Friday, June 26, 2015

Kuala Lumpur as haven for foodies

Kuala Lumpur is striving to become the region’s gastronomic hub, calling enthusiasts’ attention to its first food festival and F&B standards rating system, among other initiatives.

Think food, think Kuala Lumpur! That’s the message Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s tourism unit and the mayor of Kuala Lumpur hope to drive across to tourists, with intensified efforts to position the Malaysian capital into a gastronomic haven of South-east Asia and to develop a comprehensive standards framework, as outlined in the Tourism Master Plan 2015-2025.

Many initiatives were thus introduced in 1H2015. The tourism unit organised Malaysia’s first-ever gourmet food festival, Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen Festival 2015, in the city from May 29 to 31 at Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square). Food trucks and stalls served all kinds of local, fusion and gourmet items, offering visitors plenty to sample. A hotel dining section satisfied those seeking a finer dining experience.

Kuala Lumpur’s food ambassador,  Norman Musa – who is also the executive chef and co-founder of Ning restaurant in Manchester, UK – as well as other local celebrity chefs conducted cooking workshops and demonstrations to ‘edutain’ attendees on the variety of Malaysian dishes. One of the highlights was the KL Big Kitchen, Big Race, in which 12 pairs of participants raced between Merdeka Square and Chow Kit wet market to retrieve ingredients missing from recipes, drawing on clues provided at different legs of the race.

In fact, in conjunction with ITB Berlin in early March, Norman had given a cooking demonstration to the travel trade and international media at Berlin’s Kochatelier. That was part of his 2015 European tour covering also Paris, Amsterdam and London to demonstrate the art of Malaysian cooking and promote the city’s gourmet scene through a series of hands-on cooking ateliers.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s tourism unit has also recently produced a Food Trails map in association with popular lifestyle publication, TimeOut Kuala Lumpur, for FIT  travellers and tour operators to include in their itineraries.

“The map is a great way for travellers to navigate their way through the food streets of the city,” said Noraza Yusof, head of tourism, Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

The idea is to give exposure to and highlight the culinary attractions in five areas, namely Kampong Bharu, Old Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Alor, Jalan Pudu and Brickfields, covering cuisines of the city’s main ethnic communities of Malays, Chinese and Indians.

The Kuala Lumpur Food & Beverage Quality Assurance rating programme, introduced in February, was part of the tourism unit’s efforts to develop a comprehensive standards framework for dine-in establishments. It is also intended to allay food hygiene concerns among foreign tourists. Food outlets that have been rated will sport ‘Quality Assured Restaurant Kuala Lumpur’ stickers.

Ahmad Phesal Talib, mayor of Kuala Lumpur, said: “This new initiative is meant to raise the standard of F&B establishments and facilitate service excellence. Food outlets are audited based on global industry standards and accreditation is valid for two years and renewable.”

Targeted at dine-in establishments such as fine dining restaurants, café, bistros and fast food chains, the audit covers areas such as hygiene, cleanliness, facilities and amenities, customer service, food variety and presentation, as well as safety and security.

Ahmad Phesal added: “Those who have not yet met the minimum standards required will be provided with a report identifying areas of improvement, in order for them to upgrade themselves to reach the minimum score for accreditation.”

Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Malaysia Chapter president, Jagjit Singh Sambhi, suggests that City Hall also provides a listing of accredited restaurants to make it easy for locals and tourists to identify them.

Meanwhile, the city’s iconic street food paradise of Jalan Alor is set to get a major facelift for a more pleasant ambiance. City Hall will invest RM12 million (US$3.4 million) to upgrade the food street through improvements in the drainage system, landscaping and cleanliness. The project is expected to commence in July and be completed within a year.

Luxury Tours Malaysia senior manager, Arokia Das, opined: “It is great that City Hall is taking efforts to improve Jalan Alor, which is so well known among Singaporeans and Thais. Every kind of local food can be found there to suit all palates.

“Food is very important for tourism. Asians and Westerners love to try the local cuisine, and this is one great way of promoting the city – through people’s stomachs. This initiative should have been carried out a long time ago, and it is great that City Hall is putting so much passion into it!”
-TTG Asia.

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