A Pan-Asian Delight
Treating the Kingdom of Bahrain with authentic cuisine from four Asian countries, Houseboat is Bahrain’s very own gastronomical gateway to the taste of Asia
BY ANAAM IKRAM
Whether it is in the serene setting of Amwaj, overlooking the Lagoon, or in the heart of Bahrain’s food capital of Block338 in Adliya, Houseboat is the unique inception of Khulood Malalla – a travel enthusiast, a food-lover, and entrepreneur. Serving the tantalizing flavours of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisines under one roof, Houseboat is an exciting dining experience for those who want to taste the different flavours of Asia. Khulood spoke to Perle Magazine about her inspiration behind setting up her restaurant and undoubtedly making it a favourite within the Kingdom.
Starting her career in a very different path but one that eventually lead her to launching her restaurant, Khulood initially worked in the aviation industry before setting up her own unique business venture of a Bahrain-based shopping catalogue featuring silver accessories and leather goods – both of which allowed her to travel the world for work, especially to the Asian Continent. Her experiences in different countries and cuisines drew her closer to the Asian Cuisine, but it was Khulood’s last trip to Kerala and her stay in an actual Houseboat that served as an inspiration for her setting up her own restaurant which carries same name. “I always thought, if I am going to do something, it has to be truly unique, no matter what business concept I explore, it has to be something different”, she says. In the houseboat, Khulood details, a chef would cook for the guests live while they stayed in the boat for one or two nights, and that experience of having traditional food cooked live struck a chord with Khulood and the first branch of Houseboat was set up in the Amwaaj Lagoon in 2011. Becoming a favourite of many around the Kingdom, Houseboat’s second branch was launched in 2014 in Adliya’s notorious food district, Block338, bringing the exquisite dining experience closer to those living in the city.
Serving four different types of Asian Cuisines, Khulood handpicked the chefs for their native cuisines and worked with them to perfect the recipes – some of which are her own – to produce an eclectic and tantalising menu that complements its welcoming and comfortable design, creating a cosy ambiance. Houseboat’s extensive and delicious menu boasts a mix of dishes from all the cuisines under each section of the menu, providing a variety for the customers to choose from. From appetisers, salads, meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, and even desserts, Houseboat’s menu caters to the various tastes on the island with its diverse culinary options.
A favourite amongst the Houseboat customers, the Dynamite Prawns are a delicious way to start the meal. Coated with tempura flour, fried, and covered in dynamite sauce, the Dynamite Prawns are a crunchy burst of flavour in every bite. The newly launched version of the dish has crushed spicy crisps on top, which add an extra crunch and spice to the dish. Another unique prawn appetiser at Houseboat is the Kunafa Prawn that serves the exciting combination of sweet and savoury in one dish. One of Khulood’s own recipes, the tempura prawns are fried and coated with the traditional Arabic sweet Kunafa, and served with the chef’s special sauce. Both dishes are amongst the most popular from the Appetiser menu, which also has other delicious Pan-Asian bites such as the steamed dumplings, cheese sticks, Beef Tataki Roll, traditional Japanese Chicken Gyoza, wantons, edamame beans, and much more for customers to begin their Asian dining experience.
Houseboat also has a hearty soup selection that can be enjoyed as part of a meal or on its own as a light dining option. The spicy traditional Thai Tom Yum Soup is ideal for seafood lovers as it can be made with squid and prawn, or mixed seafood.
The Sweet Corn Chicken Soup, is a childhood favourite and the Houseboat version is made with minced chicken, sweet corn and eggs. The Broccoli Soup is a quite rich made with cream and the Miso Soba Soup is served with noodles and Tofu and is filling enough to be enjoyed as a meal on its own. The soup servings are generous and the different flavours combined to can be tasted in each mouthful.
Among the vast selection of healthy salads Houseboat has to offer, the newly added Quinoa Salad is a delightful and hearty option as it is filling but light on the stomach. Also one of Khulood’s recipes, the salad is made with the superfood avocado, celery, rocket leaves, pine nuts, and a special addition of the dried cranberry that gives it the extra kick. The pine nuts add a crunchy element to the salad, and the combination of avocado and quinoa and makes it a rich dish to enjoy.
Houseboat also offers its customers a wide variety of delectable Maki Rolls to choose from. From the popular flavours such as the Prawn Tempura Maki, California Maki, Salmon Maki, to exciting flavours known signature only to the restaurant such as Khoka Maki, Funky Roll Maki, and even an Indian-fusion Maki roll, Houseboat’s magnificent selection is designed to appeal to every taste palate. “With the Maki Rolls, what we do is when we notice a new trend in the market or a shift in taste, we incorporate this into our rolls. That way not only do we appeal to the different taste buds but also offer our customers something new frequently to keep our menu fresh and exciting”, Khulood explains.
The menu at Houseboat boasts a wide section of chicken and duck dishes, from the four Asian cuisines. Dishes are commonly associated with Asia such as Sweet and Sour, Kung Pao, Thai Green Curry, Chicken Manchurian, Kurma, Katsu Chicken, and many more are offered to customers with options of either with chicken, beef, or seafood, for them to be able to enjoy their favourite dishes to their preferred taste. The small but wholesome beef dishes at Houseboat also tickle the taste buds with options such as the Chinese-style Hot Pot Beef, or the Chilli Beef for those who enjoy spicy food.
The restaurant’s seafood section is a true treat as Houseboat offers different seafood staples from each of the four cuisines. Dishes like Chilli Hammour, Thai Crispy Fish, Grilled Prawns with Soy Sauce, Teppanyaki, Miso Salmon, and more popular dishes from the Asian region are available on the menu. The Miso Salmon is an especially enticing dish as the salmon fillet is covered in miso sauce, and served with spicy edamame beans and crispy fried rice, which are the perfectly complementary crunchy sides to the soft fish.
Houseboat also hosts a wide spread of Thai, Chinese, Indian, and Japanese rice and noodle dishes. Traditional dishes from the countries include Pad Thai, Fried Udon, Traditional Biryani, Chinese Fried rice, and steamed rice in multiple flavours such as Vegetable Pulao, Saffron rice, steamed Basmati, and Jasmine rice to name a few. The dishes can be prepared using only vegetables, prawns, chicken, beef, or mixed but stay true to their taste with each option.
Dishes that would otherwise be typically made using meat, such as Biryani, are also available as a vegetarian options and are quite delicious as the spices used to ensure the true taste of traditional Biryani is still maintained, with some personalised Houseboat touches such as parsley and nut garnish, which make it a wholesome dish. The authentic rich flavours can be felt in every dish from each of their respective regions and the fresh ingredients used to make all the dishes can be experienced in each bite, whether it is a Chinese, Indian, Thai, or Japanese dish.
A culinary enthusiast herself, Khulood says a lot of the Chinese cuisine recipes are hers, as not only does she enjoy cooking, but Chinese cuisine is her specialty. Passing her love for cooking and entrepreneurial spirit onto her daughter, Ghadeer, as well, Khulood notes that not only does Ghadeer enjoy cooking, but also plans to open her own restaurant someday. Keeping her family close to her heart even in her work, not only is, Ghadeer, involved in creating sauces for many of the items on the menu – and has created her own starter named “Gigi’s Sliders” – but customers will also find that some of the Makis are also named after members of the family, such as the SimSim Maki, 757 Maki, Khoka Maki, and Isa Maki.
No meal is complete without dessert, and Houseboat’s enticing Tropical Fruit Salad is the perfect sweet ending to a hearty meal. Freshly chopped mango, pineapple, and strawberries are served in a carved out pineapple, topped with ice cream and a special Houseboat dressing. The dessert is perfect to curb the sweet tooth craving while being refreshing and delicious at the same time. Offering customers a true tropical Asian experience, the Tropical Fruit Salad is a must-have dessert at Houseboat. The restaurant also caters to chocolate lovers with desserts such as Fried Banana with Ice Cream and Chocolate and the Nutella Crepes (served with blueberry sauce), and for those who want to experience a traditional Indian dessert, the Rasmalai – a milk-based dessert – an ideal gateway into the country’s sweet culture.
At the Amwaj Lagoon branch, customers can enjoy their meal in either a cosy and quiet setting within the chic Houseboat interior which reflects the wholesome menu, or they can sit outside and take advantage of the spacious alfresco dining area, in canopy-style seats overlooking the lagoon as they indulge in their Asian experience. At the Adliya branch, the two-storey restaurant allows customers to become part of the bustling Block338 scene, as there is a downstairs and outdoor seating area and the glass front opens onto the street, and customers also have the option of dining on the top floor, overlooking the busy streets downstairs.
Having recently redone the interiors of the Amwaj Lagoon branch, Khulood says her next step will be to refurbish the Adliya branch, before taking her brand regionally, as she plans to open a Houseboat branch in Qatar. She adds it is important for them to constantly keep making changes to ensure their customers are excited about what they have to offer as a restaurant, whether it is in their menu – which they tend to alter from time to time based on season and taste preferences – or their overall look, but staying true to their core of offering authentic Pan-Asian cuisine. However, adding a little local touch, Houseboat recently also introduced the Bahraini breakfast for its customers to start their day on a filling and nutritional note, and has also added a Kid’s Menu for the younger customers to be able to enjoy the Houseboat experience. “When you go to a restaurant, you don’t go there just to eat something, you also want a good service, you want a good environment, you want nice music, you want to enjoy a good ambiance, and we think about all these things and have incorporated the necessary elements to ensure our customers get an overall experience and keep coming back”, Khulood says. She adds, customers are also given comment cards on which they can write their feedback, all of which is taken into consideration. Customers are also given loyalty cards and the recipients are invited to special launches and events hosted by Houseboat.
Already offering catering services, Houseboat made their Bahraini breakfast catering debut with Turkish Airlines. The restaurant also provides customers with canapés and afternoon tea options with their catering. Khulood says they have also created a special catering menu for lunch and dinner occasions, and provide a buffet-style spread for children’s parties.
Whether the serenity of the Amwaj Lagoon is an appealing backdrop for an indulgence in various Asian cuisines, or the bustling food capital of Adliya seems like a more charming venue, Houseboat caters to the different tastes that make up the gastronomies of the Kingdom. From Seafood, to meat, vegetarian, sweets, and even fresh juices and smoothies, Houseboat offers its customers a culinary tour through four different Asian countries under one roof, allowing customers to experience a different country with each bite.
For more information:
The Lagoon, Amwaj
(00973) 1601 0321
(00973) 1760 0018
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