Crave Sydney International Food Festival is a month of food events across Sydney and regional NSW. It is the month where food bloggers and lovers across Sydney will require to loosen a few buttons and up a couple of clothing sizes. It is the month where gym routines get thrown out of the window and double effort will have to happen in November.
I was really fortunate to have a small taste of Crave SIFF this year with an invite from Malaysia Kitchen to attend the BBQ Madness event in Parramatta. The timing could not have been more perfect. I was up for work the same time as BBQ Madness was on. And to top it off, it is a Labour Day in Sydney which means no work on Monday! Bam!
It took about 35mins by cab (no traffic) to Parramatta from the CBD. Parramatta reminded me of Boxhill except there are much taller office buildings. I got a little lost when the cab driver dropped me off in front of Westfield shopping mall and finally got to the location with help from both Mel & Lochlan from Ogilvy. It felt kind of strange not seeing familiar food bloggers’ faces. All these faces are new and strange (not a bad way). I thought to myself – “I have to start over” Am I excited about it? All the worries vanished when I saw Adam Liaw (Masterchef Winner Season 2), Alvin Quah (Masterchef finalist), Florence Tan (Malaysian celebrity chef) and Wanitha (Malaysia Kitchen Ambassador). I plucked up some courage and got a photo taken with Adam Liaw. I look awkward right? Please forgive because the meet up was 8.45am and I was still half asleep and not had any caffeine yet!
I missed out on Chef Wanitha’s class in April as I was away for our US/Canada trip and so was pumped to check out her cooking demonstration. Chef Wanitha is such a warm and friendly person. Very easy going and extremely entertaining in her cooking demo. The couple of top tips that I learnt from her in the class are:
- When buying nutmeg, make sure that it bought with it’s shell on. I know I know, I am Asian. How can I not know that nutmeg has a shell? Well, I didn’t! So get your nutmeg with the shell on to help retain it’s nutmeg “power”
- Remember to remove the hard outer layer of the lemongrass. Blends well and not tough to eat
And did you know that Belacan or shrimp paste is actually the Malaysian blue cheese?
This is Lord Mayor of Parramatta, Lorraine Wearne, that is helping with the sambal belacan which is one of the most important condiment and ingredient in Malaysian cuisine.
Chef Wanitha cooked the Sotong Bakar (BBQ Calamari) and Ayam Panggang (Grilled Chicken). Very simple dishes and both have a nice chilli kick to wake up all the senses.
Next up was Florence Tan. I will always remember her from the series that Rick Stein did on the Far Eastern Odyssey where he met Florence Tan in Melaka which introduced him to Nyonya cuisine. I remembered the scene where she started bashing the lemongrass with a chopper and the look on Rick Stein’s face was classic! I actually chatted to her about it and she was astonished how I could remember it…. well… my obsessiveness and how I love Rick Stein and Nyonya cuisine in general? And how I have watched that series like about 5 times?
She is exactly how I envisage her to be. Very vibrant. Very real. Very Nyonya! She was so active on stage and super funny. She kept the crowd very entertained. It was her first trip to Sydney and I think she won many hearts that day. Bring her back please! And here is Florence’s top tip of the day: Do not waste the lemongrass. Slice the lemongrass till you hit the part where the purple rings stop. No purple rings = No more fragrant.
Just had to squeeze in a photo of the beautiful aromatics. And look how fat the lemongrass is? The ones in Asia is really skinny but have a lot more flavour. It is usually grown quite wildly or in someone’s backyard. Very accessible.
Florence made 2 dishes as well. One of them was the grilled Otak Otak (spicy fish mousse) and a grilled tofu salad. The tofu salad (rojak) was really easy to make. The key was the sauce which had tamarind paste, chilli, sugar, belacan and loads of fairly fine crushed peanuts. I will definitely be testing out this version of sauce. Very moorish. The Otak was pretty good but I wish that she did not purposely made it less spicy for the general public. The taste was really delicate but good.
I was starving by the time these 2 demos. I headed straight to where all the hawker type stalls were set up. There were tables and benches to cater for the masses. The place was pretty packed and I could just smell all the delicious scents floating in the air. I was hungry. Should I try the curry chicken? Or the basi lemak? Wait, there was grilled panggang chicken and chicken satay and and…. After much deliberation, I settled for a bowl of King prawn Laksa. What’s my verdict? I think Laksa in Melbourne trumps over the one I had in Sydney. Well, it will be challenge for Jeroxie. To find a decent bowl of Laksa in Sydney. Anyone? Any tips?
Despite the rather disappointing bowl of Laksa, it was great to see so many people out here enjoying Malaysian cuisine. The event definitely drew a big crowd. There was massive queues for both tokens and the food. There was a DJ playing decent music. The weather was holding up. And for $5 a token for food, it is so worth it!
It was time to head back to the outdoor amphitheater for Adam Liaw’s demo. It was a super huge crowd. Adam was making Char Kway Teow and Chicken satay.What a big difference between the morning and afternoon sessions. Wanitha and Florence was really engaging with the crowd. Whereas, Adam was being more informative. I know which I prefer. Presenting good cooking demos come with skill and experience.
The tip that I learnt was how to thread the chicken onto the stick properly. Use chicken thigh as it is more tender. Slice them into strips and then thread it through the stick lengthwise.
I did not get to taste the Char Kway Teow or the chicken satay. But here is a shot of the CKT. Fast, quick and easy. Look! There is sambal again. Sambal is just so important in every Malay meal.
Sorry to take a break here but I was totally distracted once Billy Law and Karen (Citrus & Candy) turned up. We have been meaning to catch up since last year! It has been almost a year. And finally, we all caught up in person. Oh Hai! And sorry but we were all just catching up and chatting that we forgot all about the demo or tasting of the food. Also I lost count how many countless people were asking for their photo taken with Billy! The rest of us felt like his groupie or entourage! LOL
If you can’t beat them, join them. And so I requested a group shot with fellow Sydney food bloggers (A table for Two, Belly rumbles, Penguin says Feed me and Everybody loves Ramen). Photo is taken by Karen which is why she is not in frame.
And so I do apologise Alvin! He was the last of the chefs to do a cooking demonstration. Instead of listening to him, we were all chatting and being silly. At one point, I did manage to sit and trying my hardest to concentrate. But it lasted about 2 minutes and I ran off to the food stalls for Ais Kachang. Alas the queue was so long that I gave up. By the time I got back, everyone was distracted again as Florence was chatting with the group. I joined in and never got to taste any of Alvin’s food!
I did end up having a bowl of Ais Kachang by cutting the queue. Thanks Mel again. You are the best-est Ais Kachang is a sweet dessert that is great for summer. It is shaved ice with loads of added yummy ingredients like red bean, grass jelly, sweet corn, mung beans and topped with condense milk and rose syrup. In some parts of Malaysia and also in Singapore, it is usually drizzled with gula melaka. So the question is: Do you prefer it drizzled with rose sryup or gula melaka?
I thoroughly enjoyed my day here at the Malaysia Kitchen BBQ Madness. I got to meet Sydney food bloggers and finally got to meet both Billy and Karen in person. And I learnt new tips of cooking Malaysian cuisine. Bring on summer so that I can have Sotong Bakar (highlight dish) and make that moorish peanut sauce that I’ve just got the recipe from Florence. And also I am so excited to be in Sydney. There will be new Malaysian restaurants to try and I shall be in search for the best bowl of Laksa. Stay tune for more people!
For more photos, please head over to the Malaysian Kitchen BBQ Madness Flickr Album.
Many thanks to Malaysia Kitchen & Ogilvy 360 for the invite and chance to learn from the experts!