Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time at Great World City attending some of the Asian Masters Masterchef Workshops.
Most of these chefs come from colorful backgrounds and now cook in famous restaurants, so it’s nice to see them simplify things once in awhile, to allow the home cook the opportunity of producing restaurant quality taste, without all the bells and whistles normally associated with a stiff restaurant setting.
On Saturday, I dropped in on Chef Robin Ho’s workshop. Friends going back a few years, I have always admired Chef Robin’s undying passion for his job. Now Group Executive Chef of Prive Group, Chef Robin has never let go of the fact that he is a Chef first, and an administrator second. He likes being in the kitchen, and continues to be around in the kitchen during service hours, whenever his time permits.
For the Masterchef Workshop, Chef Robin prepared 2 dishes with meat from Meat and Livestock Australia. Catering to the festive season which is right around the corner, Chef Robin angled both his dishes to be suitable to be prepared for home parties. Not too complicated, not too fussy, not too much time required, but all the while bursting with flavour and looking pretty on a plate. His Asian-Style Beef Salad with Herbs and Peanuts is a common dish across many cultures in asia and Chef Robin’s version was a combination of those experiences. With a diverse variety of ingredients from Fish Sauce to Brown Sugar, Mint Leaves to Japanese Cucumber, Chef Robin’s Beef Salad was a sight to behold and boy was the taste great. Based off a Nam Jim Dressing, the salad had the chewiness provided by the beef (Sirloin Cut), a slight spice from the herb combination, and notes of zest courtesy of 2 Limes, zested and juiced during the preparation process. So detailed was Chef Robin in his explanation that he even suggested the “thai style of squeezing limes”, leaving the seeded portion out.
Next up, Australian Lamb Tikka in Shooters with Green Chilli and Minted Yoghurt. Presented as skewered logs of lamb in a shooter glass, this dish was a big hit with me. So much so that the fiancee has required that I prepare this dish for her one day. Oh no. But, armed with Chef Robin’s Recipe, I should do just fine. As you can see in the pictures below, this dish is perfect for dinner parties, with little fuss and filled with so much goodness.
On Sunday, I had the chance to attend Chef Louis Tay’s workshop, as well as Chef Martin Foo’s workshop.
Chef Louis Tay is no stranger to the local chef community, having played a huge part in putting Singapore on the map in the world of culinary competitions. From a successful competitor in the IKA Olympics to being a judge for various cooking competitions and even a presenting chef in a tribute to the famous James Beard, this chef of 31 years has seen it all, cooked it all, and tasted it all.
For the fortunate participants of his workshop, Chef Louis first presented his Ayam Panggang, a very popular dish in Malay cuisine. To me, the beauty of this dish is that the final step in the process can be done either by Baking or Pan-frying, thereby catering to different preferences. Choosing to bake during the demonstration, Chef Louis’s Ayam Panggang brought out the fragrance of the spices used in the marinate. These included garlic, shallots, yellow ginger powder, belachan and lemongrass, just to name a few.
Next up, a very homely rendition of Turkey Stew. The interesting part of this dish was the use of Turkey Leg instead of the more common Turkey Breast we tend to see in supermarkets. With the combination of thyme, parsley and other herbs, plus the natural goodness from the celery, carrot, bacon and mushrooms, I think we can count on this dish being a common sight on the dinner tables of those present for the workshop that day.
Next up, Chef Martin Foo. As Executive Chef of Tung Lok Group’s Tong Le Private Dining at OUE Tower, Chef Martin is no stranger to the world of culinary demonstrations, as the audience soon found out. Working his expertise with the traditional chinese cleaver and claypots, Chef Martin expertly whipped up two classic dishesin the short span of 40 minutes, including exchanging banter with the host and addressing the crowd. Most worthy of highlighting was the Poached Abalone and Drunken Chicken in Chinese Herbs. Prepared with succulent USA Chicken Thighs which are free of any unnatural products and practices, this dish cooked in a claypot was a real homerun. Each mouth of the broth brought to life the elements of the Live South African Abalone, Jia Fan Hua Diao Chinese Wine, and classic chinese herbal ingredients such as Wolfberries, Longans, Codonopsis and Red Dates. AMAZING dish.
As one of the few chefs in this series of workshops who did almost everything from scratch on the spot, Chef Martin has made me a fan, and I will be looking out for his name in time to come!
To me, the entire Asian Masters Masterchef Workshop series was a great opportunity for those of us who would like a more intimate look of what goes into creating a dish. From preparation, to cooking and presentation, all the dishes were presented for photography, as what you’d expect to see on a plate when a dish is served to you in a restaurant. On top of that, the tasting portions that were handed out to the audience also made a lasting impression, as a key difference between watching a cooking show on tv and watching one life, taking in the sights, smells, and of course, the taste of the ingredients used.
Now, the next step would be to try out some of the recipes presented at the workshop. Watch this space for my escapades at trying my hand on these dishes!