Gaya Traveller

Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023 Finale by Chef Raymond Tham

Gourmet Series – A Malaysian Journey invites food lovers to rediscover iconic Malaysian flavours and local ingredients via unique fine-dining experiences.

The final event of the Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023 took place at the esteemed the Big Easy, The Els Club Desaru Coast.

Gourmet Series – A Malaysian Journey invites food lovers to rediscover iconic Malaysian flavours and local ingredients via unique fine-dining experiences.

Desaru Coast, with the support of Tourism Malaysia, has had a successful run of its Gourmet Series 2023, which consisted of three instalments throughout 2023 featuring three award-winning Malaysian chefs: Chef Johnson Wong of Michelin-selected restaurant Gen Penang; Chef Su Kim Hock of one-Michelin-starred au Jardin; and Chef Raymond Tham of Beta KL that was recently rated one Michelin star.

As an international luxe destination, Desaru Coast aims to showcase Malaysian culinary talent and resources to epicurean guests through its signature dining programme.

Held at the Big Easy Bar & Grill in The Els Club Desaru Coast, the two-hour-and-a-half dinner service took our tastebuds for an unforgettable Malaysian adventure. Chef Raymond Tham presented diners with a good eclectic mix of Malaysiana, all skilfully curated, planned and carried out using produce sourced from the nearby Desaru Fruit Farm.


Chef Raymond Tham
Chef Raymond Tham

The celebrated chef is known for producing inspired and inventive modern Malaysian cuisine. He loves to explore local ingredients, often experimenting uncommon and almost-unheard ones. Or putting a common ingredient through various cooking techniques to obtain an exquisite tasting dish. Petai (stink bean) consomme, anyone?

Tham is an avid traveller, the kind who finds joy exploring the local markets and would go out on a limb to secure a table at reputed and top-ranked restaurants. He has travelled to no less than 50 countries to date and will continue to do so as he believes travelling is a good chance to taste something new and open up the mind.

He credits his dear mother for his inquisitive mind and dare-to-explore attitude. He recalled their trips to the market when he was young, his mother would sometimes buy something unfamiliar for them to experiment at home. To him, ingredients do not necessarily have to be expensive to produce mind-blowing dish – he would even serve the humble ikan selar (yellowtail scad) at his Michelin-starred restaurant. Freshness is core in anything he creates.

As a young boy, he loved to eat, which was probably why he was frequently found in the kitchen. This included his kindergarten kitchen. He told us that he went to an Islamic kindergarten because it was the closest to home. Every time the Quran classes were held, he would go to the canteen and accompany the canteen lady while she prepares the food for the day. He could still recall the taste of her delicious currypuffs vividly. That canteen lady would be proud to know that little Raymond grew up to be an award-winning chef!

Like other professional chefs, Tham takes pride in his craft. He was assigned the theme, ‘Garden by The Coast’ for the Gourmet Series 2023 finale. His restaurant, Beta KL’s philosophy of journeying through all four corners of the nation exerts the strongest influence on his menu. The Gaya Traveller team members noticed he applies the same philosophy during this dinner event. It was a privilege to be able to enjoy his creations, considering Beta KL’s reservations waitlist is at least a month-long.


The Menu

First Course: SNACKS
ROSE APPLE | Winged Beans | Budu
PRAWN | Mango | Kaffir Lime

To kick things off, Tham presented his trio of snacks to whet our appetite. Each morsel was delightful at every bite; each carried a different taste profile. The Rose Apple had the right amount of astringency and crunch. Our tastebuds were off to a good start. The Baby Corn was a pleasant surprise. We were excited to see “Kulim” on the menu, as we have read articles about this jungle fruit of often used by the Orang Asli (Peninsular Malaysia aboriginals) in their cooking. Though rare, Kulis is endemic to Malaysia and has been dubbed the local truffle. When both elements were put together, the result was phenomenal. The fruity and savoury, including the umami, always make a good combination, so The Prawn rounded off the Snacks course really well.

Second Course:
0.00% YEAST BREAD | Tapioca | Red Chili Emulsion

Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023

Despite its plain appearance, we were most curious about the 0.00% yeast bread. It was lovely and the use of tapioca was brilliant. Paired with the red chilli emulsion, this combination truly hits the spot for us.

Third Course:
DUCK PROSCIUTTO Turmeric | Coconut | Fig

Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023

Tham pays homage to his birth state with this dish. Since he is a Port Dickson boy, you can never steer him far from the flavour of Negeri Sembilan’s de facto state dish: Masak Lemak Cili Padi (cooking based on the turmeric coconut milk gravy).

Fourth Course:
GARDEN SPINACH | Broccoli | 24 Months Parmigiano Reggiano

Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023

A beautiful creamy soup, topped with charred greens and parmesan crisp. This soup is a nice in-between the two protein dishes.

Fifth Course:
WAGYU SHORTRIBS | Masak Hitam | Ladies Finger

Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023

After four courses of delicate-tasting dish, the Wagyu Shortribs was a curveball. The heavily spiced Masak Hitam gravy complements the bite meat’s tenderness and potatoes puree well.

Sixth Course:
GULA MELAKA | Buah Perah | Roselle

Gula Melaka dessert

The night’s culinary journey culminated with a spectacular dessert. This dish named Gula Melaka featured Buah Perah, a name so unfamiliar to us that we had to Google it. Buah Perah is a type of nut, found in the Malaysian tropical rainforest. The combination of Gula Melaka, Buah Perah and Roselle was eclectic, yet the taste was quite familiar. We wrecked our brains whilst savouring the dessert, trying to recall the taste. Finally, we solved the mystery: we came to the conclusion that it tasted like Kuih Kole Kacang (green bean pudding)!

All in all, it was indeed a fabulous dining experience, and we commend Desaru Coast for their efforts in showcasing our Malaysian rich culinary diversity. Malaysia is full of hidden culinary gems, and they should not stay hidden. Kudos to passionate Malaysian culinary purveyors like Chef Raymon Tham for elevating the status of the humble Malaysian ingredients into world-class gastronomy.

With initiatives like Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023, Malaysia is on the right track to become a gastronomy tourism destination of choice in the region, if not the world. The country is already known for its street food and daily staples, but a lot more can be done for the fine dining category.

With the inaugural Malaysia Michelin Guide launched in December 2022 and Malaysia’s culinary industry becoming more innovative, epicurean travellers will be on the lookout for what excellent food can Malaysia offer.

With strong support from Tourism Malaysia and other industry players, we look forward to seeing Malaysia becoming the preferred gastronomy tourism destination in the region. Let’s be loud and proud of what we can offer to the world!

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