel buffet!

I patiently wait for the ladies to help themselves before I reach out for one packet each of traditional tapai ubi (fermented tapioca) and tapai beras (fermented rice)!

A serving of Soup Gearbox and Spare Parts 
These traditional kampong favourites certainly whet my appetite for more food so I check out the salad section where there is a spread of more than 15 types of kerabu.

If diners prefer to toss their own choice of salad ingredients, the chefs have prepared mouth-watering traditional Malay dips like Sambal Belacan, Cincalok, Budu, Tempoyak Cili, Sambal Gesek, Air Asam and Sambal Mangga.

Freshly cooked dishes in the Kawah section are kept warm in heated pots to deliver a more comforting dining experience. These dishes include Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru, Opor Ayam, Daging Masak Ungkep, Sambal Udang Pati Santan, Sotong Masak Hitam among other local favourites.

Another traditional must-have is ketupat and lemang (still wrapped in woven leaves!) served with side dishes of peanut sauce, Serunding Ayam and Serunding Daging.

Middle Eastern dish of a whole roasted lamb
In the Soup station, diners can choose the ingredients to top with rich and comforting Soup Power to savour with bread rolls fondly known as Roti Bengali.

There is also Johor’s own Soto Ayam, a rich chicken broth with ingredients like nasi empit, begedel and condiments.  

Then I watch as a diner is served a bowl of her choice of steaming hot soup with beef innards and a meaty bone (sticking outside the bowl!) that locals call Gearbox and Spare Parts…

In the hot buffet station, there is a range of Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes including stir-fried noodles, fried rice, Hainanese chicken rice along with freshly-made Roti Canai to enjoy with curry gravies.

A popular treat at Ramadan is the range of Middle Eastern Shawarma which are served in rotation with dishes like Murtabak, Roti John, Chicken and Lamb Shawarma to savour with condiments like mint yoghurt, garlic mayo and pickled onions.

But this is not all. There is something more in the buffet for diners to enjoy…

A row of diners lined up outside at the balcony ... 
Through the floor-to-ceiling glass wall, I suddenly spot a line of diners queuing up in the balcony outside the café.

Someone opens the door to the balcony and I catch a whiff of the reason why they are queueing… fresh durian - the king of fruits!

I watch as these fans of durian are given disposable gloves to wear while whole durians are split open and seeds coated in fleshy pulp are served to them on saucers. Yes, these diners have to remain outside to enjoy the complete experience of this delicious fruit with its pungent aroma.

Later they step through that door and return to the café (I observe!) wreathed in satisfied smiles because they are comfortably sated by eating their fill of their favourite fruit…

Fresh durian - the king of fruits are also served in the buffet!
Durian-lovers who may still have space for more durian, can continue their durian adventure with Cheesecake made with D24 durian and fried durian fritters or Durian Goreng, among other delightful desserts.

The sumptuous spread for the Flavours of Pasar Malam Buffet Dinner will be served at Harbour Café from May 17 to June 10, priced at RM150 nett per adult and RM75 nett per child aged from five to 12 years.

Early bird purchases from now till May 10 are for minimum four (4) persons and maximum 20 persons, priced at RM120 nett per adult and RM60 nett per child aged from five to 12 years.

The hotel has also prepared Surau facilities for diners.

Throughout the Ramadan month, there is a Tiffin Set Menu for Sahur, available from May 17 to June 15, between 4.30am to 5am, priced from RM45.

Harbour Café is on the lobby level of Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour, Persiaran Puteri Selatan, Puteri Harbour, 79000 Iskandar Puteri, Johor.

For enquiries and reservations, Tel: +607 – 560 8900 or send your email to: harbourcafe.hjph@hoteljen.com;

For group bookings, Tel: +607 – 560 8865 or send your email to: salescoordinator.hjph@hoteljen.com

For more info, visit website: hoteljen.com/johor/puteriharbour

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