What did your family table look like over Chinese New Year?
In Malaysia we would generally have a steam boat – or hotpot - with raw ingredients that you would cook yourself, then sit down around the table and have the hot pot together. Malaysia has a lot of different traditions but, one thing they do in particular, is a salad called Lou Sang (also known as yusheng). Lou Sang is a really fresh salad with shredded vegetables, pickles and raw fish. As they toss the salad, you stand around the table and it goes everywhere. What they are trying to signify is the higher you toss, the more your fortune will grow.
You cooked some incredible food on MasterChef. What is your style of cooking at home?
At the end of the day, MasterChef needed to have standards because it is a competition and people are playing to win. If people only cooked like they do at home, it wouldn’t be exciting for viewers. But if you speak to most chefs or people in food, they’ll tell you that what people really like is stuff that reminds them of something, comfort food – food that makes them happy. That’s the way I like to cook.
Tell us a little about your pop-up restaurant, Chanteen.
Chanteen started at the start of 2018 as a pop-up restaurant in Melbourne for six months. It was part of a rotating kitchen concept at a place called HAWKR. For me, it was a really good introduction to me to hospitality without the massive commitment. That finished up in mid August so I took it on the road and did the Night Noodle Markets in Sydney, then also in Melbourne. Now I am actually planning to set up a new permanent site in the city. The name is TBC but the concept will be the same – Malaysian street food but a little more jazzed up. Watch this space.
Do you have a signature dish?
Harissa Pork belly with sticky sauce, and my mum’s tamarind fish.