I must profess to rather enjoying the cooking competition series Masterchef, which is now back on TV, though I can only catch half an episode at most as the scheduling clashes with Alex’s bath time.
The other night they had a challenge to recreate their fondest childhood food memories. Gosh, that would have been a challenge for me. Mum and dad cooked some okay food, but I cook and eat a whole lot better these days. Unsurprisingly, the challenge was won by Alvin, a Malaysian born contestant.
I say unsurprisingly because I contrast my childhood food experiences with that of my Malaysian wife. Food is possibly the single most important aspect of their culture. It’s more than just laksas and curries. There are influences from India, Thailand, the West and the many provinces of China and the Arabs. The fusion of the Chinese and Malays with the Nyonya cuisine is an example. There are sweets and flatbreads, fruits and spices, noodles and soups. When we visit Malaysia it is mainly to eat!
Not only did B’s parents own a restaurant and catering business, but eating out both at restaurants and the very cheap hawker stalls is very normal in Malaysia. And when they do cook themselves it is often a feast of many dishes.
Last year’s winner of Masterchef was Julie Goodwin. B bought her recently released recipe book and soon regretted it. You can see why she writes for Women’s Weekly as her dishes are old fashioned Australia. Simple, heavy flavours that do not challenge the palate. Easy to cook comfort food. There is a place for that, but the recipe book was redundant.
The runner up, Poh Ling Yeow, also a Malaysian, is the exact opposite. She loves to experiment, while still exploring her culinary heritage. Plus her recipes and video are available for free on the ABC website.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to eat the wonderful meals dished up by my masterchef Malaysian wife (and try to contribute where I can!).