Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

©Ianthe Butt 2012

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After losing my vegetarian restaurant virginity at Vanilla Black a few weeks back, it appears I’m embracing veggie dining.

So too is high-end Malaysian restaurant Awana, in Sloane Avenue:  ordinarily it serves a  huge range of Malay delights including meaty stir-fries, street-food style noodles and chunky peanut laden satay sticks to keep a committed carnivore, vegetarian or even vegan  happy.

For two weeks’ this month , AWANA is running a vegetarian festival and offering a special selection of dishes for the vegetable-inclined among us.

We perch on low leather stools and indulge in Awana’s signature cocktail

the Hibiscus.

DeCaDeNt,sweet champagne tinged pink by an edible hibiscus flower 

which unfurls in the gentle bubbles

at the bottom of the glass…

Our table is in the corner, giving us a good view of the open satay bar where roti is kneaded and stretched into thin pancakes. Low lit, with wooden slatted partition walls, pink and yellow ceiling lights give Awana a radiant glow and a touch of funkiness to the atmosphere.

First to arrive are Popiah Tohu dan Cendawan, a twist on traditional spring rolls served with vinaigrette sauce.

Lightly battered, stuffed with tofu, enoki mushrooms and  a sugar snap in the middle. This made for a refreshing and satisfying crunch tempered well by the slightly acidic dipping sauce. Having spent a fair amount of time in South-East Asia There is no doubt I am somewhat of a roti snob.

It can’t be too greasy, or overcooked. Whatever the roti is flavoured with shouldn’t be overpowering and must compliment the dipping sauce it’s served with. 

Torn between GaRLiC stuffed and rosemary & sage rotis, invevitably  both were ordered.

Sweet red curry sauce. Crispy crunchy squares of goodness.

There is nothing more to say:  I’ve not tasted roti this delicious since I was in the Cameron Highlands

The roti was always going to be a tough act to follow, so the Tohu Bakar was already at a disadvantage when it arrived.

I’m not a massive tofu fan, but was pleasantly susprised by this dish –

tofu wrapped  tenderly in a bAnAnA leaf

served with a tomato-y, shitake-y and button mushroom sauce.

A wee bit heavy on the tofu and not quite enough sauce for my liking,

but not bad at all.Three mains are on offer, the first is Cedawan Goreng – a mushroom and vegetable stir fry with kung po sauce

 Fungi-phobes should steer well clear of this one as

combining button, shitake and oYsTer mushrooms with a kick of chilli,

this has an intense, rather than subtle mushroom flavour.

 For a lighter option choose the Sup Sayaran

broth packed with glass noodles, tofu, pak choi and lots of healthy vegetables,

Great for cleansing the  palate after such a smorgasbord of  flavours.

It’s a case of ‘third time’s the charm’ on the mains, when the Kari Terong arrives. 

Blended pumpkin and aubergine curry

scattered with chickpeas

and lashings of coconut cream…


If you can only choose one main – it HAS to be this.

My tastebuds thus far have been tantalised

Through nice and spicy to dreamy and creamy

I can’t even think about dessert.

Manager Andy recommends us a roti tissue. I have no idea what this is, but it sounds less than appetising.

If I came away from Awana learning only one thing it would be:



judge a dessert

by its name…

A huge bowl shaped roti appears before us.

dusted with cinammon and vanilla sugar

it smells like Christmas,or heaven,or both.

There’s a hole cut in the bottom and the roti is suspended over several scoops of cinammon ice cream.

Andy pours rivers of chocolate sauce over the roti,

it spirals down the inside, causing a Willy-Wonka esque waterfall of chocolate to flow over the ice cream.

A fabulous flourish to end a delicious meal. 

The vegetarian festival runs until October 16th, the to-die-for roti (both savoury and sweet) however – are available year round!

©Ianthe Butt 2011

Awana  85 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea SW3 3DX

020 7584 8880

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For once I can’t complain about the English weather- yesterday it was hotter than the Sahara. While I was attempting to revise for a  Media Law exam (read: using  textbook as a pillow) in my sun-drenched back garden I found myself thinking of Asia (you’ll soon learn this is a fairly regular occurrence)  and thought it was time for a trip down memory lane.

As I’m enjoying a four day weekend, here are my top 4  of where and why you should  make for Malaysian Borneo:

1. Get wet diving Sipadan

Sipadan is synonymous with world-class diving. When visited by Cousteau in the seventies while on board the Calypso the legendary diver and his team spent six months exploring its amazing underwater walls and fabulous reefs. Your mask will be obscured by the shoals of glittering fish as turtles with moss encrusted shells skull by and eye you nonchalantly.

Beautiful white sand beaches too.

2. Travel by longboat to Belaga

Watching the world go by while lazing in a longboat as your pass villages and wildlife drinking at the water’s edge has to be one of the best ways to do slow travel. Getting to Belaga is a bit of a mission which requires several changes along the way but a simple charming town that’s well worth the effort to visit.

3. Rainforest treks

Get off the beaten track by arranging a trek into the wilderness from the small town of Belaga. Walk over slippery trails past waterfalls and stay out overnight in the forest accompanied by those friendly locals which the guidebooks always talk about. In Belaga’s case this is entirely representative – so many smiles.

4. Crazy bugs

This might put some people off but I love the fact that there are all manner of weird and colourful bugs to be found in Borneo. These ones were taken in Gunung Mulu National Park home of great trekking and plenty of mosquitoes. Bring plenty of insect repellant!

© Ianthe Butt 2011

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