Lot 2F-29, Level 2,
Bangsar Village II,
Jalan Telawi Satu,
Tel: 03-2287 1566
Funnyman Harith Iskandar dishes out some grains of truth about his likes and dislikes when it comes to food.
FAMOUS comedian, actor and director Harith Iskandar admits that he finds it easier to make a roomful of people laugh than to cook up a storm in the kitchen.
“My interest in cooking is merely confined to watching Masterchef and Junior Masterchef on TV,” he jokes. “The only time I cooked was when I wanted to woo my then girlfriend, Jezamine Lim. I got my friend to teach me how to roast a chicken, steam vegetables, make mashed potato and aglio olio pasta.
“Everything tasted okay then but when I tried cooking those dishes myself, they didn’t taste the same. The problem is I don’t recognise most ingredients that were in the recipes and could have bought all the wrong stuff to cook! Jezamine was too polite to comment on the food that night but she did praise me for my delicious mashed potato.”
Since it was Harith’s first visit at Ricetaurant, Felicia Lee, the marketing communication executive explains to him that the outlet specialises in the Asian staple, ranging from one-plate rice meals such as fried rice and nasi ulam, to simple, homely dishes that are cooked to order to complement white or brown rice.
Harith says, “I’m easy-going when it comes to food but my all-time favourite dish is chicken rice and it must be steamed chicken. Being a typical Malaysian, I also like nasi lemak.”
Both Felicia and I were caught off guard when he revealed he isn’t big on seafood (we had earlier ordered two seafood dishes for lunch!).
Boy, were we relieved after he explained, “I’ve never enjoy eating seafood until I tasted some fish that we had caught and cooked on board my friend’s boat. That was when I realised how nice fresh fish and seafood taste. Their natural sweetness is quite distinct; it’s nothing like the bland stuff we often find.”
When Harith ate the Sweet and Sour Fish with great gusto, we decided that the dish must have passed his taste test. Although he found the crumbly salted egg yolk crust of the Salted Egg Squid slightly too dry for his liking, he concurs that it could be the chef’s distinct way of preparing it.
The signature Claypot Chicken with Yam and Dried Shrimps with Nam Yue Sauce also caught his imagination thanks to its unique combination of succulent unctuous textures and bold, hearty flavours.
After sampling the Stir-fried Chive Flower with Minced Chicken and Olives, Harith commented, “It’s interesting how the chive flowers’ pungent, grassy spiciness left my taste buds tingling. I find the onion-like hotness tastes subtler when eaten with steamed brown rice.”
Dwelling on his wife’s maiden restaurant venture, Harith admitted that operating a restaurant was no laughing matter.
“We had to sell the business last year since both of us couldn’t be there 24/7. The experience was a huge learning curve for us and we took everything in our stride. If we ever decide to dabble in the food business again, we’d know how to go about it better.”
For now, Harith doesn’t plan to give up his day job anytime soon.
“Stand-up comedy is finally being recognised as an art form in Malaysia. I’m going to be performing at Istana Budaya next month as part of the Lawak Ke Der? (You’re Joking Bro?) showcase that includes the winners of Astro’s Maharaja Lawak (comedy kings) competition.
Then I’m off to Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney in March to present the Best Of Malaysian Comedy with Kuah Jen Han and Douglas Lim. We’ve already garnered some pre-show publicity in the Australian media, so hopefully we’ll attract a wider, international audience.”
Our simple dessert of Fried Banana Fritters with Ice Cream got the comedian reminiscing about his fondest food memory.
“When I was seven to 12 years old, I looked forward to Hari Raya each year because that was the only time my mother would bake her chocolate, lemon and banana cakes. They were my favourites and all our relatives and friends who came for our Raya open house would clamour for them.
“The other was my mother’s casserole of kedgeree, an Anglo-Indian dish of boiled rice and corn with flaked fish, hard-boiled eggs, chopped parsley, curry powder, butter and cream. It’s unusual for Hari Raya but my close friends still remember eating it until today. I just discovered Chinoz also serves kedgeree and it’s quite good too!”
True to the comedian in him, his final punchline on that day took us by surprise but left us in stitches: Harith Iskandar doesn’t eat durians!
“I know it’s so un-Malaysian; just blame it on my English genes lah,” he said with a wicked grin.
Now who can argue with that grain of truth?