Manic street EATER
He's venturing out of M'sia but TV host Jason Yeoh's passion will always be what locals eat
He has been hailed as the Anthony Bourdain of Malaysia for his passion for unearthing hidden food treasures in his home country.
But for his new show, Jason Yeoh, affectionately known as Axian, is travelling to Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines to explore the local favourites in these countries.
"I'm very curious about what locals eat there as I am not familiar with their culture and cuisine," the affable TV host told M over the phone from Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Yeoh's culinary journeys are documented in new food travelogue Jason Tastes Asia, which premieres on June 23 at 10pm on Asian Food Channel (StarHub TV Ch 435).
The 43-year-old foodie from Penang shares more about his love for street food and the uniqueness of his latest show.
What spurred you to get involved in Jason Tastes Asia?
I love to travel and I believe the more a person travels, the more he gets to learn about a country's culture.
During my research for the show, I was looking at all the countries in South-east Asia.
I don't have many opportunities to travel to the Philippines and I'm curious about what Filipino Chinese eat and whether they have any food in common with Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine.
I'd love to explore Thailand, Myanmar and even Singapore to learn about their food culture. Maybe the next season?
Which country's cuisine stood out during the filming?
Oh, all of them. I love how I was able to try my hand at making banh cuon - a traditional Vietnamese steamed rice roll, like our cheong fun - from scratch. I saw how the rice was ground into batter and then (the rolls were) freshly made in front of you.
In Indonesia, I was schooled in satay, something we are very familiar with in Malaysia and Singapore. Do you know that there are more than 1,000 kinds of satay in Indonesia?
Why do you focus on street food?
Because that's the staple for these countries. That's what the locals eat.
I don't want to go to Indonesia or any other South-east Asian countries and feature pasta. There are a lot of emotions and traditions that are behind each kind of street food.
Maybe it is also because my love for food began with street food as I helped out at my mother's curry laksa stall when I was young.
Street food is also something we can easily prepare at home. For example, anyone can make a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich).
You have produced and hosted many successful food shows such as Taste With Jason and Axian's Food Adventures. Why do you think they are popular with viewers?
I always want to show the people behind the food. I want my shows to feature the point of view of the vendors, and not the customers.
Food shows usually have the host telling viewers how the dishes taste - that's not what I want.
The people behind the dishes are the ones with interesting stories to tell. They are the ones who put in the effort in the preparation (of the food).
I want to tell these real-life stories, to show how they have kept with traditions and how their cultures have influenced their food. I guess people relate to their stories.
I'm very curious about what locals eat there as I am not familiar with their culture and cuisine.
- Jason Yeoh on going to Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines