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Tag / masterchef

One of the small perks of running this food blog is that sometimes I get invitation to cool events that makes me realized that there are actually people who read this column.

Things got real a week or so ago when I got to meet one of the most recognizable faces on TV, especially for those who loves food. Yeap, we got to sample a four course dinner prepared by Chef George Calombaris, one of the judges of MasterChef Australia.

MasterChef Australia Judge George Calombaris in KL
MasterChef Australia Judge George Calombaris in KL

First, the important bit.

The latest season of MasterChef Australia is aired on Lifetime (Astro Channel 709) every weeknights at 7 pm and 11 pm. If you’re a fan of this show, be sure not to miss it.

George was brought in by A+E Networks who runs Lifetime for a promotional tour of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta, and a lucky few of us got the privilege to be invited to this event.

A once in a lifetime chance for us to judge the judge, I guess?

chicken parfait with bitter chocolate baklava
chicken parfait with bitter chocolate baklava

The first dish of the night was chicken parfait with bitter chocolate baklava, coffee, cumquat, pickled onion and pumpkin seeds.

Yeap, a pretty weird combination of ingredients, and you could mistaken it for a dessert since the parfait actually looks a bit like a scoop of ice cream in the photo. However, they do compliment each other to offer a pretty interesting experience that I find myself enjoying.

green Greek salad with stir fry abalone
green Greek salad with stir fry abalone

Second dish was green greek salad with stir fry abalone, George Calombaris has a Greek heritage, and Australia produces quite a bit of abalone, so put two and two together, you get this dish.

I love the contrasting texture of the puree, slices of asparagus, crispy kale, and of course, those abalone certainly contributed to add a dimension of richness.

poached chicken with miso hummuspoached chicken with miso hummus and green mango salad

The chef certainly does not shy off from experimenting with food. Our main dish was another creation that has elements of different cuisines all rolled into one.

The chicken meat is marinated before rolled into a cylinder and poached while secured in cling wrap, then there’s the miso hummus that has a hint of horse radish (or wasabi?) to it. Together with the green mango salad, you basically get to taste at least 3-4 different cuisines all in one.

This is a dish that I sorta struggled to enjoy, but I admire the bravery and adventurous nature of the chef, without the trailblazers like him, food would not progress.

chocolate cake
chocolate cake

My favorite dish turned out to be the dessert, what George Calomboris refer to simply as – chocolate cake. The richness of the chocolate cake, chocolate sauce, dark chocolate soil, chocolate ice cream, and some sweet foam all worked in a wonderful harmony that left us with a very sweet and fond memory, where can I order one of this?

babeinthecityKL and Kelly were among the audience to go up on stage with George Calombaris
babeinthecityKL and Kelly were among the audience to go up on stage with George Calombaris

The good chef also answered some questions from the audience, with my partner of the night and colleague Kelly asking George about his favorite dishes sampled in Malaysia (rojak). It was a wonderful night and yeap, this guy definitely is very well qualified to be judging anyone’s food.

I would like to thanks Rubini, Janet, Hui Jun, the good people of A+E Networks Asia for this opportunity.

This post is a little bit late, considering Christmas is actually sorta.. well, over, but better late than never, right?

A couple weeks ago I was invited to probably the biggest Merry Guinness event at Double Tree by Hilton in KL, featuring the winner of MasterChef Australia season 2 – Adam Liaw. Guinness & good food? I can’t resist, even though it meant that I had to braved the KL traffic on a weekday to get to this place.

Merry Guinness with chef Adam Liaw
Merry Guinness with chef Adam Liaw, Kelly Siew at lower right

A kitchen was set up in the main banquet hall, with chef Adam Liaw demonstrating how many of the Guinness infused dishes served for the night is created. While we waited for the dishes to get ready, unlimited rounds of Guinness were being served.

Good life yah?

oysters, chicken and egg terrine, squid, lamb shank pie, graved lax
oysters, chicken and egg terrine, squid, lamb shank pie, gravad lax

As for the food, we were actually served over a dozen different dishes over the course of the night, and yes, I was stuffed at the end of the night. Here’s the menu in two parts:

Chef Adam’s Inspired Menu

  • Farmhouse chicken and egg terrine with Guinness mustard
  • Oyster with Guinness cream
  • Crispy squid with chili Guinness salt
  • Open Guinness lamb shank and mushroom pie with champ with watercress salad
  • Guinness butter roasted chicken
  • Guinness BBQ wings apple slaw
  • Guinness and fruit Christmas pudding
  • Sweet Guinness damper with blackberry maple compote

Guinness butter roasted chicken, Christmas vegetable
Guinness butter roasted chicken, Christmas vegetable

The second part of the menu, Christmas Feast:

  • Gravad lax with dill honey mustard
  • Roast pumpkin soup with julienne smoked duck
  • Roast turkey roulade with chestnut stuffing, giblet and cranberry sauce
  • Christmas vegetables
  • Christmas pudding with vanilla sauce
  • Christmas minced pies
  • Black forest pudding with cream cheese frosting

roast pumpkin soup with julienne smoked duck, Christmas pudding, BBQ wings
roast pumpkin soup with julienne smoked duck,
Christmas pudding, BBQ wings

Many of the dishes were excellent, I particularly think that the sauce for gravad lax and oysters were executed to perfection. Chicken and egg terrine were interesting but tasted slightly foreign to me, and the wings & buttered chicken would perhaps be that much better if served warm (the room was too cold I guess, and they didn’t really serve it with heated plates).

The squid too was perfect as finger food to go with Guinness, but ultimately there were really just way too much food for my stomach that I actually skipped desserts.

desserts & drinks, Nigel, Michael, Wilson, and yours truly
desserts & drinks, Nigel, Michael, Wilson, and yours truly mucking around

This was another rather awesome event by Guinness, and it is a shame that we can’t order some of these creations by chef Adam Liaw anywhere in the country. Perhaps some pub owners will take note and incorporate some of the ideas into their menu (oysters & the gravad lax please!)

And by the way, hope you had a great xmas and Happy New Year!

For the cooking competition fans, most of you is undoubtedly aware that MasterChef Malaysia is now in full swing on Astro in the following time slot:

  • Astro Ria (104): Saturday to Wednesday 9 pm
  • StarWorld (711): Thursday 9:50pm
  • Website:

Masterchef Malaysia

For the uninitiated, MasterChef Malaysia is the reality cooking competition that was originally started in the UK and now found its way in dozens of countries. Participants in MasterChef are not professional chefs but everyday people who aspire to venture into culinary industry, or who just really enjoy cooking, people like you and me.

This is the first time we have MasterChef competition it in Malaysia

p/s: there was also a Bloggers’ Masterchef Challenge  where I was involved as a judge *bow*

MasterChef contestants

As of writing, there were only 19 contestants still vying to be the first ever MasterChef Malaysia.

There are several things to like in MasterChef Malaysia as compared to other cooking shows. First and foremost, of course, this contests involves everyday people who are just like you and me, and they are all local.

masterchef skills tests

Secondly, you can also learn a lot from this show. Not only from the recipes that can be found on the website, but also some of the skills you can learn from the skills tests as well. The proper way to separate egg white from egg yolk, the way to dice onions, etc.

Finally, MasterChef exudes a very positive environment where learning is encouraged and there isn’t any showboating or stabbing at the back like you would find in many other reality show. There are even tasks where contestants have to work together in teams to get through to the next round.

To me, this is much better than those ME FIRST attitude that is found in other shows.

Chef Kenny and Chef Johari

My favorite chefs from MasterChef are Chef Kenny and Chef Johari. If you’re old enough, you might remember the Baba and Nyonya show (Big Bibik) on TV from eons ago where Chef Kenny was always in drag. I actually didn’t know that Chef Kenny is a chef until I watched the episod featuring him as a guest chef, what a surprise.

Chef Johari almost always encourages the contestants and basically the polar opposite of personalities like Simon from Ameirican Idol. I think with that’s going on in the world, we can have a little less nasties these days. Furthermore, Chef Johari is the most senior of all chef on the judges panel.

Masterchef contestant Felix

As for my favorite contestant, it’s gotta be Felix Tay, who shares the same home town with me – Penang!

I think the guy has got a really good shot at becoming the very first MasterChef Malaysia, and you can’t fault me for supporting a my own hometown boy who has shown flashes of skills in the MasterChef kitchen.

Felix's chili invention test

Which brings us to my favorite dish at MasterChef Malaysia thus far – Felix’s dish in the chili invention test. The judges all loved this dish, and what intrigued me in this dish is the ingredients used – guacamole sauce as the bed, fish, and plenty of chili. I’ve never had guacamole with something spicy before and this really looks interesting, don’t you think?

unforgettable masterchef moment

One moment that stood out at MasterChef Malaysia, for me, was the onion challenge in the first round. The situation was very similar to the same challenge that happened in the blogger’s masterchef challenge version – a lot of people accidentally cut their fingers, crying from cutting onions, and then of course, the very first few people who were eliminated at the end of the first episod.

Ultimately, what I want to see from MasteChef Malaysia is how the winner progresses in the culinary field here in Malaysia, will he/she open a restaurant? or have a cooking program on TV? changes entire career path?

And more importantly, will I be invited to have a taste of the winner’s cooking ultimately? 😀

We can only wait, but in the mean time, MasterChef Malaysia is running a facebook contest starting on the 19th of November, 2011. Be sure to take part on


There’s weekly prizes of RM 500 and 4GB MasterChef pendrive, and final prizes of iPad, induction cooker, cash, and more! Do check it out.

Good luck!

Over the first three weeks of October, I was involved in the Malaysia’s First Ever Blogger MasterChef Challenge, an event by Astro Ria to promote MasteChef Malaysia that is currently aired on Astro Ria channel 104.

For those who are in the dark all these while, MasterChef is a cooking reality show originally started in UK and now found its way to a few dozen countries, including Malaysia! The competition only allows amateur cooks to compete, the participants are everyday people who shares a passion for cooking.

You can catch MasterChef Malaysia on Astro Ria, the details as follow:

  • MasterChef TX will be starting from 22nd October 2011, every Saturday – Wednesday, 9.00pm. Master Class will be on every Friday, 9.00pm.

blogger masterchef challenge

The Blogger MasterChef event had 40 participants broken into 2 sessions, with the top 5 from each session compete at the final. Together with a professional chef (Chef Ryan Khang) and a representative from Astro Ria (Azlin Reza Azmi), yours truly was also chosen as one of the judges in this competition.

While the TV version has amateur cooks participating in it. Participants from this version are all bloggers.

GROUP 1 – 1/10/2011 – The Cooking House

The ingredients for the first 20 participants was chicken breast. Participants were given 2 slabs of chicken breast, a variety of ingredients, and condiments, a frying pan, and one hour to work with.

Other than the frying pan, there were also oven and microwave. There was no limit in the number of ingredients one can use either.

The above are just four of the 20 dishes, and to be honest I was very impressed. Many of these dishes not only tasted good, they look quite awesome too.

There were dishes with distinctive Malaysian taste, while others looked like something out of a high class restaurant. Chicken breast isn’t one of my favorite, but I took a few extra servings from some of these dishes.

Scoring on the invention test (the dish) was separated into 2 categories – maximum of 10 points for presentation, and another 10 for taste. For the skill test, Chef Ryan showed the contestants the proper way to make a poached egg (the instructions here), and another maximum of 10 points can be obtained.

This was my first stint as a judge in any competition, and short listing the top 5 from a group of 20 turned out to be a tougher job than I imagined, after tallying and some deliberation, we finally got it. It wasn’t an easy decision.

GROUP 2 – 8/10/2011 – The Cooking House

For the second group of 20 participants, instead of chicken breast, the main ingredient was fresh prawns.

While prawns are faster to cook and perhaps easier to season, the participants had to time their dish properly to ensure that the seafood does not stay on the table for too long before served.

Again, there were a lot of different creative ideas exhibited in this round. My particular favorites being the prawns lollipop on pineapple (pic above, bottom right corner) and the lemongrass prawn paste satay. Good stuff!

Raqim Ahmad from Astro Ria replaced Azlin as the judge in this round, after another poached egg skills test, we arrived at the final 5 contestants for the final round.

FINAL – 15/10/2011 – SACC Mall, Shah Alam

The final for the First Ever Blogger MasterChef was a much bigger deal, the venue was at the entrance of SACC Mall in Shah Alam. A stage was set up with 2 rows of temporary “kitchen” prepared for our 10 short listed contestants, and there was also the famous host, Zainal Alam Kadir from Astro emceeing for the event.

I think the invention challenge of the day threw a lot of contestants off a little, the content of the Mystery Box was  none other than the one ingredient most of us had never handled before – Avocado.

Personally I’ve only had avocado in sushi and in Carl’s Junior’s burger (guacamole sauce). If I was competing, I’d probably had to google for a recipe (cheating already, hahaha)

The format of the competition was also slightly different, while there were many different condiments and secondary ingredients to choose from in the first two rounds, there were only 20 different ingredients/condiments in which each contestants was only allowed to choose 10 items within 30 seconds.

The limitation though, brought the best out of the participants.

Check out some of the dishes that the contestants managed to conjure up with. On the top left we have something that looks like a salad but with pancake ribbon (ultimately the winning dish), on the top right there’s the avocado “sushi” using egg as the skin and bread as the “rice”. It was another exhibition of creativity and cooking skills.

For the skill test, Chef Kerlley (replacing Chef Ryan) demonstrated a professional way to dice onion, and the contestants were given 15 onions each to see how many they could dice up in 10 minutes. At the end, no one managed to dice more than 3-4 onions, and 6 of the 10 contestants somehow managed to cut their fingers with the supplied ceramic knife.

I suppose this is to show that these are all amateur cooks, no? 😀

After some deliberation and tallying up the score, Yip Wan Yee was crowned the winner of the First Ever Blogger MasterChef Challenge, and she deserved it! To me her dish was not only creative, but nicely presented and tasted rather good too.

Wawa was the first runner up with her Mini Roti Puri filled with Avocado Custard on top of Creme Patissiere and top with Chocolate Ganache, not because of the longest dish name but for her daring attempt in the only pastry dish of the day, and it worked.

Mohd Zaid walked away with the best MasterChef Buzz blogger award, while the rest of the contestants received consolation prizes.

It was a pretty sweet competition, and really showcase the ability of so many young Malaysians’ cooking prowess. Now let me get back to the kitchen!