Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Food: PlateCulture & authentic Incredible Indian Cuisine at Kala's

PlateCulture - Connecting people through food, sharing cultures over plates... - authentic home cooked food

So a week ago we were looking for a place to celebrate Dom's belated birthday. Bored with all the usual restaurant haunts, but without any other ideas, we were nearly confined to another year of simple dinner and drinks. Thankfully, we had an invitation from PlateCulture, so we took the opportunity to kill 2 birds with 1 stone - review a PlateCulture dinner, while dragging 2 friends in tow to celebrate a birthday! =D

Us with our lovely hosts for the night - Kala & Guna

Honestly before the kind invitation from Audra, the founder of PlateCulture, we'd never heard of PlateCulture. We wish we had earlier though!

PlateCulture serves as the middleman between hospitable people who like to cook and host dinners, and outgoing adventurers not afraid to try some authentic home cooking! Just go to their website, see who is hosting lunch / dinner on a particular date and the price, book your seat at least 48 hours in advance, and you're good to go!

There's an excellent range of different cuisines, from our local Malaysian to Mauritian. That Saturday night we paid a visit to the home of Kala and Guna for a taste of Kala's authentic Indian cooking. =D

Kala's profile on PlateCulture

The PlateCulture website is a breeze to browse. Each host has a small profile page detailing the types of dishes they cook, style of cooking, inspirations... it's a pretty neat section that gives you some insight on the host before you make your selection.

If you're interested, just click on the Book It button and you'll be prompted to fill up your personal details. For those with dietary restrictions, do not fret. Here, registrants are allowed to specify any dietary restrictions (only vegetarian, or halal food for example) when booking for a dinner. Got a particular dish you'd like to try? No problem! Just put it into the remarks box and the hosts will try their best to accommodate.

We didn't add in any special requests, because we thought it'd seem a bit pretentious to have demands. But it turns out Kala would have preferred us to give some suggestions, since then she'd have a rough idea what our preferences are. A good reminder for future reference. =)

For those looking for a specific date, you can also search by date and PlateCulture gives you a list of still-available lunches or dinners for the particular day.

Kala and her husband Guna are well-travelled people, and it shows in their decorations around their lovely home. There are plenty of souvenirs from their travels and their time in India, making it easy to just strike up a conversation about any interesting mantelpiece. What caught our attention the most though, was the indoor koi pond with a partially open ceiling that allows rain to come in! As if that's not cool enough, there's a water feature that allows water to flow down from the top of the wall to create a sort of waterfall effect, which is extremely calming and pleasant to watch. Zhen Han in particular had the time of his life just staring at the fishes. =D

It was only Kala's 2nd or 3rd time hosting a PlateCulture dinner, and we'd never been to one before, so everything was still quite new for us. Everything went along very smoothly though; all the food got lined up in a buffet style, and all of us just came and went getting as much food as we liked. =D

We won't delve too much into the food, since this is not a restaurant review per se. Some might wonder whether the food served will be worth the cost paid per person, and from this experience I'd say most definitely yes! Since the hosts volunteer to be a part of PlateCulture out of their own passion for cooking, rest assured they are not out to shortchange anyone or turn a quick profit. 

Take our rice for example; perfectly fluffy grains of rice mixed with plenty of shallot and grated carrots & beetroot for the lovely bright colour.

Indian cooking is all about the spices, and we got plenty of it at Kala's house that night! We had a chicken dish, fragrant with chilli and tamarind. It tasted slightly spicy, and was a dry dish without much sauce while hint of tamarind really complemented the chicken well. Everyone liked this, as proven by the empty bowl left behind after the 4 of us were through with dinner. =D

The highlight of the night was the crab curry! We usually wouldn't think of ordering a crab curry at an Indian restaurant, so we'd never experienced eating crab Indian style. Now we're a bit cautious of trying it again outside in restaurants, because we doubt we'll be able to find another that is as good as the one we had here.

Kala buys everything fresh from the market in the morning before cooking for dinner, and since we hadn't specified what we wanted to eat, she had a free hand to choose. She found some big-ish sea crabs that morning, so we were in for a real treat! Even without the crab, the sauce / gravy alone was more than tasty enough to just eat with rice. The crab just made it better, as the meat had that lovely sweetness and had absorbed some of the fragrant spices in the curry. Kala definitely didn't scrimp on the spices; since it was impossible not to bite into an aniseed at some point during the meal!

At first, we were wondering how to attempt the crab at first, as we didn't spot any pincers or hammers at the dining table, but the crab shells were pretty soft - we had a great time watching our friend Dom try cracking the soft crab shells with his teeth for the first time!

Finally, to round up the spread for the night, we had a simple cabbage and carrot dish. A simple home-cooked vegetable dish lightly cooked to balance out the heavy meats. =)

The final treat for the night - rasam, a special drink said to aid in digestion. This was a lovely rich broth Kala made with some crab and sprigs of coriander, amongst a host of many other special ingredients. She also thoughtfully strained it before we arrived, to rid it of any shells or leaves. The result? A flavourful savoury-sweet broth that we kept on having more of during the meal.

So after helping ourselves to hearty portions, we gathered round the table and tucked in! We (well, us guys) probably polished off close to 5 helpings each that look just like the picture above! 

But dinner didn't just end at the main courses! Dessert came in the form of a yummy sago pudding, and we dare say this could be one of the best and most adeptly-prepared sago we have ever had.

The sago pudding itself was loosely held together, easily coming apart with a few firm prods of the spoon. The sago pearls still retained a nice firm bite to them, and was free from the usual starch. Again, this is thanks to the extra care that Kala put in to strain and restrain the pearls before serving. And with an unlimited supply of coconut milk and brown sugar, guess who was a happy camper? =D

We had told Kala beforehand that we wanted to celebrate our friend Dom's birthday and they were very accommodating and great sports about the whole thing. Of course, it was impossible to finish that cake after all that sago! Even though Wendy bought a relatively small Chocolate Cheese Cake from Just Heavenly, we only managed a quarter of it before total surrender. =D

A birthday song for Dom

But like what I mentioned above, while the food was really authentic and excellent, I think the other half of the experience is really the great time we had chatting with Kala & Guna, learning more about their lives and culture over the dining table, and also getting some food recommendations from Guna! They have a lovely house which they welcomed us in with open arms. (I think Wendy also managed to pick up some tips on Indian cooking from Kala, heh.)

Most of the time, we are rewarded whenever we step out of our comfort zone. With PlateCulture, we dare say that whoever takes a chance to try out the concept, will not be disappointed! One day we hope to head back to Kala's house for more of her cooking, but now we also wonder when our next PlateCulture event will be... =D

PlateCulture | Site
*Link to Kala's Incredible Indian Cuisine profile is here
*Fellow blogger Kelly Siew is also a host at PlateCulture here :)

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