Venezuelan Embassy launch party for the cultural week with Chef Carmen Rawstron..
When we think about the expatriate community, our mind often jumps to the Brits, Yanks, Aussies, or even Koreans – but in Penang, and Malaysia broader, we have a huge number of expatriate communities and individuals who really do span the globe. I was recently invited to participate in a gastronomic sensation, courtesy of the Venezuelan Embassy. Kicking off a two week extravaganza of food, art, music and entertainment, I felt honoured to enjoy some traditional Venezuelan dishes prepared by an extraordinary Chef, Carmen Rawstron, and stepped through the dishes by good friends Monica and Caning.
I had no idea what to expect, as I had never explored Venezuelan cuisine before. Staple delights were served, such as herbed white rice (yes, we could all learn a thing of two here, as the gentle herb flavour really adds to rice), deep-fried sliced hard bananas. Like pisang goreng, but in slices and somewhat firmer, the batter held the banana together well, but in every bite it simply became melt in your mouth. Add to that black bean stew – literally as it says, a stew of black beans, slow cooked to give a great medley of sweet, savoury and can I say it, chunky. Delicious. But then again, the best food is the simple wholesome stuff – just natural flavour with the time taken to prepare it well.
This was followed up by some other great dishes; a shredded dry beef with light spice. I have no idea what the spice was (I asked, and I forgot. Me bad), but the texture and flavour was perfection. Dry shreds of beef mixed with the herb rice was the perfect combination for me. Other dishes included raw white fish marinated in lemon juice (yummy), ham bread (a festive season leftover dish; bread created with the hams and other savoury items left over after a celebration), salads with palm heart (my first time trying this), and a selection of desserts to finish off.
What I loved about the whole experience was the atmosphere. Welcoming people, who just enjoyed chit chatting over great food – very Malaysian in this way, and the music; a group of guitarists / singers sitting at the table next to us just jamming along with anyone who cared to join. I’m told this is quite normal, and well, a little unexpected for me at a 5 star hotel, but it really does help to make you feel at home.
With all of our new neighbours out there, its great to be able to learn a little about someone else’s culture, and what better way than through the food and music. The Embassy is hosting two weeks of events to share their culture with Malaysia, but it won’t stop there. Further regular events, such as an exciting art exhibition (late May), and the tasty delights of Venezuelan Chefs cooking up a storm in all parts of Malaysia (including a newly opened restaurant in Penang – watch out for the review), will all help to give us that taste of cultures new.