Sep 2, 2006

Langkawi - Freshness Guaranteed

Freshness guaranteed
Saturday September 2, 2006

Food is a four-letter word that can be enjoyed in so many ways. BOEY PING PING goes from a business-class flight to first-class dining at the celebrated Four Seasons Resort Langkawi.

FLYING into Langkawi, the plane passes low over waters so clear I can almost see my dinner jumping out at me. Fish, squid and prawns swim playfully in the turquoise sea, oblivious to their fate as my meal soon. It’s been a while since I last visited the island but now is better than ever to visit Langkawi as the curse of Mahsuri has been lifted and business is booming.

The legend of Mahsuri tells of the execution of a princess wrongly accused of adultery. With her last breath, she put a curse on Langkawi that would last seven generations.

While the curse of Mahsuri has ended, the success of the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, opened last year, is only beginning.

The resort is a village of pavilions, pools and landscaped gardens.
The resort is a village of pavilions, pools and landscaped gardens.

The sprawling 19ha resort which took six years to build reveals an amazing world-class destination that Malaysians can proudly call their own.

Even before it celebrated its first birthday, the resort was named World’s Best of the Best in the premier issue of Robb Report Luxury Resorts.

Surrounded by sandy white beaches, lush greenery and emerald waters, the resort is a tropical paradise where every restaurant overlooks the sea and every room has a view. Here, food isn’t just food but a celebration of the senses and surroundings.

 The freshest seafood assured.
The freshest seafood assured.

Bountiful breakfast

I arrived at the resort in time for my breakfast appointment with public relations and sales co-ordinator Warren Fernandez, but a hotel staff member turned up at my door bearing a tray full of delectable pastries. I wondered whether my breakfast appointment was cancelled, but the staff clarified that “we didn’t want you to go hungry”.

That probably reflected the state I was in for the next three days – well-fed.

The feeding frenzy started with a hearty breakfast at Serai restaurant. There’s an oft chance that you could spend the most important meal of the day sitting next to someone important as celebrities are known to spend their holidays here.

All sorts of smells wafted around the buffet spread. Roti canai was made on the spot and the chocolate-chip pancakes didn’t remain on their plates for long.

It seemed sinful to indulge in the santan-rich nasi lemak but it would have been even more sinful not to try it with the lip-smacking chicken rendang. Western pastries sat side by side with Nyonya delicacies, while healthy options of granola were just as tempting as the less wholesome sugar-sweet pastries.

We had breakfast by the beach, amidst tall palm trees and the gentle caress of a tropical breeze. The option of breakfast in bed can wait till tomorrow.

Mediterranean munchies

When seafood is so easily available, you can sprinkle it on top of a crisp-thin pastry base, pour tomato sauce over it, add a pinch of oregano and call it the Frutti Di Mare pizza.

Pizzas at Kafe Kelapa are cooked in a wood-fire oven lending a smoky flavour to the crunchy base. Not surprisingly, pizzas are popular with the diners – bikini-clad women and hunky men. And because hunger strikes easily after a swim, Kafe Kelapa, the resort’s poolside café, is a favourite hangout.

Picnic basket

The next day was sunny, perfect for a picnic lunch. By the time we finished touring the mangroves and visiting the bat cave, we were just as famished as the eagles that swooped down to catch the pieces of chicken skin we threw up at them.

At Gua Cerita, a little beach enclave, we carried three sturdy rattan baskets which opened up to reveal a delicious three-course meal. Instead of a picnic mat, we sat at a picnic table. As we enjoyed our curried chicken salad and mango relish, we enjoyed the natural surroundings. The focaccia sandwich of roast beef, aragula and asparagus seemed too posh for a simple picnic setting.

Even then, there was more to come – Camembert with dried apricot compote and New York Cheese Cake with raspberry sauce.

Lunch came to an end when I spotted two monkeys checking out our five-star lunch. We quickly left as I didn’t want to meet the monkey’s extended family!

Find tropical cocktails and rich Middle<br />Eastern ambience at the Rhu Bar.
Find tropical cocktails and rich Middle Eastern ambience at the Rhu Bar.

Sunset cocktails by the beach

If you want to catch a jewel-toned sunset on the warm beach with a cold drink in your hand, Rhu Bar is the place.

An elaborate tapestry of rich colours and textures accentuates the Moorish ambience of Rhu Bar. Coloured cushions, hanging swings and glowing candles lend mystery to this seductive, romantic hideaway. The bar is probably the only one in the world to have a fuchsia coloured pool table.

When the sun sets, the Arabian Nights inspired lounge comes alive with a mystical glow that is perpetuated by genie-costumed staff. Mohan Naidu, the food and beverage assistant director, was kind enough to let me play bartender for a moment. From him, I got the bar’s secret recipe for their signature drink, Mojito.

As I left for dinner, I noticed the staff setting up a tiny table by the beach. Apparently, a couple had decided to have their romantic dinner outdoors – with their legs dangling from the hanging Indian Moghul swing. At the resort, anything is possible.

Cooking class

Nyonya recipes are usually passed down from one generation to another, and jealously guarded. So I was excited to attend the resort’s Nyonya cooking class. Plus, I had the honour of having the chef de cuisine, Chef Khairusshahri Ghazali, teach me the finer points of cooking.

We started by tackling an easy recipe – popiah. Simple was what I thought until I tried making the popiah skin from scratch.

The batter refused to skim smoothly over the pan and the skin was too full of holes to be used. I resigned myself to watching the chef rather than participating as he conjured up delicious treats of Inchee Cabin (fried chicken with galangal, ginger and lime leaves) and Nyonya Achar (pickled vegetables).

The sago pudding – sago doused with freshly squeezed coconut milk and palm sugar seemed simple enough to make but I decided to practise at home and enjoy the meal instead.

The relaxing Ikan-Ikan.
The relaxing Ikan-Ikan.

Romance of the Rajasthani tent

Feeling like a contestant on Survivor who had just won the reward of a lavish dinner by the beach, I joined Fernandez under the resort’s Rajasthani tent.

Had I been on my honeymoon then, I would have relished the experience even more – a beautiful dome tent, a carefully crafted bouquet of pink roses and exclusive one-to-one service while dining on the beach with no one else in sight.

Even if several couples decide to have a Rajasthani tent dinner, the tents are scattered around the island to ensure privacy.

The menu is from the resort’s Ikan-Ikan (Malay for fish) restaurant which is built like a traditional Malay-style home. Like its name, you’ll find the freshest seafood from the Andaman sea cooked in all styles – from Thai shrimp cakes to otak-otak and skewered calamari.

Once again, Chef Khairusshahri dazzled me with his cooking skills. Instead of boring old soup, he created a lovely laksa sauce broth with a plump prawn wonton. Without a doubt, the steamed seabass was the freshest I had ever savoured.

As all the resort’s three restaurants and bar face the sea, you’ll always be feasting on succulent seafood against a backdrop of ocean and islands. And here, the setting is always as spectacular as the cuisine.

For more information, visit

- The Star