Special thanks to Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul for extending this food review invitation.

Today's invitation to Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul is to cover the preview of the hotel's upcoming Ramadan buffet. Held in the ballroom, an elaborate backdrop decorates the front stage. This evening and during Ramadan, live music is performed by duo band Irama Nada, who were brought back from last year due to popular demand.
Like the previous year's Ramadan, the buffet theme is "101 Resipi Penuh Tradisi Tok Wan". There are literally 101 dishes on the menu every evening. According to the staff, the chefs went back to the drawing board multiple times to find the perfect composition of wet (such as curry) and dry (such as grilled meat) dishes.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. With these words of wisdom in mind, it is prudent to start the meal with some kurma (palm dates). This is how Muslims break fast in the evening during Ramadan.
Bubur Lambuk is another integral delicacy in any Ramadan buffet. During the holy month, local communities often prepare large quantities of Bubur Lambuk to be given to the poor and needy.
At the outdoor grilling station, Kambing Panggang (Roasted Lamb) steals the limelight. Every evening, a whole lamb is slowly grilled over burning charcoal, which imparts a unique sense of toasty aroma to the lamb.
Should guests prefer white meats, Ikan Keli Panggang (Grilled Catfish) and Ayam Panggang (Grilled Chicken) are also available. The meats have been marinated for several hours to ensure that the spices penetrate them thoroughly.
Another delicacy during this upcoming Ramadan is Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay), which makes an anticipated return after a hiatus last year. Demand is so overwhelming that the staff is barely able to keep up with continuous orders.
Compared to last year, the number of kawah (Malay wok) dishes have been scaled down. Most cooked dishes are now prepared in the kitchen. The only exception is Daging Gulai Kawah, where the beef curry is kept warm by slow fire under the wok.
My favorite cooked dish tonight is Daging Masak Kicap. The beef is marinated well and is cooked in sweet sauce. Every bite of the beef is gratifying indeed.
If sea snails appeal to your palate, Siput Belitung Masak Lemak should strike a chord with you. The aroma and taste of this dish are enhanced through the use of lemongrass (serai) and pineapples. The sea snails do not contain much meat within their shells, but this does not deter me from prying their flesh with toothpicks.
As for fried dishes, Ayam Goreng Berempah (Spicy Fried Chicken) is among the popular ones. Ikan Keli Goreng is available too, though I prefer the grilled version of catfish.
Cencaru Belah Belakang is another delicacy made from mackerel. Each fish is slit open from the bottom and is stuffed with fiery sambal (chili paste). Cendawan Goreng (Deep-Fried Mushrooms) is wildly popular due to the juicy savoriness under the layer of crisp.
There are also a range of delectable curries, including Ikan Patin Masak Lemak Tempoyak. For this dish, catfish is cooked with coconut milk and tempoyak. The latter is a Malay condiment made from fermented durians. It is fortunate that Ramadan coincides with the durian season this year.
It is also welcoming to see Sambal Tempeh Bersama Kacang Panjang on the menu. Tempeh, made from fermented soy beans, is cooked with chili paste and yardlong beans. It is a shame that not everyone is fond of tempeh.
As for vegetables, Pucuk Ubi Masak Lemak Kuning features silky tapioca leaves in a yellowish gravy flavored by turmeric (kunyit).
Another authentic Malay delicacy is Serunding. Made from meat floss and grated coconut kernel, the mixture is fried with minimal oil until it becomes golden brown. Serunding is typically eaten with ketupat (palm leaf rice) and lemang (bamboo rice); both are available today. Daging Rendang Tok (Marinated Beef) and Gulai Daging (Beef Curry) are also provided to enjoy with rice.
The buffet also features various kinds of kerabu (Malay salad) such as Kerabu Ayam, Kerabu Mangga, Tempe Ikan Bilis and Acar Jelatah.
Guests who fancy ulam can help themselves to raw vegetables like jantung pisang (banana flower), petai (stink beans), bendi (okra), daun kaduk (wild betel leaves), daun selom (selom leaves) and daun selasih (basil leaves).
Asam Laksa is also available this evening. The cornerstone of this dish is spicy broth stewed from flaked fish, which is typically mackerel (kembung). Noodles, chili pepper, onion, pineapple, cucumber, cabbage and ginger flower are provided. Belacan (shrimp paste) is optional, but it certainly helps to enhance the flavor of Asam Laksa.
Raw kerang (cockles) are also available. A pot of boiling water and a sieve are provided for guests to cook the cockles. Boiling duration depends how cooked each guest prefers the cockles. I think 60 seconds work best for me.
Towards the end of the feast, a number of sweet desserts are available for guests to enjoy. This year, the desserts are Pengat Pisang (Banana & Coconut Milk Soup), Bubur Kacang (Red Bean Soup), Bubur Pulut Hitam (Black Glutinous Rice Porridge) and Bubur Gandum (Oatmeal).
When it comes to Kuih Melayu (Malay Kuih), Vistana goes to great lengths to procure several dozen varieties from home-based producers. Noteworthy ones include onde-onde, ketayap, karipap, kuih puteri ayu and kuih lapis. Today's preview event only shows a fraction of what's available during the actual Ramadan dinners.
Guests who prefer moist desserts can help themselves to a number of fruity custards and jellies.
Ais Kacang is one of Malaysia's favorite dessert, enjoying widespread popularity across all ethnicities. Shaved ice is eaten together with a dozen ingredients such as red beans, sweet corn, nata de coco, gula melaka (palm sugar) and crushed peanuts.
Vistana's Ramadan buffet runs daily between 7 June 2016 and 5 July 2016. To keep its buffet appealing to the general public, Vistana is resisting the tendency to increase prices from last year. Offered at RM65.00 net per adult and RM30.00 net per child, Vistana's buffet is one of the most affordable ones in town considering the food quality, variety and ambience.
Name: Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul
Address: 213, Jalan Bukit Gambir, 11950 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-646-8000
Business hours: 7:00pm-10:00pm
Coordinates: 5.33637 N, 100.29159 E
Directions: Driving southbound on Jalan Bukit Gambir, turn left just before Vistana and drive up to the lobby entrance. Basement parking is available from the back of the hotel. The parking fee is RM3.00 per entry for banquet guests.

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