Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
What’s in a name: Dewakan is a mashup of two Malay words: ‘Dewa,’ meaning God, and ‘Makan,’ meaning both simply ‘food’ and ‘to eat’. In other words, ‘food from God’: Dewakan says it is the restaurant’s mission to honour the bounty and blessing given to the land.
Breaking boundaries: Chef Darren Teoh takes rare and forgotten ingredients from peninsular Malaysia – from sea, mountain, jungle and farm – and elevates and transforms them into fine dining dishes that diners have described as ‘modern art’. His building blocks are indigenous products such as kulim, a jungle fruit, ketumpang air, a type of pepper, and bunga kantan, a torch ginger flower.
About the chef: Teoh grew up in a family of cooks, with his grandmother sun-drying spices on rattan-weaved baskets and having them ground into spice mixes for her unparalleled curries. His mother, grandmother and aunts’ cooking formed the basis of what he believes food should be.
Dining on campus: Dewakan came about as an entrepreneurial effort by Malaysia’s leading school of hospitality and culinary arts at KDU University College. Teoh was a culinary lecturer at the institute, who trained and taught alumni of the school before opening Dewakan, where many of his alumni now work. The restaurant is housed at the flagship campus at Utropolis Glenmarie, Shah Alam, about 23km from Kuala Lumpur city centre, and frequently trains younger cooks through its internship programme.
On the menu: Dewakan has two tasting menus, the 16-course Kayangan and the nine-course Nusantara. The sequence of artfully presented dishes includes savoury courses such as goat tartare, prawns warmed in starfruit juice and banana heart with kerdas, and desserts such as temuan chocolate with jaggery ice cream, and popsicles.
Images: Joshua Chan