It’s a beloved neighbourhood bar and restaurant with a dedicated slew of regulars, but D’Legends in Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur is obviously not ready to rest on its pub grub laurels.
For co-owner Shankar Santhiram – owner of a warm baritone voice that should be familiar to any regular listener of local radio station BFM – it is that large quotient of regulars that spurred him on to raise the kitchen bar.
You want to do something to pique and retain interest, said Shankar, who is also a co-owner of the Crackhouse Comedy Club.
To that end, D’Legends introduced its World Series late last year. The initiative will see guest chefs from around the world – and from various culinary cultures – cooking for a short time in the D’Legends kitchen, whipping up special menus that give tasty glimpses into their own kitchens. This year, Shankar hopes to welcome a Sri Lankan chef into his kitchen.
But first up: Austrian chef Markus Fasser, who brought the classic Austrian cuisine of his Golfino Restaurant to D’Legends for five days.
For Shankar, it made perfect sense for his first guest chef to also be one of his own favourites, and someone he has come to call a friend – even though they spend most of the year separated by thousands of kilometres.
“My wife, Susanna, is Austrian, and we spend at least six weeks of every year in Austria,” said Shankar. That’s been their ritual for the past decade, and the ties that bind them to the snowy slopes of the Austrian Alps are many.
“We even own a small bed and breakfast in Lermoos, Tyrol, in the same region as Markus’ restaurant – which is arguably the best in the region. So we eat there all the time when we are in Lermoos. And Markus and Susanna actually went to school together!”
Fasser wanted to present a taste of classic Austria to Malaysians; according to him, that would be hearty and robust. Austrian food has many braised dishes, carrying with them the scent of dried herbs, of paprika and onions.
“Many Austrian dishes are pork-heavy,” said Fasser, and this happens to fit in nicely with the D’Legends own menu identity.
“They often have thick gravies too, and carb-heavy sides like dumplings. In the olden days, when meat was too expensive to have regularly, dumplings became the mains – because of the cold weather, filling dishes were required. Today, they have remained part of our food traditions, but the mains have become the sides.”
In the midst of all the rich dishes, there are lighter, more fragile touches. “Austrian food has its own nuances though, its own little touches,” said Shankar. “For instance, there is this mountain herb butter that we served with the ravioli, which is very distinctive and delicate.”
“Of course, the kitchen today is changing and we also have many lighter dishes in Austrian cooking. Techniques are constantly being renewed, vegetables and herbs from Asia are showing up in our cooking,” said Fasser. “But for me, I stand for the traditional things. It is about recognition and comfort, about the taste of Sunday dinners and my mother’s cooking.”
He shares some of the classics he cooked for his stint at D’Legends.
Styrian Pumpkin Soup
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1/2 chilli, chopped
1/2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika powder
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup vinegar
1 litre water
1/4 litre coconut milk
375g pumpkin, cubed
salt, to taste
toasted pumpkin seeds
(Styrian) pumpkin seed oil
Place some cooking oil in a pot and sweat the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli over low heat, till the onion is translucent.
Add curry powder, paprika and coriander powders and tomato paste, then sauté for 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the vinegar to deglaze, then pour in the water and add coconut milk and pumpkin.
Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or till pumpkin is soft, then season to taste.
Using a stick blender, blitz the mixture till smooth.
Divide into bowls and garnish with a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds, a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil and a dollop of sour cream.
500g onions, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp anchovy paste
1 tbsp chopped capers
1 lemon, zested
4 tbsp dried marjoram
4 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup Hungarian sweet paprika powder
1 tbsp chilli powder
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 litres water
salt and pepper, to taste
1kg beef shank meat
Place some cooking oil in a pot and sauté the onions and garlic over high heat till onions are translucent, then turn down the heat.
Add in anchovy paste, capers, lemon zest, marjoram, tomato paste, paprika and chilli powders, stirring. Then stir in the vinegar. Add the water and allow the mixture to cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Using a stick blender, blitz the mixture till smooth and season to taste.
Place some cooking oil in a separate pot and brown the beef well. Once thoroughly browned, pour the gravy mixture over. Allow to simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours over low heat, until the beef reaches your desired tenderness levels.
Serve with dumplings, mashed potatoes, pasta or buttered rice.
(Almond and Red Currant Jam Austrian cake)
300g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
300g almonds and mixed nuts, chopped or ground
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp cinnamon and clove powder, mixed
300g caster sugar
grated orange zest, to taste
red currant jam, to taste
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Place all ingredients, except red currant jam, into a mixing bowl and mix well into a dough.
Butter a baking tray, then fill with 2/3 of the batter. Spread the desired amount of red currant jam generously over this layer.
Roll the remaining dough into a rectangle and cut into strips. Use the strips of dough to form a lattice over the red currant jam, covering it.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Remove the cake from the baking tray and place on a wire rack. Fill the baking tray with water and place the rack over it, then return to the oven.
Bake for a further 15 minutes, then remove and allow to cool before serving.