Food, Friends & Love
Born in a small town in Malaysia called Seremban, I had never lived away from home except for the odd occasion during the school holidays when staying with relatives. I well and truly made up for all those years of being a homebod by not just moving out, but to another country altogether which might as well have been another planet! Months later once my parents had got over the shock and picked themselves off the floor, I trotted off with 2 suitcases and a bag of cuddly toys and boarded the plane to a new life. This was way back in 1989 when was big hair and shell suits were considered the height of fashion!
I met Gerard a French classically trained chef 3 years after living here, and the rest as they say, is history. Like my mother, Gerard's mum Rose was also a fabulous baker and cook. Testament to her talent was 'The Tulip Cafe' which was a flagging cafe in Staithes, a little sleepy fishing village in Yorkshire, until she breathed new life into it. Serving up simple and honest good food, people (including some famous faces) use to queue for ages for Rose Hackett's homemade scones, a slice of steak and kidney pie, or her famous rabbit and chips. She possessed the rare ability to defy the chemistry of baking and produce bake after bake without measurements, but with the same consistency and taste time after time. I am forever grateful that she left Gerard and I her precious recipe book which is absolutely priceless.
Thank you mum and we miss you.
Malaysian Cuisine Explained
"What is Malaysian food?" is the first question I am asked again and again. Not only does this distant land nestled somewhere between Thailand and Singapore still remain somewhat of a mystery, it's cuisine leaves some totally befuddled. Even those fortunate enough to have paid a visit will still be at a loss to provide you with a one word answer.
The one thing they all agree on though, is that the plethora of flavours and choice available is totally mind blowing. Hence, my first response is 'have you got 10 hours?!", and then I go on to say "in short, it's a diner's paradise', as that is quite simply the most accurate description in a nutshell. It's multi racial population allows for diversity both in it's culture and in it's cooking. From Indian, Chinese, Malay, Eurasian, Nonya, and even western, there is something for everyone. I hope that all the pictures in the following pages will do the talking. And yes, they're all made by my fair hand!
Gerard and our son Ethan at my mother in-laws Tulip Cafe.
Coming from very food orientated backgrounds, it was no wonder that Gerard and I hit it off right away.
We've always enjoyed feeding family and friends, and have hosted an abundance of parties over the years where food is a focal point. Malaysians are well known for their love of food, and the same is practised in our home here in UK. Sometimes I quietly chuckle as I question whether our visitors come only to partake in the vast spread with which we are known for! Whatever their motive,we love them all. After years of harrasment and pushing for us to start a business of this type, we finally decided to take the all important step of putting ourselves out there in a very stiff and competitive market. That said, Malaysian restaurants are few and far between in the UK. Some claim to offer 'Malaysian' food, but the reality couldn't be further from the truth, hence we have a pretty good chance of making our mark. My father is a great subscriber of the age old 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' belief, so daddy here goes!
Friends tucking in!
My interest in cooking started from tender age of 10, as I eagerly joined my mother (June) in the kitchen. A great cook with a natural flair, our kitchen always smelt glorious with the aromas of curries, stews, vegetables and cakes. I was desperate to get near the stove, but it all began with a humble and frustrating start of just peeling onions, garlic and ginger (the holy trinity of many a Malaysian dish) and preparing whatever else on the menu that day. Eventually I was allowed near the 'forbidden' stove, and made my very first Eurasian stew, which is a broth made with potatoes, spices and chicken. Poured onto a bowl of fluffy rice, it makes a perfect winter warmer. From that, I progressed to more complicated recipes, until I graduated to producing a whole meal consisting of several dishes. During the early years, I distinctly remember asking my mother how she knew how much salt or sugar, or seasoning to add. She just smiled and replied "just taste it girl". Thanks mummy! I love you and I hope our kitchen will make you proud and do justice to all that you've thought me.