Mashing it up @ the Granary Kitchen + Bar
'Twas a drizzling night in January 2016, when Wendy and I chanced upon the Granary Kitchen + Bar after exploring Carpenter street on foot. We were immediately curious - there was no place like it in Kuching, but then again we have been foreign to home for far too long. After indulging in some delightful Hummingbird cake, Wendy said to me in her ever determined voice: "You know, there are so many things we could do here in Borneo. There is so much potential.. Let's do something together!" And here we are now, writing up a feature for the very place where the first seed was planted..
Located on Wayang street, which runs parallel to Carpenter street in the heart of Kuching city, The Granary Kitchen + Bar started late last year and is now a hip open space which aims to satisfy your food and Tuak predilections. The Granary also houses live music performances, art exhibitions and workshops - and a glass of Tuak is the perfect ingredient to get those creative juices flowing.
To demonstrate how serious they are about their food, the chefs of Granary decided to introduce a special menu of 'mash-up' cuisine. In their own words, read on below for an enthusiastic introduction to the Granary.
Warning: do not scroll down on an empty stomach.
The Kitchen objectives
"1) Extend the understanding of Western cuisine, to one that is more than chicken ‘chop’, or anything ‘chop’ for that matter;
2) Create our menu items from ‘scratch’ as much as we can, no pre-prepared ingredients, no additives, no MSG and lastly,
3) Provide excellent customer service."
"After one year of operation, having deepened our understanding of our customers, we are now venturing and exploring the domain of ‘mash-up cuisine’. A mash-up dish is a combination of two different food concepts to form one; so armed with our Western background, the abundant native ingredients unique to Borneo, and tasty & vibrant Malaysian dishes, we are embarking on our ‘mash-up’ journey. We learnt very quickly that the local cuisine and local flavours were very important to our customers. And while our forte was in Western food, we felt that the domain of ‘mash-up cuisine’ was a great way to marry both our Western cooking discipline with the local favourites of Sarawak. We have found also, that the flavours of Malaysian food in Borneo, differs to that available in West Malaysia, due to the unique ingredients found only in Borneo, which makes our pursuit all the more exciting. We are very excited about our journey into mash-up’s. The idea of bringing the Western and Borneo food concepts together, both with their distinct characteristics and flavours is a challenge we are looking forward to, not to mention enticing and growing our customers’ more adventurous side to exploring new and different cuisines. (We are influenced by) the daily Sarawakian staples available at the kopitiams, Kolo Mee, Laksa, and the popular Malaysian dishes of Nasi Lemak, Beef Rendang, Curry Chicken.. Plus many many more!"
Mash-up menu (available from September 16 - October 16 2016)
The Bar Objectives
"1) To create a mixology experience that we have enjoyed outside of Kuching; 2) Creating a beverage menu that uses local fresh ingredients and our own infusions. 3) Provide excellent customer service and product knowledge."
"As read on Wikipedia: Tuak is an alcoholic beverage made of fermented rice, yeast and sugar and drank in parts of Indonesia such as Sumatra, Sulawesi, Borneo, and parts of Malaysia such as Penang Island and East Malaysia. It is also referred to as rice wine. The beverage is a popular drink among the Ibans and other Dayaks of Sarawak during the Gawai festivals, weddings hosting of guests and other special occasions."
"When we first started building our bar menu; we were excited to include the local Sarawak rice wine (or also known as tuak) in our growing repertoire. The idea of fusing together a local liqueur with some of the world’s classic cocktail recipes was an endeavour that we were looking forward to. A bartender once told us “A mixologist is like an alcohol chef, who creates and pushes the limits of what mixed drinks can be.” We also like the phrase “thinking outside the box”, especially when it comes to flavours and concoctions for our drinks. When we first started developing the tuak range of cocktails; we looked at the variety of local fruit and mixers in Sarawak. This included herbs like mint and coriander and also other vegetables like ginger and lemongrass. We took it upon ourselves to also taste test variations of tuak (bearing in mind; the older the vintage, the stronger the flavour) which was not really much of a chore for us, to be honest. Having developed a taste for the complex flavours of classic cocktails and mocktails in our intrepid travels and adventures; we wanted to introduce all of that we had encountered to the people in Kuching. Generally mixologists and bartenders have a preferred style of building their cocktails; and to utilize most of this, we came up with tuak based drinks based on the same building blocks of mixology. The basics such as stirring, muddling, straining and the kind were added into the mix."
"Beyond the creative exploration of nouveau types of tuak cocktails; the art of infusing and flavouring our liqueurs with local ingredients is also another passion of ours. We hope to finally hit the jackpot with some interesting infusions. Currently we have the classic apple & ginger liqueur, limoncello, triple sec and our latest one is infusing the lemongrass liqueur. "
"The thing with tuak is; that its alcohol content is about 12-15%, which makes it more of a wine or port based drink. So when you add it to cocktails, we need to understand that the assumed alcoholic taste and smell of Tuak may not be as prominent as other classic alcohol bases such as vodka and gin. Tuak based drinks will always feature in the Kuching nightlife scene; more so because tourists will ask for it or ask about it and also it’s an open secret of our local ‘moonshine’ culture."
Borneo culinary potential
"Borneo has many unique ingredients, time-tested traditional dishes and an incredibly patriotic flavour palette. There is so much unexplored territory, to develop the culinary scene in Borneo, we just have to have the courage to challenge tastes and try! Not every mash-up will work, but as the saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”! Don’t be afraid to try something new and never give up challenging yourself, and your creative skills. Trust in your ability to make delicious creations, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the face of the people you make happy with your food."
The Granary's message to aspiring Borneo chefs and mixologists:
"Read, watch, ask, drink. We are big believers in learning something new everyday. We have test bar sessions; just to play around with flavours and you will be surprised at what comes out of it. Trust in your ability to make delicious creations / excellent drink, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the that happy faces enjoying your food / specially crafted drink!"