Global Kitchen-Malaysian Cooking Demo and Feast
Success! The Global Kitchen Malaysian cooking demonstration was a huge success. I was thrilled, excited, nervous, and vivacious, all at the same time. If it wasn’t for the vibrant energy from the attendees, who seemed to be fully invested in the subject of Malaysian cuisine, I would have been a nervous geek. My heart leaps out to all those who put endless hours of work (Ryan, Leah and Lauren of Global Kitchen NY) in securing this event and all the guests.
The evening began with an interview with Edible Manhattan. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the interview, but it will be available online sometime in October. I started telling the interviewer that cooking is a soulful experience, a sort of interpersonal communication between you and the divine. The cooking process is pathway that is consciously paved by the mind, and as a result, the body follows, all for the purpose of connecting with the higher powers within you. Walking into the kitchen is like walking into a temple or a shrine. You see yourself in everything and everywhere. Soon enough, you become a vessel for interpretation in your culinary journey. I purposely create an exciting environment where people can explore the relationship between themselves and their food. I encourage my guests to know who they are by beginning to state their names firmly and to question why they attended this event and what interested them in cooking. This instilled a sense of urgency in their learning process.
One of the attendees asked me how to become a cook, a burning question for many people. I responded, “No one can make you a cook. No amount of daydreaming will lead you to the kitchen, but if you have the desire to cook, nobody is going to stop you. It takes time, practice and patience. Leave your ego at the door. Learn to forget about yourself and give importance to the ingredients and the cooking process.
I am lucky to have been trained by some of the best instructors, like Chef Guido Magnaguano and Chef Jessica Botta, from the International Culinary Center. My cooking experience is not the only contributor to my success in teaching. I owe much of my talents to my dance teacher, Ms. Mary Anthony (Mary Anthony Dance Theatre), now 96 years old. She taught me the greatest gift, that is, to see and steal with your eyes.
I presented four dishes, Shrimp Satay, Chicken Rendang, Nasi Ulam (herbal rice), Gado-Gado (Indonesian salad with peanut dressing) and Teh Tarik (pulled tea). The recipes explore the most powerful grips of northeast and southwestern Malaysian cuisine. By constantly repeating ingredients, one gets familiarized with unusual elements, such as galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, belachan (fermented shrimp paste), macadamia nuts/candlenuts, and various chilies. These ingredients, used in Malaysian street foods, trace bold flavors that have been dented into a cultural tradition long before European colonization. Hence, they reflect the most historical dishes within the multi-racial communities of Malaysia.
Finally, I concluded the event by stating, “You can teach someone to use the appropriate kitchen tools and techniques, but you can’t teach them how to communicate cooking with their guests. By that, I mean, communication has to come from within, a deep-rooted feeling that is disciplined and fostered. You must be able to reach out and have the desire to give wholeheartedly.” Lastly, a great cook is someone who can oversee the progression of food, from beginning till end, and who is able to experience that process from the deepest part of his being. “Go out, and enjoy the moonlight. See the sun rise. Feel the wind on your skin. Play with fire. Touch the untouchables. Take a risk. Be daring and bold. Make many mistakes. Make big mistakes. Learn from you mistakes. And, get in touch with the animal part of your nature.”