Malaysian Chefs

Photo: The Peak Malaysia

Malaysia’s dining scene is not short of top talents who are bringing their own unique take on Malaysian cuisine to the table. We chat with three chefs about their favourite local ingredients and the special memories they hold.

1. Chef Shaun Ng Yi, Hide KL 

My favourite local ingredient to cook with would most probably be fiddleheads or pucuk paku. It’s the first thing that came to mind and I think the flavour and texture of the vegetable are just so unique to me. We’ve done multiple applications of it at Hide through the years, grilling, sautéing, steaming, and blanching…they’re all delicious! 

My first memory of this ingredient is my grandmother bringing it home from the market and cooking it. Having it for the first time was mind-blowing to me, as I used to hate vegetables but this one brought out a whole new world of flavours to me.

My favourite method of preparing this ingredient would probably be to grill it over the open flames. The smokiness that it imparts to the vegetable is something that I definitely adore.

Pucuk paku was previously on our menu, it was in a Thai-inspired dish which was pan-seared lobster, a variation of two curries with a pucuk paku salad. 

I’m a very simple person at home. Just a simple stir fry topped with minced garlic on a bed of rice would be a go-to comfort dish for me.

2. Chef Jun Wong, Yellow Fin Horse 

It’s difficult to pinpoint a single ingredient, but I think coriander pairs well with various ingredients and flavours. Aside from this, Malaysia’s orang asli have access to very good wild produce from the jungle such as Tualang honey and jungle garlic, both of which we use in our cocktails. 

From a young age, I have always loved anything “Asian” tasting and green, like coriander, which is quite strange for a kid. It’s also commonly used in Malaysian dishes and I love how coriander’s strong fragrance and flavour make it the perfect garnish for any dish.  

I love anything prepared in the raw Malaysian salad style, such as Ulam or Kerabu. 

Coriander is featured quite heavily on our menu at Yellow Fin Horse, such as in our Aguachile, and YFH Chicken Rice Chilli. 

Kerabu-style salad is always a great idea. Throw in some cold glass noodles and you’ll have a refreshing appetiser. 

3. Chef Mui Kai Quan, Shhhbuuuleee and ChoCha Foodstore 

My favourite local ingredient to cook with is mustard greens – it is a very versatile vegetable to cook with. It can be the main star of the dish itself or it can also make a great component when added to meats. It’s also a great ingredient to turn into condiments. 

I didn’t like mustard greens when I was younger, as it is very bitter and mustardy and it can taste unpleasant when not cooked properly. When I was growing up, my mum used to grow them in the garden and braise the young mustard greens together with a whole duck, which makes the perfect combination to eat with rice. 

I love to salt-cure the mustard greens and ferment them with garlic, white soy sauce and kombu. I’d suggest slicing them thinly as they can be quite pungent and strong, then simply add them as toppings to your porridge. It’s amazing!

On our menuwe have the salt-cured mustard greens fermented with garlic, white soy sauce and kombu. We slice them thinly and add the mixture into salted green chillies as well. This dish is on Shhhbuuuleee’s menu at the moment. We also have a wild snapper grilled over coals, served with a congee made of barley, fish maw, dried seafood and thickened with pumpkin purée. This is then seasoned with the salted mustard greens condiment to be topped onto the congee and served with the fish. 

I would always suggest using young mustard greens as they are less bitter and are crunchier and lighter. Simply braise the mustard greens together with either chicken or beef and it makes the perfect stew dish. Just be mindful to not overcook it! 

This article first appeared on The Peak Malaysia.