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A bit Indian, a bit Thai

It is Malaysian food this week that is pampering many a glutton at New Delhi's Hyatt Regency's ongoing Malaysian Food Festival. SUMITRA SENAPATY comes back with a sugar-n-spice feeling... .

A LITTLE of this and a little of that sums up the ongoing `Taste of Malaysia Food Festival' at Hyatt Regency's Café in New Delhi. Often hard to describe because of its diverse geographical roots, Malaysian food, in a nutshell, usually falls under one of three categories: dishes influenced by Chinese cuisine, dishes influenced by Indian cuisine, and dishes unique to Malaysia itself. To bestow Delhi's taste buds the true flavours of this sumptuous cuisine, visiting Chefs Jimmy, Hussain and Ismail have been specially flown in from Hyatt Regency, Kinabalu, Malaysia. They not only reflect these three culinary categories, they perfect them with their tantalising dishes too. Starting with appetisers, Malay cuisine is well known for chicken and lamb satay, and the Gado Gado salad, a bountiful concoction of vegetables and salty-sweet peanut dipping sauce.

Of the 20-plus entrees available, all are worth trying, but if you're feeling a little overwhelmed, the Udang Kalio, prawn with spicy herbs is a must, the silky smooth chicken korma is scrumptious, and the chili shrimp's hot and spicy. Malaysian style tomato sauce will knock your socks off. The Nasi Putih -- basmati rice cooked with aromatic spices -- is a house specialty and goes well with saucy foods and curries, as does our roti and other assorted breads. Malaysians are fond of yellow Hokkien noodles and white laksa noodles, which they use in soups. They also rice vermicelli -- which they call beenhoon, medium rice sticks -- kway teow, beans threads -- tanghoon, and Chinese wheat noodles.

Malay food is sometimes described as a blend between Indian and Thai. Throw in a little Indonesian and even Chinese influence, and you might be close. One example of a typically Malay dish is Nasi Goreng, essentially fried rice with a potpourri of additions, such as egg, dried sardines, peanuts and veggies. Mee Goreng is a close cousin, fried noodles with chili sauce and tasty add ones. Satay is also a Malaysian favourite, chicken or lamb nuggets cooked on a skewer over hot coals and served with a spicy peanut sauce. Coconut is ubiquitous in Malaysia, imparting a delicious smoothness to curries and other dishes. The mainstay of every Malaysian meal is rice. At any meal, a generous helping accompanies a selection of dishes, including fish, seafood, vegetables, and poultry. Café's palatable menu showcases Asian favourites and specialties such as Opor Ayam -- sautéed chicken in coconut milk with turmeric flavour, Sayur Masak Lemak -- vegetables with coconut gravy, Soto Ayam - spicy Malaysian chicken soup, Mee Hoon Goreng -- fried glass noodles with spices and live stations featuring Ayan Tandoori -- tandoori chicken, and whole Ikan Panggang -- spicy marinated fish grilled on banana leaf.

For an Indian specialty, one of the fast moving favourites at the festival is the roti canai -- pronounced `row-tea, chuh-nye', basically dough, kneaded into a thin, flaky pancake and fried on the tava. It comes with a choice of `dipping sauces -- sometimes lentil, sometimes curry -- and is generally eaten with the hands, something like our Malabar parantha.

The menu selection here is huge, but Café's friendly staff pride themselves on helping first-time customers navigate the menu. On the weekend, reservations are suggested.

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