Rooted In Nature

Special thanks to Shangri-La Hotels And Resorts for extending this event invitation.

As a leader in corporate social responsibility, Shangri-La Hotels And Resorts is proud to undertake another bold step towards sustainability in the culinary line. Launched globally across all 89 Shangri-La properties, the Rooted In Nature initiative strives to encourage sustainable farming practices in its supply chain.
Today, we are given the opportunity to meet one of Shangri-La's major suppliers: GST Group. GST Group operates several fish farms in Pulau Pangkor, Pulau Aman and Pulau Jerejak. Today's visit to the one at Pulau Jerejak, therefore our trip commences at the Pulau Jerejak jetty.
GST Group started as a seafood supplier to local restaurants. Over the years, the company developed marine cage farming techniques to meet the increasing demand for yearlong seafood. Today, GST Group is the sole exporter of farmed fish in Malaysia, having market presence in Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and the United States.

Before we start our journey, the organizers have prepared breakfast for all participants. The event this morning takes place outdoors, so it is crucial to have proper breakfast beforehand.
The trip to GST Group's fish farm takes approximately 20 minutes by boat. The destination is actually on the far (east) side Pulau Jerejak. The entire facility is on the island itself, but is floating approximately 150 meters offshore. Along the way, we passed by a handful of similar fish farms.
The farm we visited has 320 marine cages in total. The cages are arranged in grid form, where wooden planks provide access to each cage. Each cage houses one fish species of specific size. Fishes are transferred between cages as they grow larger. It only takes a year or two for a newborn fry to grow sufficiently large to fetch revenue.
As a significant portion of the company's products is exported, its fish farms must conform to international standards for safety and sustainability. This is why there are annual audits from government regulatory agencies and international certification bodies. To this end, GST Group partners with the World Wildlife Fund to collaborate on sustainable aquaculture techniques.
The farm is tended by a crew who live on the platform for extended periods of time. Their daily routine include feeding, net maintenance, fish transfers and harvesting. As workers may need to remain on the platform for days or even weeks, living quarters are built on the farm.
The Red Snapper, also known as Red Lion (红鱼), is one of popular gourmet fish in the market. A properly-raised adult can grow up to 1.5 kilograms or more. The current market price of this fish is around RM27.00 per kilogram.
Demonstrating a juvenile Red Snapper is Ms. Joey Ong, Senior Business Development Executive of GST Group.
Grouper (石斑) is another well-sought fish in local seafood restaurants. The most distinguishing feature of this fish is the spotted pattern on the entire length of its body. Adult fish can grow beyond 2 kilograms and fetch RM28.00 per kilogram.

The Pearl Grouper (龙虎斑) is easily identified by yellow spots on its dorsal fin and tail. A fully-grown adult can easily exceed 3 kilograms. This fish appears to be more sluggish due to its larger size.
Another type of fish raised in this farm is John's Snapper (红皂), or more commonly known by its local name Jenahak. This fish is reddish-grey in color and has a more streamlined body. This fish fetches around RM26.00 per kilogram on the market.
The three gentlemen in the photograph below are, from left, Chef Tan (Chinese Chef, Golden Sands Resort), Chef Tretbar (Chef de Cuisine, Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa) and Chef Lim (Executive Chef, Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa).
The Giant Grouper (龙胆石斑) is a monstrosity of epic proportion. This individual tips the scales at a whopping 17 kilograms! Posing with this gigantic fish is Mr. CT Goh, Marketing Manager of GST Group. Carrying juggernaut in his arms, Mr. Goh can vouch that it is not an easy task!
The Giant Grouper is sometimes kept in an aquarium for feng shui (风水) purpose. On the dining table, it is a prized delicacy too. Its population in the wild is dwindling due to overfishing, therefore fish farms like this can help to cater the growing demand.
Other fish species at this farm are Bawal Emas (金鲳鱼), Cobia (军曹鱼, Aruan) and Giant Trevally (珍鲹). The marketing department of GST Group monitors the market closely to ensure that its inventory of fish is well-stocked at all times.
GST Group also operates a commercial fish feed factory to supply its own farms. Fish feed is made into pellets with different sizes, each for a different size or species of fish. Interestingly, all species of fish farmed here consume the same pellet formula.
In addition, GST Group owns a seafood processing plant in Simpang Ampat to support its export business. Here, raw fish is skinned, made into fillet, then chilled or frozen before being distributed internationally. Occasionally, live fish is requested by local restaurants or customers from neighboring countries.

It is also interesting to know that Hong Kong restaurants often require blood-letting (放血) of fish before chilling. The aorta near the gills is severed to eject blood. According to Mr. Goh, the purpose of blood-letting is to improve mouthfeel of flesh when cooked.
After two hours of an eye-opening tour, it is time to bid farewell to the friendly workers of the fish farm. Our next destination is Golden Sands Resort at Batu Ferringhi, where we are about to indulge in some of the finest dishes that the marine kingdom has to offer.
Today's lunch is divided into two sessions: First at Sigi's Bar & Grill (Golden Sands Resort), then at Spice Market Café (Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa). Starting 22 April 2015, both restaurants feature a handful of sustainable dishes on the respective menus. A special icon is used to indicate which dish uses responsibly-sourced ingredients.
GST Group is only one of Shangri-La's suppliers of sustainable ingredients. Free-range chicken is sourced from Ayamplus Food Corporation at Nibong Tebal. Vegetables are provided by organic farms. Organic farming does not require artificial fertilizers, therefore it achieves net zero carbon footprint.
To reduce carbon emissions from transportation, sustainable ingredients are sourced not more than 40 kilometers from the hotel. Several Shangri-La properties also produce a number of herbs and spices on the hotel grounds. Honey is extracted from on-site beehives, while drinking water is bottled by an in-house facility.

At Sigi's Bar & Grill, we started our meal with an appetizer, Grilled Free Range Chicken & Organic Tofu. This salad uses free-range chicken cutlet with organic romaine lettuce, soft bean curd and balsamic vinaigrette.
Although the roasted chicken and bean curd are rather neutral in flavor, the pleasant sourness of the vinaigrette dressing gives this salad a lovely appeal.
Next is the Grilled Sea Bass Fillet. This seafood dish consists of two pieces of farmed sea bass, elegantly covered with lovely lemon butter. I really enjoy the fine texture of the fish.
On the side are a number of steamed vegetables and a heap of mashed potato.
As for desserts, we are served with Local Flavor Ice Cream. Two scoops of yam-and-coconut-flavored ice cream are topped with fresh whipped cream. This sundae is a great way to pacify my sweet tooth.
My choice of beverage is a glass of Classic Mojito. This cocktail is made from rum, carbonated water, lime juice and mint. Its alcohol content is very low, therefore it is ideal for casual drinkers like myself.
After a scrumptious meal at Sigi's Bar & Grill, we proceed to Spice Market Café at the adjacent Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa. Here, we are treated to a handful of exquisite seafood dishes, each cooked in a different ethnic style.
The first one is Red Snapper Tiga Rasa cooked à la Malay style. The entire fish is coated in batter and deep-fried in hot oil to give a scrumptious layer of crisp. The name "Tiga Rasa" refers to the combination of three complementing flavors: sweet, sour and spicy.
Chinese cuisine is represented the Steamed Giant Grouper With Superior Sauce. According to mainstream Chinese culinary principles, the role of light soy sauce is to accentuate the freshness of fish, but not to supplant the flavor.
Inspired by fiery flavors from the Indian subcontinent, the Red Snapper Curry Fish is crafted to fire your taste buds on all cylinders. This delightful dish includes a good amount of okra (ladies' fingers) to absorb the curry goodness.
My personal favorite is the Nyonya-style Red Snapper With Nyonya Sauce. The main highlight is the sweet-tangy gravy, which is made from a lovely blend of local herbs and spices. Working harmoniously with refined flesh of the Red Snapper, this marvelous dish is certainly not one to be passed over.
From the pages of Italian cookbooks, the Baked Whole Giant Garoupa Al Forno is yet another succulent dish. The Giant Grouper is first grilled, then baked with a layer of tomato concasse (chopped tomato) and cheese.
Several of these fish dishes are served as part of the daily dinner buffet at Spice Market Café. In addition, they are also available in the banquet menu.
Moving to poultry, we are treated with herbal soup: Double-Boiled Free-Range Chicken. This Chinese herbal recipe uses free-range fowls raised by the hotel's sustainability partners. Other ingredients in this dish are fish maw (鱼鳔) and mushrooms.
And for desserts, the Lemongrass Crème Brûlée is available today. The soft custard is covered by a brittle layer of caramelized sugar. Sitting comfortable on top the sugary glaze is lemongrass, strawberry and diced mango. Coconut and pandan sauce are provided separately.
After a satisfying meal at Spice Market Café, we proceeded to the FIP Lounge for some coffee and to mingle around.
This comfortable lounge has a relaxing atmosphere for casual gathering with friends. At the back wall of the lounge are 3D artwork for interesting photo-opportunities.
While enjoying the food and ambience here, board games are also available for customers' entertainment.
In addition, there are electronic dart machines for the more competitive guests. A pool table is also available here.
In conjunction with the resort's Rooted In Nature initiative, the FIP Lounge serves organic coffee to customers who want to do more in environmentalism. This cup of Rooted In Nature Coffee has the titular logo imprinted on the foam using cocoa powder.
Upon request, the barista can create some interesting foam art, such as these two bears here. Masterpieces cannot be rushed, so give it some time before it is ready.
FIP Lounge uses organic coffee beans from illy, which is cultivated using sustainable farming practices.
After an arduous day at the fish farm and three different eateries, it is time to retire for a well-deserved rest. How about a nice massage at the resort's Chi The Spa? You can be sure that I am getting one!
Name: GST Group
Address: N/A
Contact: 04-568-2277
Business hours: N/A
Website: http://www.gstgroup.com.my
Coordinates: 5.31484 N, 100.32501 E
Directions: N/A

Name: Sigi's Bar & Grill
Address: Golden Sands Resort, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-886-1852
Business hours: 11:00am-12:00am
Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/penang/goldensandsresort/dining/restaurants/sigis-bar-grill-on-the-beach
Coordinates: 5.47751 N, 100.2516 E
Directions: Driving from George Town and upon arriving Batu Ferringhi, Golden Sands Resort is located on the right at the first traffic junction. The main entrance to the hotel is located slightly after the junction. Sigi's Bar & Grill is located towards the far side of the resort, after the pools and facing the beach. Parking is complimentary for hotel guests.

Name: Spice Market Café
Address: Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-888-8888
Business hours: 6:30am-11:00pm
Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/penang/rasasayangresort/dining/restaurants/spice-market-cafe
Coordinates: 5.47965 N, 100.25481 E
Directions: From Tanjung Bungah, travel west towards Batu Ferringhi. Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa is approximately 4.2 kilometers from Tanjung Bungah's floating mosque, located on the right. Spice Market Café is at Lobby level of the Garden wing.

Name: FIP Lounge
Address: Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-888-8888
Business hours: 11:00am-12:00am (Sunday-Thursday), 11:00am-1:00am (Friday-Saturday)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/fiploungersr
Coordinates: 5.47949 N, 100.25487 E
Directions: From Tanjung Bungah, travel west towards Batu Ferringhi. Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa is approximately 4.2 kilometers from Tanjung Bungah's floating mosque, located on the right. FIP Lounge is at Lobby level of the Garden wing.

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