Pictures by Gisele Soo
SeeFoon is Blown Away by Chef’s culinary flair
He’s young and good looking and wears a straw fedora at a jaunty angle. If he wasn’t wearing an apron you would think he was a customer. Just calm, cool and collected without the harassed demeanor of the usual chef.
Fikri Jalil is 32 and is Chef and proprietor of Galanggal Cafe, a brightly decorated cafe in a new row of shophouses in Meru Raya behind Mydin. A mini nursery fronts the steps leading to the entrance emblazoned with a big letter G. A shallow tray with sanitizer leads to the door and I am encouraged to step in to sanitize my sandals. That’s innovative, I thought as I walked into a cheerful ambiance with one wall brightly painted in multi-hued tropical foliage. Artistically done, I thought, whoever painted it has style. I subsequently discovered it was done by Fikri’s sister who is an artist, and framed pieces of her art are on sale in the cafe.
Fikri’s culinary skills were picked up from Syeun Catering College and subsequently through working in various locations in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur; the most significant and made the most lasting impression on him was his stint working in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel under Lebanese Chef Raymond Rjaily.
You can taste that middle eastern influence in his food, the subtle aromatic touches of spices like sumac and za’atar; the flamboyant flair he has with ordinary spices like coriander, star anise as well as local Ulam herbs in his salads.
Going where few western cuisiniers dare to tread.
But forging bravely ahead, Fikri creates memorable taste temptations in his curating of eastern and middle eastern ingredients with traditional western cooking methods.
Like his Duck Confit, a delicacy usually found in France which is duck leg, marinated and smothered in duck fat, slow cooked, then pan fried to crisp the skin and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. In Fikri’s hands, the Duck leg is still cooked the French way (a minimum of 4-5 hours) but instead of serving with mashed potatoes, it is encircled with a dry lentil curry, and unusual salad leaves which Fikri’s Mum grows at home including Daun Selom or water celery, one of the popular leaves used in traditional ulam. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and eaten with the fresh leaves and the mildly spiced lentils, a wonderful adventure off the culinary path, RM26.
Fettuccine Bolognese is a common enough dish on many cafe menus but in Chef Firki’s hands and without cheese or red wine, he turns it into a delectable main course, the Fettuccine al dente, the minced beef Bolognese sauce generous without being overwhelming, cherry tomatoes adding a nuance of tartness to the whole dish. Excellent flavour, RM23.
Next came the braised Lamb shank arrabiata topped with sumac. This ancient herb is made from ruby-colored berries that are ground into a beautiful, coarse powder that bursts with color and flavor and is very widely used in middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It added tangy, lemony fresh flavors to the lamb which was tender and juicy and was served on a bed of Baba Ganoush (roasted eggplant mash) and burnt kale with pomegranate seeds scattered all over, RM36.
The Chicken Harrissa with Burnt Hummus was tantalising. The roast chicken was tender and juicy immersed in a Harissa sauce (the middle eastern equivalent of chilli sauce which was homemade by Fikri) served with burnt hummus in olive oil, cherry tomato, and burnt French beans with crunch supplied by whole coriander. The flavour of za’atar, a very popular and timeless Middle-Eastern spice blend of sumac, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds permeated the whole dish. Divine and innovative. RM20.
For drinks, check out the Royal Caribbean, pineapple and mint, topped with star anise crush or the Tebu sparkling Mojito lime and mint, topped with sugar cane ice cubes. Both at RM6.50 each.
Here is a sparkling new chef and he needs to be supported. What the engineering world lost (yes he was studying to be an electrical engineer!) the culinary world in Ipoh gained and I hope will continue to benefit from his culinary skills.
Let’s help the small businesses.
49G, Jalan Meru Bestari B8, 31200 Ipoh, Perak
3-10.00pm (Last order at 9.40pm)
Takeaway & pick up available