“Without soil, there can be no life. It is the food and song by which we live. The great connector of lives, both the source and destination of all. It is everything.”
40 minutes passed by in a blink of an eye as Butterkicap went on a journey to the tranquil mise en scene of Pahang’s Janda Baik residential estate, Tanarimba. The chirping birds were a familiar old melody to our ears so used to the sound of honking cars. Beneath the lush greenery lies A Little Farm on the Hill, an endearing home to a treasure trove of vegetables, fruits, herbs and everything in between.
It’s rustic, but it’s sophisticated. It is plainly a building made with love, for the love of nature. The bucolic allure of the farmhouse lit by the natural light calmly reconciles us with the panoramic herbage. The dining room sits on stilts with a heartfelt ambiance our mother nature has in store. The rejuvenating breeze and warm sunlight creep in from the glass doors, as we sit at the long wooden dining table reading a cookbook. From A-Z, the bookshelves showcase rainbow of cookbooks to choose from, and a trifle of antique cooking utensils. Next to the room is their clean, minimalistic kitchen that speaks of homey and coziness. It’s the kind of kitchenette everyone pin on their Pinterest. You can’t help but mesmerize over the wall, featuring racks of different labels of spices in a mason jar. If this is love, it’s everything we hoped it would be.
Things Get Better with Sage
The farm galvanized way back, but surprisingly, it did not crop up from score composer and filmmaker Pete Teo and architect Lisa Ngan. Back then, they were just an urban couple with zero knowledge of farming who made an occasional visit to Lisa’s father supposedly “retirement garden.” However, life is full of twists and turns. Every visit has a funny way of showing just how much they actually enjoy the farming life. And before they knew it, it’s the beginning of something new.
“It’s a real thrill and satisfaction to see something you grow yourself. You also realize how difficult it is to grow things, and the amount of effort put to make it work. Imagine the dedication put into growing choy sum, yet is it only sold for two ringgits per kilogram.”
Her experience and hardships bloom into a deep admiration and appreciation for local farmers. Although she is passionate about farming, she knew the reality of the situation – the farm should financially sustain on its own. So, they turn their modest farm into their food and beverage business, and that makes the farm sustainable.
Don’t get her wrong. The lunches had always been on the plan. In fact, Lisa had always wanted to do something with food, but a restaurant was never on the program. “When we started, it was more about the food. I have always enjoyed cooking and hosting dinner with a lot of people around.” Lisa remarked. Then, it was only natural that she took on the farm as well. The farm and the dining are best friends forever – she could grow whatever she wants to, and the farm will benefit from that. Every little thing matter to the plate and she ensures to bring her promise to the table.
The farm has gone a long way, and there are more significant things ahead. It has always had a sense of assuredness that comes through. Not just on the sustainability of the farm, but also in the direction of its tremendous vision.
Fresh, Local Ingredients are Where the Heart is
In their humble 16 acres’ farm grows a plethora of organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers – sage, asparagus, and the hyped edible flowers. It’s a lot of variety, but everything is in small quantity yet high in quality. The freshest produce is their limelight of their farm, and they intend to keep it that way for a long, long time.
“We’re quite lucky because we are about 600 meters about sea level. This allows us to grow more than 90 varieties of local and western herbs.”
The Little Farm on the Hill devotes as much as possible to source from local producers and better yet, themselves. Their chicken and eggs are from a friend of theirs who coincidentally lives nearby. Most of the time, everything is from their backyard. Of course, the growth restraint of some plantations due to geographical features are inevitable, such as red peppers and pomegranate. Red meats such as beef and lamb are also sourced from sustainable pristine farms in Australia.
It did not halt them from giving a whirl. The farm even piqued the interest of Chef Darren Teoh from Malaysian fine dining Dewakan, and Chef Christian Recomio of contemporary Asian Sitka Restaurant who support local sustainable food practices. Every now on then, they would collaborate to experiment on growing something new – often it flourishes, but sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless of the outcome, it is the whole process that they profoundly enjoy.
Craving for a bed of organic crops? Think organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Luckily, you can also get their freshest produce in Kuala Lumpur’s very own organic shop, Justlife.
Bringing People and Flavors Home
“Malaysians are used to robust flavors, so if anything is too subtle, it may taste a little bland.”
Therefore, A Little Farm on the Hill incorporates the vegetable-dominant Mediterranean cuisine rich in flavor with a local ingredients touch like daun kadok and bunga kantan. The balance works wonders. Imagine a light, fluffy couscous with a kick of ulam herbs that complements their variety of meat, vegetarian and smoked meat set menus beautifully.
Their Farmers Lunch Club serves a seasonal menu based on the freshest vegetables and herbs at the time, with the highest quality of tender, juicy meat out there. Fancy a table with 6 hours’ wood smoked succulent beef short ribs; oven roasted pumpkin with fragrant thyme and a kick of chili or herb-infused basmati rice? Every meat is slow smoked to perfection in their customized in farm smoker. Or help yourselves to their signature twelve leaves and herb salad. A little trivia: Why twelve? Frankly speaking, you may find more than 12 varieties, but Lisa believes 12 sounds just right. If you’re wondering what the elements of the salad are, that’s for us to know and you to find out.
Butterkicap aspires to spread happiness and build friendships through the power of food. Similarly, Lisa said, “So far, our farmer’s lunch club works really well. People can come as a group and book a whole table, or a few and share a communal table to make new friends. They come to escape the city commotion and help themselves to a scrumptious fare with a picturesque view.” At the end of the day, food brings a warm glow of friendships for everyone. Lisa loves that, and we adore her for what she does.
Don’t stop beleafing
Let’s admit it. We Malaysians can’t seem to be able to resist on shopping a little knick-knack wherever we go. Whether it’s an authentic keychain or a premium postcard to name a few, there has just got to be a memento of the moment. In A Little Farm on the Hill, you can go bananas for their homemade mulberries jam, passionfruit curd, honey, herbs, and teas.
The icing on the cake that can make you can squeal in delight is that they are open to hosting a farmer’s market featuring local produce and artisanal foods in the future! It would not be just their products, but also other people growing and doing things in small batches. Say, local artisans great passion and craftsmanship in their handcrafted products.
With a musician in the family, an open-air space with a shuffle of local musicians filling the air with sweet tunes is bound to happen sooner or later. To think about it, which musician would not want their dining area to be filled with pleasing harmony? However, rather than a music festival, it will be home to a distinctive charm of live performances that will treat your senses.
There is something about workshops that goes straight to her heart. Perhaps it was the oddly poetic sight of people making something small in the alienation of modern life. Or just the satisfaction of creating something new. Whatever it is, Lisa has a better, bigger and bolder plan than an her current occasional gardening and terrarium making class at the farm. She wants to further highlight and ensure excellent producers producing intriguing delicacy out there rises to the top. A one-day cheese and breadmaking workshop, and public lunches showcasing their products are just to name a few of her plans.
Above the farm, just at its highest peak, is a vacant greenery. If you wait just a little more patient, you will soon be able to experience sleeping under the brightly lit moon to the chatter of nocturnal insects in their farm. With an architecture background guru in the kitchen, you can expect an intelligently designed, tastefully furnished and thoughtfully rendered room which will be just right, truly. “There won’t be too many rooms, but just enough to share the experience. Nor will the rooms be luxuriously spacious, just large enough to give peace to the rustling in your mind.”
A Little Farm on the Hill made it so strenuous for Butterkicap to leave. It was beyond their kaleidoscope of alluring dishes and idyllic serenity – it’s the beaming poignant and genuine sentiment embedded from their philosophy. Every corner speaks of heart-warming feelings of good living, community building, and culinary pleasure.
Follow them to check for a list of their services and upcoming events bookable on the site. Or better still, join them for a feast. We loved it. You’ll love it even more.
They may call themselves The Little Farm on the Hill, but with their tremendous vision, they may not be so little after all.