New Straits Times : 2021-02-28



NewSundayT­imes february 28, 2021 • sunday vibes 15 people \ diverse spread If anyone thinks that organic and wholesome food is boring, think again. Or at least come and check out the menu here. There’s even hawker favourite Char Kway Teow among the dishes' offered. “Char Kway Teow,” I mouth to Danial, the incredulit­y in my voice causing him to chuckle again. “Yup, and it’s our most popular item on the menu,” he declares proudly. “And it’s infused with that (breath of the wok) that you associate with a good plate of Char Kway Teow too!” Initially, shares Danial, many of his customers were sceptical about this item. A wok for cooking healthy, keto food? “Actually, for us, using a wok doesn’t really mess with the nutritiona­l benefits. In fact, it gives the dish a nice flavour. In fact, our Char Kway Teow is so popular today that I’ve lost count how many thousands of plates we’ve sold to date,” shares Danial, again the note of pride in his voice. Suffice it to say, the plate of Char Kway Teow served here isn’t just your ordinary Char Kway Teow. Instead, the noodles used are konjac noodles, which are made with konnyaku potatoes, the edible tuber commonly seen in Japanese dishes such as oden. The noodles are stir-fried in the house-made seasoning together with creamy duck egg and wild-caught prawns. I can see why it has become a crowd favourite; the konjac noodles are nicely and goes really well mixed with the prawns and egg. Asked what the most “controvers­ial” item on the menu is, Danial declares it’s their Cauliflowe­r Nasi Lemak. “I guess it’s because a lot of people have their own thoughts on this one. I remember when it first came out, people were sceptical. ‘What’s this plant? Where’s my rice?’ I remember them say. It was still something pretty alien,” he recalls, smiling. Adding, he continues: “To be honest, we also didn’t have much knowledge on it so we had to do plenty of adjustment­s. We even had to work on the ‘fineness’ of the cauliflowe­r because people were nitpicking on that. wok hei (From left) The Char Kway Teow is a big favourite with customers; Delicious option for meat lovers. business had been something he dreamt of having. Leaning across the table, expression earnest, he asks: “Can I tell you a story about my cousin?” I nod, slightly perplexed by his request. Motioning him to continue, Danial excitedly confides: “We had a cousin who was my age. She was staying in Kuantan, which was my dad’s hometown. We were quite close but she passed away when I was 15.” It seemed Mimi and the cousin were particular­ly close. Continuing, Danial shares: “They used to play this (cooking) game online and cooked together too. When she passed away, it was tough for us. I always knew they shared a dream to open a cafe one day.” Today, says Danial, his sister is very serious about the cafe and she’s literally running the show. “I’m supporting her even though it’s not quite my dream. But I know it’s something I can do for my sister — for the time being.” So what’s your big dream, I couldn’t help blurting out. Danial, who hails from a mixed parentage — his father, who’s in the property industry is Chinese, and mum, a housewife is Malay — confides: “I’m more of an air spirit. I like to go where the wind takes me. I’ve started with architectu­re but I haven’t managed to complete that one yet. I’ll definitely continue later.” Growing up, the siblings spent their formative years living in an exclusive suburb in Rawang with their close-knit family — something that has remained true to this day. After Rawang, they moved to Desa ParkCity, where both Danial and Mimi enjoyed their high school years. “We’ve been together for as long as I can remember, separating only when I went overseas. Today, we’re all back together again.” They certainly are, considerin­g they’re in business together. It’s also a good thing that they share a common goal — to educate people on the importance of organic food but doing so through making them understand that organic food is also just like normal food, in that it can be tasty — or even tastier. “We want people to be shifting in that direction, especially in this day and age where health is one of the most important things, not just for ourselves, but our family and community. “Why not start at the most important source of energy for humans — food. We believe food is medicine and medicine is food,” concludes the gregarious young man, his tone resolute. they’re so popular that it has been a challenge to keep making them.” His sister, Mimi, makes all the cupcakes and the keto buns. But the star of the desserts, the cheesecake­s, which hit all the right spots with their delicious clean taste, is the handiwork of head chef, Jerry. What sets Staple Eats apart from other “healthy” players also offering keto out there, believes Danial is that not many are offering organic food too. “We want people to lose weight and be healthy, but we also want them to enjoy their food. Another plus point is that our whole family practices keto so we know what tastes good,” says the young man. He adds that it’s important for people to understand that organic food is very different from normal food. And that the price is as it is because it’s such a clean source of food. “It’s definitely the healthiest you can get in terms of being free from GMO, free from pesticides etc. Taste-wise also, some people say that organic onions are sweeter but of course, they’re not sweet on your wallet because they’re seven times more expensive!” He’s swift to share that just like the restaurant’s earlier founder, the current team too are not in the business with the sole vision of making so much profit. Noting my bewildered expression, Danial explains: “Of course, any business has to make some kind of profit but our main goal isn’t that. It isn’t even to educate people. We just want to give people a place to get what they need.” “And of course, there was the issue of how much (coconut milk) to put in, the temperatur­e and so on.” After playing around with all the different elements — it took months — the team finally got the formula down pat. This dish today is also very popular with customers, second only to the Char Kway Teow. There’s also fresh coconuts served here, Danial exclaims happily. And just like that, images of sipping on refreshing (young coconut) in my dad’s orchard in Sepang on a sweltering hot day pops into my mind. Says Danial: “Like I mentioned, we’re an organic restaurant so we’re not only catering for those on a keto diet. We also serve whole coconuts, which we’ve procured from a farm, to our customers because we want them to enjoy fresh coconut here in Arkadia!” The restaurant’s best-selling dishes are generally local favourites, such as their Keto Nasi Lemak, Duck Egg Char Kway Teow, Fried Beef Noodles et al. But, according to Danial, the thing that kicked them into the spotlight is actually a lot sweeter — their desserts, or in particular, their cheesecake­s. “Our cakes don’t follow the normal recipe,” he elaborates, adding: “We use almond flour and a sugar replacemen­t called lakanto for the sweetness. I remember a lot of people said that it was a horrible idea to use almond flour because the cakes would end up being so dense. But today, santan masakmasak kelapa muda Danial Yik el dente Chasing the dream “I know for a fact that my sister had always dreamt of opening her own cafe,” recalls Danial when asked whether this restaurant (From left) The kitchen is where all the action is; It’s a marvel how they got the huge plant inside.