By Anastasia Hancock
Ah, Nasi Goreng, Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai, Satay, all washed down with steaming Teh Tarik. The mere mention of the dishes conjures up images of bustling KL streets filled with vendors selling steaming street food, azure-blue seas lapping onto fine white sand on Langkawi beaches, cloud-tipped mountains providing cool respite from the blazing heat in the Cameron highlands….
If only. In fact, Friday night saw hoards of hungry Malaysiaphiles braving a very grey and drizzly Trafalgar Square in search of a little taste of South-East Asian flavour in the heart of London.
It was surprising to note just how many hardy souls clamouring for Malay delights you can fit into one small area. Apparently, there are almost 50,000 Malaysians living in the capital. It seems as though the vast majority had turned up to celebrate their country in style.
The event was the brainchild of celebrity chef Jason Atherton (the former Executive Chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze), the deputy mayor, and the Malaysian High Commissioner. The aim was to put together an authentic Malaysian Pasar Malam created by Malaysian Kitchen to showcase some genuine cuisine. The result was a good few dozen colourful stalls running around the circumference of Trafalgar Square offering punters the choice of pretty much any Malay delicacy they wanted. There were a number of popular eateries represented, including Awana, Bintang and Kiasu, all swamped from start to finish.
The huge stage in the middle of the square hosted an array of exotic performers, and was roundly and noisily appreciated by a throbbing crowd of groupies for most of the night, while the queues for the food stalls themselves was stomach-growlingly massive. If the organisers want to avoid a mass stampede next year, this is definitely something that needs to be addressed.
However, it didn’t seem to matter when I had eventually shuffled (read; pushed and scratched) my way to the front of the queue, happily reeling off an order that would have fed most of Penang. Funny how the perpetual drizzle stopped mattering, and the cold granite of the fountains that I was using as my dining table suddenly seemed perfect for the job once I was perched on it spooning steaming Malaysian chicken curry into my mouth and dreaming of the tropics.