Dimsum was a childhood treat for British TV chef Rachel Khoo
Celebrity Chow with British TV chef and author Rachel Khoo
She spent most of her life in England, but Rachel Khoo is no stranger to the delectable tastes and textures of Cantonese cuisine.
The 35-year-old British TV chef and author of seven cookbooks, whose dad is Malaysian-Chinese and mum Austrian, never strayed far from her Chinese roots, thanks to her immense love for food.
"Growing up in London in the 1980s, (I would go with) my family for dimsum every Sunday," she recalled fondly over lunch with M at Mandarin Oriental Hotel's Cantonese restaurant Cherry Garden last Friday.
"We would go to these eateries where the waitresses would push trolleys packed with trays of dimsum. I loved it. As a kid, it was just fascinating. I was always peering into the trolleys.
"Dimsum was a real treat for us, it was something my brother and I looked forward to."
As she tucked into har gao (prawn dumplings) and siew mai (pork dumplings), she added with a laugh: "I also like wonton mee, especially the pickled chillies served with it.
"I have a thing for pickled chillies. They're spicy, sweet and sour all at once and they're so good I can eat them out of a jar. I even make my own."
Khoo, who trained in pastry-making at prestigious culinary academy Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, was in town to promote her new BBC infotainment series Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook: Melbourne.
It airs on weekdays at 4.10pm on BBC Lifestyle (StarHub Ch 432). The repeat telecast will start from May 25 at 11.20pm every Wednesday.
Besides the dimsum items, you're having other dishes such as fried rice, BBQ roast pork, sweet and sour soup and yam custard buns. Any standouts?
I really love the roast pork, it's crisp and crunchy on the top and the fatty meat is delicious. As for the dimsum, I like the fact that the skin (of the dumplings) is thin, not too thick.
The sweet and sour soup is great too, with its complex flavours. Sweet, sour, a bit of spice. Very yummy.
Coming from a family with a mixed cultural heritage, what are some of your favourite English, Austrian and Malaysian foods?
British food brings back nostalgic memories, like the Sunday roast my mum used to do, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and fish and chips by the beach with awful weather. (Laughs) It's comforting, heartwarming food.
From Austria, I love cheese, schnitzel, apple strudel and Sacher Torte (Austrian chocolate cake). I think that's where I got my baking side. My Austrian grandmother loved to bake.
My dad loves sambal and chillies, and I definitely inherited that from him. One of my all-time favourite Malaysian dish is beef rendang.
Do you enjoy our local hawker fare too?
Oh yes! I've lost count of how many times I've been to Singapore. (Laughs) I have cousins living here and they are the ones who take me around.
Last night, they took me to Chomp Chomp at Serangoon Garden. It was good fun! It's hot and sticky, and everyone's just shouting, "Order this, order that". We had sambal stingray, sambal petai (stinky beans) and of course, satay. You can't visit Singapore and not try satay.
This morning, I had chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes with preserved radish) for the first time. It's amazing. I also like chicken rice, which I feel is a simple, humble yet flavourful dish.
Singapore cuisine is aromatic and the dishes are kind of similar to Malaysian cuisine. So even though I'm a foreigner, I feel quite at home here.
What made you decide to place Melbourne as the focus of your new TV show?
My affinity with Melbourne started seven years ago, when I opened a pop-up restaurant there as part of a design festival. I love the city, it has a really diverse food culture and there were people from Greece, Italy and Asia, all working in F&B.
So when BBC Worldwide approached me to do the show, I was like, "Sure, where do I sign? What an amazing opportunity."
I got to stay in Melbourne for two months and interact with so many interesting people, like a fisherman who grows mussels in the countryside and this guy who started a community garden on top of a carpark.