Big Baba – Kuala Lumpur’s Best Kept Secret Revealed

Nestled in a corner of Old Klang Road in Taman Desa, is a treasure trove of Peranakan flavors that simply keep on giving, driven by the freshest ingredients together with timeless methods of food preparation

The ambience is totally rustic – transporting the diner to a Peranakan style house in Penang. The open concept kitchen is meticulously maintained and Restaurant Manager Jessie Lim is perfectly on hand to usher the guest to a different realm of dining

The first dish that I totally devoured with pleasure was the Peranakan Petai Fried Rice garnished with tons of the famed stinky beans that are known to treat hypertension, diabetes, and kidney problems. The rice was a day old thus absorbing the flavors of dried shrimp which made this dish a perfect accompaniment to the Ayam Buah Keluak

The Ayam Buah Keluak is big on flavor in an age where the buah keluak itself is becoming a rare find. The keluak tree is found only in the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia producing a poisonous fruit, which is made edible by fermentation. This is the pièce de résistance: The gravy formed from the stock wraps itself around the chicken in the dish, and the flavors simply explode in your mouth

The Assam Fish in Claypot was delicately prepared with thinly sliced chunks of Tenggiri fish done on purpose so that the gravy could garnish the meat effectively. Also known as the spotted Spanish Mackerel, the Tenggiri was a great choice to use in a dish of this nature. Its moisture was intact and flowed through the meat. The Assam flavors were painstakingly created in the kitchen from scratch using traditionally made fresh ingredients instead of the mass market powdered version

The Big Baba is also Big on Vegetables that are well garnished with the appropriate stock to create incredibly delicious flavors and yet maintaining the vegetables’ crunch factor. Of notable mention is the ladies fingers and the must have Jiu Hu Char. Jiu Hu Char (Stir Fry Jicama with Cuttlefish) is the quintessential festival dish for the Penang Nonyas including those who originate from the northern part of Peninsula Malaysia. This dish consists mainly of shredded jiu hu si (shredded cuttlefish), bang kuang, carrots, and cabbage. Other ingredients include pork belly strips and mushrooms. The version at The Big Baba is a Must Have

Cendol is an iced sweet dessert that contains droplets of worm-like green rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. I have tried various versions throughout Kuala Lumpur but the Nonya version at The Big Baba is simply delectable. To begin with, the gula malacca is served separately so that one can “control” the sweetness so that the sugar does not overwhelm the chilled broth of “santan.” This makes all the difference. The green jelly and red beans, together with grass jelly are served in a bowl of fresh, chilled coconut milk and once you add just a little bit of palm sugar syrup, you are transported to a realm where the coconut flavors control the entire experience. This is a must have dessert to end your meal

The cuisine at the The Big Baba is a match for bold New World Wines such as the Penfolds Grange. New World Shiraz is the wine to serve with Peranakan food. We would recommend drinking the 2012 Penfolds Grange (Parker 99 points) with food of this stature. The 2012 Grange came from just two sub-regions of South Australia: Barossa Valley (the majority) and McLaren Vale. The Wine Advocate: “This Grange contains a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon, just 2%. Very deep purple-black in color, it opens on the nose with complex earthy/meaty/savory notes, soon giving way to baked blackberries, plum preserves, hoisin and Chinese five spice with dabs of sandalwood, licorice, menthol and vanilla. The palate reveals a surprisingly open, rich, full-bodied expression exuding a powerhouse of velvet-lined decadence. The finish is epically long.”

There are alot of mass market Peranakan restaurants throughout Southeast Asia and in this “instant food” age I find that it is difficult to locate a “True Blue” Peranakan restaurant that prepares its food using traditional methods and fresh ingredients. In time to come, it may be virtually impossible to find a traditional Peranakan restaurant what with the Facebook savvy generation turning its passion to Tech instead of food. We hope that during this massive shift of dynamics, The Big Baba will not “go anywhere” and remain true to its calling, so that food Connoisseurs such as myself can exit the global madness to savour great flavours rhat soothe the soul

Petai Fried Rice

Jiu Hu Char

Ayam Buah Keluak

Claypot Assam Tenggiri Fish

Ladies Fingers

Cendol

Big Baba

34, Jalan 2/109e, Taman Desa Business Park, 58100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Restaurant Manager: Jesse Lim

Hours: 11.30am to 3pm. 5.30 to 9pm

Tel: 03 7987 7755

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