There are no chance meetings in this Universe. A timeline decided by Fate, and then the stars align to make it happen. Just like how I met a divine Chicken Liver Pâté plumbed up with Cognac. I welcomed it into my home on a rainy evening, the air moist with trepidation, a forlorn fado by Amalia Rodrigues crooning into the twilight. A short late afternoon siesta in preparation of my night cap had just about cleared the wind from my ringing eardrums. It was thunder, I realised, unwrapping the home delivery still warm from the heat of the engine upon which it had rested. That was 24 hours ago.
Now, my steadfast night-snacker, commanding all of my devotion whilst resting on my working desk. Me, a disciplined Virgo, who has since broken the golden rule of intermittent fasting, with crackers and toast binges, writing late into night owl hours with Miss C.L.P plumbed up with Cognac. Such is the charm of Antoine’s close-to-heart home cooking, as I continue to hear encores on how Twenty9 Homecooked Foods (Medan Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, 50490) has grown to become a well-loved French food venture in such a short time. Is it the Cognac, Antoine? 😊 I’m wondering aloud, as I devote an extra 10 minutes to my usual 20 minute exercise routine in the mornings these days 😊
Jump starting Twenty9 Homecooked French Foods
Husband and wife, Antoine Commare from Normandy, France, and Michele Sagan from Sarawak, Malaysia, decided to launch Twenty9 Foods just before the CMCO. “The situation has been tough on everyone,” explained Antoine. “It made us re-consider our lives and the way we lived. I, myself, lost my job during this period. I then sat down with Michele to assess the situation, and a couple of days later Twenty9 Foods was born,” Antoine confided.
“Antoine has been passionate about food since his childhood,” explained Michele who hails from Sarawak, which we know is another food paradise in Malaysia. “All I needed to do was give him the nudge to take the plunge. He’s always cooking French dishes for family and friends, and so many of them said they loved our food and encouraged us to start our own catering business. So, we did and, finally decided to take the leap. On our first day, we made about 30 jars of Chicken Liver Pâté. Little did we know that in less than 12 hours, the entire stock would be sold!”
Encouraged with beginner’s luck, the duo shifted to full steam with Antoine in the kitchen, and Michele in charge of all the marketing and sales. Twenty9 Foods was launched in September 2020. “As for the menus, all I had to do was to put into words the recipes my Mum had been teaching me since I was a child,” Antoine shared. And this is exactly what is at the heart of Twenty9 Foods. Delicious home cooked French food that brings to your home table delicacies sourced straight from the kitchens of Normandy.
“Do not expect 3 Michelin star type of food,” Antoine is quick to add. “In France, and especially in Normandy where my family comes from, a typical family meal is quite simple. We have entrees, and then we usually share a hearty common dish often served in a big pot in the middle of the table, in which everybody digs in to. We usually have a salad as an accompaniment as well, followed by cheese and a dessert. Altogether, our meals can sometimes be a three-hour affair!” he good naturedly cautioned. Which is exactly how my home delivery looked it. All neatly packaged food with labels and a menu.
A Fado and a Feast
As the rain beat out like a beast, and Amalia Rodrigues switched to a happy duet, I laid out my table for two. On my menu was the Duck Liver Terrine which accompanied my Green Apple Soju like a champ (talk about mix and blend, folks), buttery Escargots with garlic and herbs, Pot au Feu (beef in light broth and veggies), Cassoulet (pork sausage, duck confit and beans), Ratatouille, a slice of delicious Basque cake and la femme fatale, the reputable, Chicken Liver Pâté.
So, why Twenty9 Foods you may ask? It is not like Kuala Lumpur’s offering of French food is scarce. “There are a couple of restaurants in KL which do satisfy some of my cravings for dishes from home,” Antoine mentioned. “However, I couldn’t always find what I was looking for, dishes that we used to eat as a family back in France. So what better way to fill this gap than by cooking them myself? And of course, sharing them with our customers felt like the natural thing to do.”
And so far, the response has been very encouraging, Antoine shared. “Malaysians are interested to try dishes cooked at home, which are dishes enjoyed by the typical French family. Our Chicken Liver Pâté is our star product and even though I favor the one with Cognac, we do offer an alcohol-free version,” he added.
Most important to mention – since I am often asked this question by my readers – Twenty9 also utilizes a two-kitchen system where they separate the preparation and the cooking of their pork and non-pork dishes. “We have plenty of Muslim family and friends and we always prepare their meals separately. We use only halal produce in our non-pork dishes, and we cook with different utensils, so there is no cross “contamination” Antoine asserted.
With vegies coming from Cameron Highlands, meat and poultry, except for the rabbit, exclusively sourced from Malaysian producers, the couple make a point of only using the freshest ingredients. “At the moment, we focus on French recipes. In the near future, we will introduce ‘East meets West’ recipes. That’s something we are looking into. Since we did it as a couple, why not bring it to the kitchen too,” Antoine laughed heartedly.
At this point, I kid you not, the Pot au Feu and Cassoulet had transported me straight to a dimly lit tavern in Lisbon. The sound of a crackling forgotten radio humming in the background, everybody talking together, a TV mounted on a distant wall with, yup! football and patron saints of Portugal and family deities, the smell of grilled sardines coming in and out of the kitchen, jars of house wine flowing and the taste of old memories rushing in for replay.
A Red Moscato or Porto would have been perfect I thought, as the warm broth of the pot au feu with the soft vegetables and drunk carrots brought in waves of nostalgia. I remember never wanting to leave the tavern when I was in Lisbon, soaked in home comfort and love (if the proprietor knows you’re from Goa, be ready to be swallowed with extra love and indulgence), my native DNA calling all the gypsies of my soul to attention, whispering with glee in my bloodstream, `She’s here, she’s come home.’ I miss Lisbon, and will definitely go back to her.
The chunky pieces of beef all soft and coming apart in my mouth, reminded me of my mom’s grand cooking pot of hot beef soup. It was our Sunday soup, every Sundays after church. Boiling away slowly on wood fire the previous night. Meat, fat, bones, marrow and sinewy muscles dancing merrily with condiments, shallots, potatoes, carrots, chunks of cabbage, crushed garlic and sticks of cinnamon. The aroma would flood the house, while I would look at the boiling cauldron like a witch waiting for a magic portion to rise from the steam. The fuzzy warmth of saudades.
The Cassoulet, so close to our beloved Feijoada (yes, look this up please. It is a magical Portuguese dish all true blooded Portuguese will know), that I paused between my bites and picked up the phone to call my mother in Goa. It was a long time since I had spoken to her. My mom’s dancing voice crackling with love. I haven’t seen her in a year….
Now I’ve eaten different versions of the Ratatouille here in Kuala Lumpur at different French restaurants, but this by far beat them all hands down. Antoine should have a real special Mom to emulate the love of cooking, so finely expressed in his devotion to vegetable and meats and the simple balance of bringing them together, lovingly. This was not to be shared, so I saved it for the next day where I could again indulge in its homecoming. Pour l’amour de la cuisine français, well done Antoine!
Private Dining por favour, yes!
If you love intimate dining experiences as I do, the duo curate private dining experiences for pax of 2 or 8 over a 5 course menu priced at RM 110 (per head) (beverages not included). You can get your own drinks with no corkage charged. The Lunch/Dinner are intimate affairs as you get to know the cuisine and the chef intimately 😊
I must mention that all meals that are home delivered are ready to eat meals, or, vacuum packed dishes to freeze, including the pâtés and terrine. Clean hygienic, labeled. Home catering for parties and special occasions are also undertaken. So, go binge! I’m back to Miss C.L.P for now 😊
Photo credit: Twenty 9 Foods. Photograph of Amalia Rodrigues and fadista from Google.
For Orders : +60 12-942 6514