A moveable feast : Jalan Jalan, Malaysia and two artists
There are people who want to eat the Malaysian Salad Gado Gado in a bowl with the peanut dressing poured over the chopped vegetables. But I like serving it in a flat dish with the vegetables in all their beautiful colors around a bowl of peanut sauce,” said Shailesh Bhatta who at twenty something is the youngest restauranter in Kathmandu and the second youngest person in Jalan Jalan, the new and only Malaysian restaurant in town. The youngest person in Jalan Jalan is Shailesh’s Japanese wife Shizuyo Shimmei who handles the desk in the restaurant. And thereby hangs a love story of a Nepali boy who is an artist and a Japanese girl, also an artist meeting and getting married while studying art at Srijana Art Gallery. Together they got hold of Siddhartha Gopalan and created Jalan Jalan an aesthetically
pleasing place to eat and spend time in.
Said Shizuya ‘’I wanted a Malaysian restaurant with the smell of South East Asia.’’ Siddharth Gopalan with vibrant colours and wall niches with vases holding a single marigold and rough hewn tables, a touch of rattan and chairs criss crossed with wide strips of cotton has created contemporary Malaysia near Blue Bird in Lazimpat and Shizuyo got her whiff of things Asian.
The Gado Gado Salad came in classic style with a riot of colours and a magical peanut dip in a bowl which food writers Donna Hay and Linda Fraser would have encored. Shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, green pepper, cucumber, mushrooms and quartered hard boil eggs are dipped into the most delicious peanuts sauce that has got specially imported Kechap Manis from Malaysia and an indescribably tangy taste, heightened as you eat it with the vegetables.
The two young artists were echoing Joseph Turner the English painter who, in 1844, said of a salad, “Nice cool green, pretty red and delicate tints of yellow …add some colorful sauce and you have one of my pictures.” Said Shailesh, “My mother Ganga Bhatta who is the Chef at Jalan Jalan spent twelve years in a restaurant in Malaysia and three of my waiters have also worked in Malaysia.”Ganga’s cooking is so authentic that the Malaysian Ambassador’s wife sent her cook to learn the Nasi Goreng from Jalan Jalan. It’s a fabulous Nasi Goreng with the chicken fried rice with chopped eggs and chilli and tomato paste, green onions and soya sauce making it the most exotic rice dish in town. It goes from tasting mellow to spicy to sweet and is in direct contrast to Nasi Lemak Sambal Ikan Bilis which is a soothing but distinctive risotto cooked in coconut with a fish sauce. The Nasi Goreng has its roots in China while the coconut rice comes from South India. The Roti Chanai is the flakiest of parathas from North India with a hot red chicken curry accompanied by a pureed vegetable gravy with lemon grass and the specially imported Malaysian Pandan Leaf. The chilli accent reflects its hybrid but brilliant South Indian, Thai origins.
Umesh KC who served us worked in Malaysia for six years and told us that the Kway Teow Goreng which was fried flat rice noodles with chicken was bound together with soya sauce and chilli paste and that the Jalan Jalan Ayam was gentler with its Chicken and Oyster Sauce. Both dishes reflected China the spicy one could come from Sichuan while the Ayam had its origins in Canton. “We are going to have music on Mondays and Fridays, jazz, blues, whatever,” said Shailesh. “Shizuyo has given up painting for the sitar which she is studying under the famous Gyandradha Gorkhali. I still get peace from painting and in meeting people here I get a different kind of peace.”
Both the sitar and peace are subcontinental preoccupation as is the Ayam Sambal Tumis which is a chicken in a spicy gravy that comes from South India as do all Sambals which use either coconut milk or shrimp paste and tamarind water. The Blachan used is derived from the Anglo Indian Balichow a fiery shrimp paste popular from Calcutta down. As we finished the gentle Bubur Kacang which is red daal in sweet coconut milk, a different and most unusual dessert, we found that Jalan Jalan means, ‘’On the way, ‘’ and so the restaurant is a step in a journey. May it always be as pleasant as an evening spent with Shailesh and Shizuyo. For things Malaysia Simply Asia call 4410438.