The northernmost Malaysian state of Perlis is big on culinary gems. Bordering Thailand to the north, the food has strong Thai influences, blended with local ingredients and cooking techniques.
Passengers flying with Malaysia Airlines during the festive season of Eid will get to taste the unique flavours of Perlis cuisine, as the airline will be serving a special dish – the Kurma Daging Perlis – in First Class and Business Class onboard selected flights on the first three days of Eid.
The menu is part of the airline’s Best Of Malaysia initiative, to allow guests travelling on the airline the opportunity to savour delicious Malaysian meals onboard.
Kurma Daging Perlis is a favourite at Istana Arau, the official residence of the Perlis royal family.
The recipe was shared with the airline by the Raja Muda of Perlis, Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail and his consort, Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Raja Puan Muda Tuanku Hajah Lailatul Shahreen Akashah Khalil, to promote Perlis cuisine both locally and internationally.
“Before I became Raja Muda of Perlis, I worked at Malaysia Airlines for 12 years, and I got to know many friends there. We touch base now and then, and that’s how this collaboration came about,” said Tuanku Syed Faizuddin when met at Istana Arau recently.
Tuanku Syed Faizuddin served as Malaysia Airlines Area Manager for Spain, Portugal and Northern Africa from 1995 to 1998, and Area Manager for Switzerland, Austria and Central Europe from 1998 to 2002.
When the airline approached him to look at some Perlis specialties they could serve onboard, the royal couple had several dishes in mind, such as gulai rebung (spicy curry cooked with bamboo shoots), acar rebung (pickled vegetables and bamboo shoots), ikan keli goreng (fried catfish) and putu mayam goreng (fried rice flour cake).
“After discussions with the Malaysia Airlines team, we decided on Kurma Daging Perlis, which is one of my favourite dishes. It is a must try when one is visiting the state. The gravy has an excellent taste and is likat (thicker) compared to kurma dishes in other states,” he explained.
The Istana’s version was created by palace chef, Sobiah Bidin, or Kak Yah as she is fondly known. She has served at the palace for over 29 years, cooking for three generations of the royal family.
Kak Yah, who learnt the recipe from her grandmother, adds her own spin to the traditional dish by adding lemongrass, which gives it an appetising aroma and taste. Other herbs and spices used include cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, clove, onions and ginger.
“First we have to fry the spices to bring out the fragrance. This is then blended before the meat is added,” she said, adding that the palace uses fresh beef, preferably a sirloin cut, as it has better flavour and texture. The dish has to be cooked over a slow fire until the meat becomes tender and coconut milk is added.
Kak Yah also shares that in Perlis, the meat for Kurma Daging is traditionally cut into bigger chunks. It is best eaten with a side of nasi tomato (tomato rice), nasi biryani and acar (mixed pickled vegetables).
Malaysia Airlines food and beverage senior manager Fazal Mahbob said recreating the dish in the airline’s kitchen was a collaborative process between the airline and the palace.
“This is something unique that has never been served onboard. After receiving the recipe, we had several rounds of tasting with Raja Puan Muda Tuanku Lailatul Shahreen, to adjust the seasonings,” he said, adding that it was not difficult to make as the ingredients were readily available.
“The new menu is one of the many improvements under the Best of Malaysia campaign to transform our in-flight and on-ground dining to a five star experience. This is also in line with Malaysia Airlines’ overall brand refresh,” he added.
Meanwhile, Tuanku Syed Faizuddin hopes that the collaboration would help to further promote and generate interest in Perlis among the public.
“Since 2011, we have done Perlis food promotions in 21 countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Poland, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, England and Australia.
“Through food, we hope to raise awareness about our state because people may know Malaysia but not much about Perlis. We do not have the tourism infrastructure to receive visitors in large numbers for incentives or conventions, but this is a long-term process so that the public is aware of what we have here, in terms of investment, tourism and business,” he said.
“I hope Malaysia Airlines passengers will enjoy our cuisine on board,” he added.
The Kurma Daging Perlis will be served to passengers flying First Class and Business Class on MH2 and MH4 from Kuala Lumpur to London, as well as Business Class on MH150 from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah, and MH112 and MH196 from Kuala Lumpur to Dhaka. Business Class passengers flying from Kuala Lumpur to Sabah, Sarawak and ASEAN destinations will also get to enjoy the dish.
Meanwhile, passengers flying Economy Class on the above routes can savour the Kurma Ayam Perlis, which features the same recipe but with chicken instead of beef. Both dishes are available on the first three days of Eid, from 15 to 17 June.