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Friday, October 09, 2009

Interview with Poh Ling Yeow - before and after Masterchef


Image from thesecretrecipe.com.au

When I was very little I used to shred my graph paper and pretend I was a hawker stall vendor selling noodles instead of paying attention in maths class.
- Poh Ling Yeow

With Celebrity Masterchef currently on our television screens, it's hard not to reminisice about the Masterchef contestants from the original season. Runner-up Poh Ling Yeow was perhaps one of the most memorable, and played a key role in the audience's reinvigorated hunger for good food.

Poh showed Australians that mock-meat made from flour and water (Buddha's Delight) could be tantalising, delighted in awakening George Calombaris' nostrils to the complexity of century egg, and made "cubic noodles" and "abacus beads" the new must-finds for the show's loyal followers.

In November, Poh will commence filming a new show "Poh's Kitchen" for the ABC, roaming across Australia in search of fresh produce and then cooking it with guest chefs. She has also signed a two book deal with ABC Books. The first cookbook is expected to be available late next year.

In the meantime, Poh is looking for a Secret Recipe that could win you a $20,000 kitchen makeover from Matchbox. I interviewed Poh to find out more...



Image from thesecretrecipe.com.au

10 Questions with Poh Ling Yeow

1. How has life changed for you since MasterChef? What have you been up to?

I guess the main difference is the media attention. I'm now getting professional work in the food industry and a lot of recipe writing, but apart from that I'm trying to keep my life as similar to what it was before Masterchef, simply because I already loved it. I’m also painting feverishly towards my exhibition in November.

2. What is the Secret Recipe search about? What are you looking for?

The secret recipe search is about finding a recipe that has an interesting story. The recipe itself doesn't necessarily have to be incredibly unique - it can be something quite humble but with some depth to its history.

3. As a first-generation Australian, I often think wistfully about the Chinese dishes my grandma used to make but now seem lost forever. Are there any dishes you're keen to preserve and pass on?

I completely identify with that feeling you are describing and the cookbooks I want to write are all about preserving family recipes, so yes there are literally hundreds of dishes I'm planning on recording.

4. How much did food and cooking play a role in your upbringing? Is cooking more than just preparing sustenance?

Food and cooking played a huge part of my upbringing as someone from a Chinese-Malaysian heritage. There is no way you could avoid it in that multicultural hotpot of Malay, Indian and Chinese - it makes for a truly diverse and interesting cuisine. For me it’s definitely more than fueling your body. It's about nurturing those you love, and, for me in particular, it's about getting in touch with my cultural roots which are regrettably, hanging by a thread!

5. Is there a food or smell that instantly transports you back to your childhood?

Definitely! Pandan, toasting belachan, durian, salted mackerel getting deep fried and the stench of the wet markets in Malaysia - there are too many!

6. What was a typical packed lunch for you when you were a kid?

Fried rice. On my first day at school in Australia I was given chicken giblets braised in star anise and soy - it was a nightmare! My dear great aunt thought she'd pack me my favourite dish, but it was horribly embarrassing in front of all the Aussie kids. Needless to say, I ate my lunch on my way home in the car that day!

7. Can you remember the first dish you learned to cook?

I think it was Melting Moments cookies. However when I was very little I used to shred my graph paper and pretend I was a hawker stall vendor selling noodles instead of paying attention in maths class.

8. Is there a dish or cuisine you've yet to, but keen to master?

That's a wrong question to ask an avid cook! There are too many cuisines and dishes to cook in one lifetime, but otak otak is one that continues to elude me - I can never seem to get the texture right, but I'm continually working on it because no dish defies my determination!

9. What dish do you crave when you're sick?

Rice congee with fermented bean curd and chinese pickles, or a daggy chicken pack with fried whole potatoes, peas and lots of bad gravy and chicken salt. The latter I always regret.

10. What's the ideal breakfast you'd want to wake up to?

I grew up eating savoury oat porridge or leftovers which is very typical in a Chinese household, but my most naughty favourite is leftover creme caramel from last night’s dinner party and a big mug of coffee. I can also get very enthused about "breakfast with the lot " andwhatever that may entail. My local used to do one with chorizo and a lamb cutlet together with all the usual suspects of bacon, eggs, tomato, mushroom and toast - yum, but best eaten not very often!


And because Matchbox are lovely people, it's a Freebie Friday today with your chance to win $200 worth of kitchenware!

THE PRIZE:
$200 worth of kitchenware products selected by Matchbox.
Please note this competition is open to Australian residents only.

HOW TO ENTER:
All you have to do is:
  1. Check out the current submissions to The Secret Recipe and leave a comment letting us know which recipe is your favourite and why.
  2. Send an email to grabyourforksecretrecipe@yahoo.com.au and include your full name and a copy of your comment on this post.
You may enter this competition daily (max. one entry per day) as The Secret Recipe website will be regularly updated with new recipes until the October 31 deadline.

This Freebie Friday competition closes on Saturday 31 October 2009 at 5.30pm AEST. The winner will be announced on Grab Your Fork on Monday 2 November 2009.

Thank you for all your entries. Click here to find out the winner.



Don't forget you can also submit your own Secret Recipe for a chance to win the $20,000 kitchen makeover. Poh will judge the winning recipe!

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Ten Questions with Curtis Stone
Ten Questions with Matthew Evans
Ten Questions with Luke Nguyen
Ten Questions with Chubby Hubby

38 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/09/2009 01:48:00 am


38 Comments:

  • At 10/09/2009 2:37 am, Blogger Peter G said…

    Great interview Helen! She's a star and I lok forward to her books! I must check out this competition.

     
  • At 10/09/2009 3:43 am, Blogger Karen @ Citrus and Candy said…

    Wonderful interview! Poh was definitely my favourite as she just lighted up the screen. And of course she's Malaysian! I can def identify with the smells that take you back to your childhood and oh... she's def my kind of lady to look to chicken with bad gravy and chicken salt! :P

     
  • At 10/09/2009 9:43 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Awesome interview Helen!
    Can't wait for her show - I didn't even know that's happening!

     
  • At 10/09/2009 10:25 am, Anonymous Min Ai said…

    Poh was definitely my favourite from Masterchef and I'm so proud of her as she's doing so well for herself! :)

     
  • At 10/09/2009 10:33 am, Anonymous Min Ai said…

    Oops, forgot to mention my favourite recipe for the competition entry. Definitely Malaysian Hawker Style Hokkien Noodles. I grew up eating this too being brought up in KL, Malaysia and just reading through Poh's recipe got me salivating!! :P

     
  • At 10/09/2009 10:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Pastry - good. Bacon - good. Chicken - goooood. Chicken parcels look like they would make a delicious meal for any occassion :D.

     
  • At 10/09/2009 11:31 am, Anonymous Jo Anne said…

    The Melting Moments definitely. They were probably one of the first things I started cooking with my mum too!!

     
  • At 10/09/2009 11:41 am, Anonymous Belle@OohLook said…

    Lovely insight into the lovely Poh. It's great that so many people can identify with her and her style of cooking. PS: Have a good time at the World Chef Showcase.

     
  • At 10/09/2009 12:10 pm, Anonymous clekitty said…

    OMG! That's exciting.. I can't wait to get her copy of her book. I too am trying so much to preserve the dishes that my family cook. Especially now that I live on my own in a different country.

     
  • At 10/09/2009 1:16 pm, Blogger Debzillah said…

    I heart this post :) You are so lucky to be rubbing shoulders with our fave chef-lebrities!

     
  • At 10/09/2009 1:40 pm, Blogger Debzillah said…

    My favourite recipe submission is the allergy safe vanilla cookie. I'm someone with IBS and many varied food intolerances, so a catalogue of safe foods is a very important thing to have. I really feel for the author of this recipe and her poor children who are so restricted in their eating. We who love and enjoy so many foods to such a huge extent should definitely imagine that a world without our favourite tastes to be quite banal and that the sense of deprivation would be overwhelming.

     
  • At 10/09/2009 1:53 pm, Anonymous goosmurf said…

    Mmmm pandan & belachan (not together though!). Great interview, didn't know she was doing a series for the ABC and now looking forward to that. :)

     
  • At 10/09/2009 5:01 pm, Anonymous Olivia said…

    helen, how cool matt and now poh? lol i love poh shes my fave amongst all the players she made unique and tasty treats that we have in asia!! hmm my fave entry so far is.. hokkien mee looks good!!

     
  • At 10/09/2009 5:53 pm, Anonymous Miss Dissent said…

    Nice to hear what Poh is doing, she was my favourite contestant in the series. I was at a dinner from Lucas and Justine the other night, Lucas in particular is warm and enthusiastic.

    I liked the Beef and Guinness recipe, as I have always enjoyed pies!

     
  • At 10/09/2009 8:22 pm, Anonymous Iris said…

    Fav recipe: jumbuk stew! Gotta try the stew that's worth trading a 15yo daughter for.

     
  • At 10/09/2009 8:37 pm, Blogger Hannah said…

    I'm going to say the Lemon Cream, if only because I think it's funny that it says to garnish with parsley, and think it must be a typo!!

     
  • At 10/10/2009 11:15 am, Anonymous N said…

    Got to be TOASTED CHILLI CHEESE. this is the secrete recipe hiding in plain site. It is so simple but it is good beyond believe. Only learn about this in food show a few years ago. Even better using belachan.

     
  • At 10/10/2009 12:13 pm, Anonymous Trisha said…

    When I saw the ad for Matchbox ad with Poh and the grandmas I squealed!!! And when I saw the teaser for Poh's Kitchen in ABC I squealed AGAIN!!! YAY POH IS BACK!

     
  • At 10/10/2009 1:44 pm, Blogger FFichiban said…

    Hee hee very interesting read :) and ooh Pohs Kitchen, will have to check it out

     
  • At 10/11/2009 11:19 am, Blogger Cathy x. said…

    haha that photo is hilarious! ..what is that daggy thing on the elderly woman's head?? it looks like a retro crash dummy helmet from the 60's! the one on the left holding the pot roast looks evil..

     
  • At 10/11/2009 6:22 pm, Anonymous The Ninja said…

    Good otak-otak is hard to find even though what they serve in Breadbox and other Singaporean chainstores isn't too bad nowadays. I'm sure Poh will get a damn good recipe for it though - just don't Westernise it with all the fusion trending sort of thing. That only goes so far...

    Helen, I am glad to be YOUR ally. You so cool la~

     
  • At 10/13/2009 8:53 am, Blogger Apple said…

    My favourite recipe so far, is the Tandori Prawn PawPaw. It sounds so yummy and fresh!
    I think I might actually make it this week for dinner!

     
  • At 10/13/2009 1:02 pm, Anonymous Christine said…

    Lamington Pavlova - omg, i have died and gone to heaven.... sounds like a perfect match to me! The good old pavlova has seemed to have disappeared off the culinary radar (i struggle to remember the last time a pavlova was served at a BBQ or family-do that I've attended) so this receipe is a brilliant reinvention of a classic!

    Oh and I love Poh!! She was my favourite on Masterchef!! Ahhh Masterchef... so glad the Celebrity version has started - there was a void in my life in recent months :(

     
  • At 10/13/2009 10:37 pm, Blogger Becci said…

    Can't wait for Poh's show! Favourite recipe so far from Secret Recipe would have to be Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce... because there is no better way to end a good dinner :)

     
  • At 10/13/2009 11:25 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Peter G - Thank you - glad you enjoyed it. She really does have x-factor. Her smile is dazzling!

    Hi Karen - She does have on-stage presence. I think it's great that she exposed a few more people to the joys of Malaysian cuisine and hurrah for Asian girl power!

    Hi Yas - Ha, as long as we're talking about food, I am instantly fascinated! The show will air in Feb next year, I believe. Can't wait!

    Hi Min Ai - She's done really well, but it seems that the runners=up always do? lol. Hokkien noodles are always good!

    Hi Anon - Oh yes, you had me at bacon...

    Hi Jo Anne - I love Melting Moments too although there seem to be no end of variations.

    Hi Belle - I think it's about time we had more Asian women on tv :) The World Chef Showcase was great.

    Hi Clekitty - I wish I had gotten some recipes from my grandma, and oh yes, living in another country is always hard. It's the food I miss most!

    Hi Debzillah - Another Poh fan. Yay! Chef-lebrities? lol. And I like the sound of an allergy-safe vanilla cake. Life would be so sad without cookies!

    Hi goosmurf - I'm looking forward to the tv series too. And pandan and belachan are both tasty - not together, of course!

    Hi Olivia - I think an ex-pat ambassador for Asian cuisine was long overdue. It's great to see how many fans she has.

    Hi Miss Dissent - I did read about the dinner with Lucas and Justine. They come across as being such good mates.

    Mmm beef and guinness pie - love winter comfort food!

    Hi Iris - Haha, that does sound like a mighty good stew!

    Hi Hannah - lol, a parsley garnish does sound unusual!

    Hi N - Toasted chilli cheese? I like the sound of that. I would never think to use belachan either. The mind boggles!

    Hi Trisha - lol. Go Poh!

    Hi FFichiban - Yep, sounds like it'll be fun. And giggly.

    Hi Cathy X - I agree, the granny garb is hilarious. Cute concept.

    Hi The Ninja - lol. I love otak-otak but I agree, it's hard to find a good one.

    Cool? You're the one with the shruiken.

    Hi Apple - Wow, that is a amazing combination. Would never have thought to combine tandoor with prawn and pawpaw!

    Hi Christine - Lamginton pavlova? omg I need some of this now! We tend to have a pavlova at Christmas because it's easy to assemble on the day and is light enough to eat after a big lunch.

    Celebrity Masterchef has been fun, but I'm really looking forward to the return of the original for the second season.

    Hi Becci - Sticky date pudding is always a hit and homemade versions are deliciously good.

     
  • At 10/23/2009 6:46 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My fave is the Lamb Shank plum and red wine pie...I'm always looking for a great lamb shank recipe and this fits the bill!
    --"johnny forks"

     
  • At 10/23/2009 11:47 am, Anonymous Michaela said…

    My favourite has to be Cathedral Windows (Sweets)
    Recipe By: Maria Pike For Natividad Quiason. What an amazing looking dessert! I will definitely try this!

     
  • At 10/25/2009 11:24 pm, Blogger Isla said…

    ooo i can't wait for Poh's show, there are so many good food-related tv shows on at the moment!

    anyway, my fave so far is the Porcupine Meatballs, i actually never heard of these meatballs until i tried it at my bf's place, his mum's tasted great, but i am yet to find a recipe until i headed to the site, so thanks! I can try and make my own now :)

     
  • At 10/27/2009 9:06 pm, Anonymous Yen said…

    My personal favourite is Coke & Chicken (Main). Once upon a time, there was a princess who refused to believe soft drink can be a key ingredient to a main meal. A handsome prince came along and offered to cook his special recipe, Coke and Chicken. Through dinner, they both realised they shared more than their love for food. 10 years on (and lots of Coke and Chicken dinners), the relationship between the handsome prince and the sceptical princess is still going strong.
    It is our 10 year anniversary next week. I am always grateful that I took the chance to cook that “special dish” for my princess.

     
  • At 10/28/2009 9:16 am, Anonymous Wei said…

    I think my choice of best recipe is simple and easy to made, Tuna Pasta. This is my first year living away from home. I am missing my mum’s cooking but at the same time I know this is part of growing up. With uni, sports, clubs and societies, Tuna pasta is the best lunch and dinner for me.

     
  • At 10/28/2009 8:56 pm, Anonymous MChan said…

    I have just submitted 3 recipes- its fun to share. So I have to say my favorite secret recipe is Cornflake and egg- Try it...

     
  • At 10/29/2009 6:06 pm, Anonymous Wei said…

    My choice today is the Choc Mint Ice Cream Pie. This recipe is really special and most importantly, it is something you can make to share with family and friends.

     
  • At 10/29/2009 11:42 pm, Anonymous Y said…

    Nanna’s Banana Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Cream (Sweets)

    Banana oh banana cake,

    It’s so easy to make,

    I never like to bake,

    But oh… how can I resist, this superior banana cake?

     
  • At 10/30/2009 10:17 am, Anonymous Rose said…

    The risotto stuffed eggplant, because I'm trying hard to stay pescaterian and it sounds like something meat eaters would love :)

     
  • At 10/30/2009 12:57 pm, Anonymous Katie said…

    My favorite is Comfort Chicken Porridge, very few things could beat potatoe and leek soup at making the world a better place, but I think this one would warm up any wintery day,.

     
  • At 10/30/2009 1:21 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    I'd have to choose the Lamb Shank plum and red wine pie. sounds like the perfect wintery recipe, what could beat meltingly soft slow cooked lamb shanks in a gorgeously sweet red wine and plum gravy? I can see the deliciously oozing filling once you crack through that pastry already...

     
  • At 10/30/2009 5:47 pm, Anonymous YM said…

    Poh's Malaysian Hawker Style Noodles. This recipe reminds me of home…I can almost imagine sitting in the hawker stall…listening to the sound of cars passing by, families making conversation and smelling the sweet aroma of the noodles from the wok. I miss the buzz of being in lively Malaysia!

     
  • At 10/31/2009 3:10 pm, Anonymous Y said…

    Supermoist egg free cake

    I do not have any allergy, except for expensive bad restaurant food :). However, I have lots of sympathies for those who do. It is hard to imagine life without nuts, milk, egg, flour and seafood. So the supermoist egg free cake is possibly the best alternative to any egg cakes. The recipe does look simple. I am going to try and put myself in another person’s shoes so I am making this tomorrow. Will let you know how it goes.

     

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