Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Endless Surprises

I think I speak for everyone when I say we all took a chance when taking part in The R.AGE Food Fight competition. We invested time, resources, and did whatever we could to intrigue the judges knowing very well the chances are not going to be high. It was indeed a free for all, and my somewhat late entry felt like it might go unnoticed in the already filled pond of talented foodies. Boy was I wrong!!! I was over the moon when I got the news and overjoyed to know I was one of the finalists. Unable to contain my excitement, I started whacking and slapping my brother who was next to me and that surprised him too! After a few seconds of screaming, with happiness and my brother in pain (but mostly annoyance), I came to realise how lucky I was and how down others might feel.

Now is when the real “fight” starts and the fantastic five face off to knock each other out, to see who will stand victorious *evil laughs*.

Introducing the Foodtastic Five -From the left we have Ayam Masak Merah Kelly, The Hummingbird Lianne, the Chocolaty Fondant Ashley, me the Spicy Pineapple Nuril (I didn’t want to call myself a Prawn) and in the background, The Thing aka double fried kunyit chicken Ahong. All the judges refer to us according to what we cooked! Very funny! Thank god I didn’t submit a video for making “sex on the beach”. Lol.  

All geared up and ready for battle we decide to hold the first session in Le Cordon Bleu Sunway. In my mind we would be whisking sabayonne and clarifying consommes, but the R.AGE team had other plans. We were told to prepare the dish we proposed to cook for the finale... *sweat drops*... under the watchful eye of fellow judge Rudolp Onno of Le Cordon Bleu.*more sweat drops*

After Chef Liang briefs and entertains us with his quick air piano performance, we get cooking. 
Chef Rudolph says that most importantly, to cook with your heart. 
Me plating up
Li-Anne and I keeping cool

Ashley kena marah...
just kidding, Chef Onno advising on ice cream preparation

Now want to see what we all came up with? This is my critique on what the others cooked.

Ahong’s Roast Chicken. Let’s face it, this guy can cook and when the clock started he strapped on his Adidas head band like he was ready to take on Rocky Balboa. Our perplexed sentiments reflected his expression, finding the juicy chicken and sweetish curry-like sauce very unique.  I can’t comment on his vegetable medley as I didn’t get to taste it, but his rice was fragrant and fluffy, similar to Fan in Kai Fan. I do agree with Chef Onno’s comment on reducing the quantity of the sauce and allowing the other components, like the vegetables and chicken, to stand out more. Nevertheless, it was plated elegantly classic and needs little improvement. Ahong’s portions are big and full of character, much like himself, but he knows what he’s doing. 

                                                                                                            Next we have the sassy Kelly, with her rather adventurous take on a prawn starter. This dish may look simple but it bursts with tropical and Mediterranean flavours. It starts with a foundation of an almond-based shortcrust smeared with an earthy olive paste. Topped with some stewed pineapple and is then finished off with a lovely pair of succulent prawns. The final drizzle of her herb mayo reminds you that this is a take on a prawn cocktail but
with more pronounced flavours. I enjoyed
it, and you could even make it smaller and
serve it as a canape. It's a really good effort for
someone who is not a trained cook.
The dish is great and the only negative
thing I could say is that I simply felt the prawns
were ever so slightly on the chewy
 Dont let her sweet smile and marvel hair fool you, she may be called the Hummingbird but she stings like a bee and she has her wardrobe to prove it. When they say food always reflects the personality of the cook, I find Li-Anne's Pumpkin Cake with Ice cream and honey comb crumble did exactly that. It was warm, sweet, full of character and brightly coloured. I particularly loved the crunch the walnuts provided in the cake and it was very brave to want to do honey comb in such short time, but that *is* what bees do, after all. I think it worked out brilliantly, the crust was a little brown but I personally like my baked goods to have more colour so it was all good for me. I would not pass out a chance to have this dessert again, preferably on a rainy Saturday afternoon while sipping some Earl Grey, with Lianne right by my side calling one another pumpkin

       Last but not least it's Ashley, with her modern take on a tuna tartare. The gamey tuna was paired with cubed watermelon, which plays ricks on you, as it was camouflaged to blend in with the tuna chunks. I think this was an excellent effort and a really cool starter thanks to floral Basil ice cream. The Ice cream was a little soft but the deep floral notes of the basil definitely compliment the dish. Almost like what you see in some gastro-pubs, less in more and that you do not actually want to distract people from nature’s bounty, the tuna! 


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Friday, 25 September 2015

Prawn & Pineapple Gulai

The dish that I am sharing with all of you is a rustic northern malay curry or what we call gulai. This being my first ever attempt to post something original, I thought a dish with a bunch of spices, coconut, tropical fruit, and ginormous prawns would truly represent the Malaysian palate. At the same time its quick, foolproof and simple enough to avoid any sort of embarrassment in the kitchen or in front of camera.

Now before I get into the finer details of the recipe, which is quite straight forward, really... allow me to bore you further with a short history lesson on how this style of food actually came about.
For over 200 years, the Straits of Melacca had always been a hub for international trade and particularly in the north, now the state of Penang, attracted traders from Fukien with other parts of China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Middle East. After wealthy merchants and the British Empire plundered our natural resources, we were left with a strong and competitive economy ready to handle the hurdles of a developing nation.

Another result is George Town evolved to be a cosmopolitan island of different communities from mixed heritage where everyone takes their food a bit too seriously. Peranakans are a mix of a local Malay and a Straits settler, but when they are of muslim origin they would be called Jawi Peranakan. Similar to the Nyonya and Baba of Melaka who have Straits Chinese and Malay lineage, Jawi Peranakan food, which is very unique to Penang and is built upon the foundations of Malay food and South East Asian cooking, but with a strong influence of spices and herbs from Indian and Arab traders.
All these points are very noticeable in this dish. It starts with beautifully grown local produce, orange sweet potatoes and ripe pineapple, which adds sweetness and body, followed with a light yellow spice mix of turmeric, fennel seeds, pepper, fenugreek and cardamom or what we call Rempah. In this dish, we use rempah specific for cooking seafood and not the fish or meat spice mix which tends to have more chili, coriander seeds and cumin. The spices are further mellowed down with the use of coconut milk and lemongrass intensifies the citrus fragrance. The flavouring ingredients like onions, garlic, ginger are pounded into a paste and simmered, very different from most curries which usually start with oil and browning onions with spices, and not the other way around. Then, after cleaning some healthy looking prawns, gently place them in the simmering liquid.
What really brings this dish to a different level of deliciousness is the art of tumis bujang. In chefy terms its called tempering, and to temper hot oil separately and brown the aromatic ingredients which include onions, curry leaves and dried chili and pouring in on top of the ready curry as a finale is a very common practice in Malaysia and a known technique of Indian cooking. Palm oil is great for tempering as it is able to tolerate higher temperatures before it starts smoking unlike olive oil which would also add a peculiar taste to the dish.   
I hope that for those of you who are getting into cooking, this would be a dish worth trying, a sure crowd winner and preparation time is less than an hour. For the readers who are familiar with gulais, I am very sure this would bring back some nostalgia and urge you further to balik kampung up North.
*Tip No 1 -This dish goes very well with Crab, shellfish and my favourite, Salted Queenfish.

*Tip No 2 -Pineapple gives out sweetness but absorbs salt so make sure you season accordingly.