Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chef For all Seasons

Volunteers and Chef Wan

He peppered his demo with generous helpings of humour. He stirred our souls, mixed stories, jokes with culinary tips as he cooked up a storm with 3 dishes. That morning, the irrepressible Chef Wan did all that at the Selangor Spastics Centre.

Chef Wan cracked us up as he sauntered in. To a room full of 'oldies' ( 50 and above), he remarked with a twinkle in his eyes, 'Aiyah, I thought I was coming to talk to spring chickens!' What do you know ? - that instantly earned him a place in our hearts!!

My friend, Helen

I've only seen him briefly on TV. His broad smile and bubbly personality shines through. Here's a man who left the banking world for his passion for cooking.

Chef Wan,whose real name is Redzuawan Ismail,said, ' I've always loved food for as long as I can remember!' His resume is huge - professional chef, cookbook author, tv personality, critic, actor, ambassador for several brands. Back in 1992, he was already a popular figure with his well-rated show, KUALI. Those 'wok' days have since gained international acclaim - Singapore, Australia, US, Oslo, Stockholm, to name a few.

He was co-host with Anthony Bourdain for The American Food Channnel. And what pride too, to have cooked for the Sultan of Brunei and Bill Clinton. Chef Wan travels widely to put Malaysia on the global map.

'I like simple cakes' and 'use only the best ingredients', said Chef Wan. To kick off, he took us through the steps of making Chocolate Paradise. We certainly appeciated the bittersweet choc used and enjoyed the nutty crunch of the almonds as we each had a piece when it was all done.

Next, he introduced a Balinese traditional food. Chef Wan cooked Lawar (Balinese Vegetable and Chicken Salad). His assistant ,Sally and his son, Riz moved around to get things going. Right after his demo, he had a shoot in Bentong for the Ramadan airing on TV. As the fine paste was cooking on the fire, the aromatic smells of the chillies, galangal, lemon grass floated into the air to tease our tastebuds.

The last dish was Tajine Chicken Magribi - Morocco Style. The chicken was nicely soft and the apricots blended so well in the gravy . This dish is usually eaten with bread or couscous.

We the audience got to witness the special chemistry between father and son. The guiding hand was evident. 'My dad is fun,' said Riz who joined in the mirth and laughter of the morning.

Trust the ever-sprightly volunteers of the Selangor Spastics Centre. They had prepared a raffle as an extended activity. Eagerly we bought some tickets. I won one! - a round tupperware container. Well, guess who won the most prizes? - Chef Wan, with 4 to his delight and our screams of ' shuffle! shuffle' !!! We were certainly having so much fun even when cooking was over.

I came for a food demo. And didn't for a moment think we'd be rollicking in our seats as we listened and watched the master chef at work. I went home captivated.

'Food makes people happy. No matter how big your problems are, you still have to eat.' Thank you, Chef Wan for those parting words.

Here's a recipe to share:
Tajine Chicken Magribi ( Morocco Style)

12 large pieces chicken
Clean and drip to dry. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions sliced
1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
4 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp tumeric powder
1/4 cup pine nuts
A pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp white pepper powder
A handful flat leaved parsley chopped
A handful coriander chopped
15 -20 pieces dried apricots
Soaked in hot water for several hours till soft
2tbsp butter
1 chicken cube
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 cup sugar or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon juice
1 cup of water

Heat oil in a pan and fry chicken on both side to brown and dish out.
Add onion to the remaining oil in the pan fry
Add ginger and garlic till fragrant
Add chicken in then put in all the other ingredients.
Bring to boil then cook on low heat stirring regularly until sauce thickens


  1. Interesting.
    May be I will try out.

  2. Oh it must be fun watching Chef Wan. I sometimes do watch him on TV demonstrating.

  3. Very funny to meet the great Chef Wan :)
    It looks very interesting,
    was the food also good ??
    I think so .... LOL
    Have a nice sunday :)

  4. How lucky of you to be able to meet him in person.

  5. Hi
    Indrani, hope you enjoy it like i did when you get the chance to try out.

    alicesg, Chef Wan lifts your spirits on a bad hair day!!

    Anya, yes , i particularly enjoyed tajine dish.

    Veronica Lee, yes, and he's so friendly to all.

  6. hello keats , i've read in your profile that you founded the SUNSHINE GROUP , is it a charity organisation?

  7. Hi xplorer, Thank you for your interest.
    The Sunshine Group is a voluntary support group of Selangor Cheshire Home. I founded the group and lead 20 homemakers in our 'Sunshine for the Disabled' activities. We reach out mainly to the school children.

  8. Hi There, Thanks for visiting my blog. I am enjoying yours. Looks like Chef Wan!!!! The recipe looks great.

    How neat to be involved in helping people at the Selangor Cheshire Home. What a worthy cause!

    Come back to my blog anytime and I'll return to yours.

  9. Very interesting recipe. It's absolutely new for me!
    Have a good week ahead!

  10. Dear Keats,

    What a fun-loving, friendly guy Chef Wan is! I met him in person at least once. The first time was at a club in 2000, but my friend and I were so drunk we were just trying to stand up straight, or we would have gone to say hello. I used to love cooking as a child but I guess I've grown lazy over the years. Partly due to the fact that I'm mostly vegetarian and am always exploring the most energy efficient methods of preparing food; partly because the men in my life (housemate, boyfriend, buddies) are better cooks so I let them cook while I offer to clean; and partly because I always have too many pets in the kitchen. Congratulations on winning a tupperware! What fun! More containers to store yummy food in!


  11. Hey Keats, Don't you love chef's and cooking shows. I bet you did enjoy this so much! I know I would have. Thanks for posting the recipe too!

  12. Looks delicious, and lots of fun! I like that red mixer. Chef Wan looks like a fun guy, besides being a great cook. How great that he left a job in banking to pursue his dream of being a chef!

  13. That is a very long list of ingredients but I bet it taste good. I like Chef Wan "celoteh". A bit over sometimes but very entertaining. He always make my day with his jokes.

  14. Whoa !!!
    Congratulation for the winning.
    And the food seem so delicious. Full of laughter and joyous around.

  15. Hi
    Betsy of Tennessee, will certainly pop in again. Have a good day!

    Pietro, glad you visited. do come again :)

    ~Covert_Operations'78,after posting this, NST had one on him, titled, Chatty Chef! Nobody would disagree!!
    Trust the men, when they cook, they outdo us. My husband used to wash and do a good job of cleaning when his male housemates cooked during their student days in the UK. They complemented each other so well:)

    Hi Susie, this was one rare cooking demo I attended. All 'coz to shake hands with him!!

    Gran, like they say, live your dreams:) And he is cooking and talking his way into the hearts of people he meets.

    Zue Murphy, he's a great communicator, for sure. My friend is still reeling over his jokes!!! I told Chef wan, he should consider being a comedian rather than cook!! Hope he took that as a compliment.

    LaY Hoon, that's right, nothing like spreading laughter all round. All for a good cause too.

  16. What a fun session! Thanks for sharing the Tajine recipe. I've seen this dish being prepared on tv and the end result sure looked yummy.

  17. Hi HappySurfer, that was our morning 'fix' for happiness!! 'Oldies' too know how to have fun!!

  18. I love Chef Wan - for his good sense of humour and of course, his culinary skill!!

    Thanks for leaving your comment on my blog. For your question on where to get the mulberry plants in Klang Valley, I got one of mine from the Bandar Harapan Organic Farm in Ara Damansara. You can contact Ivan Ho at 019-3751382 or Saktivelu at 012-3331341 or visit their website on how to get to the farm:

    Or try to contact Danny (Mobile: 016-2785961) who has a plant booth on Sundays at Amcorp Mall. Ask him if he has this plant. He sells many kind of herbs at his booth.

  19. What a great day: food and laughter, the nourishment of life!

  20. It's a joy to watch people who are passionate about cooking - he sounds like an entertaining character, too. The recipe looks delicious.

  21. He is always fun to watch!! I also love his show though I think being there would be also more fun. Oh, food certainly makes me happy...It's all I think of most of the time...hmmm...time to hit the gym :(

  22. i haven't tried attending a cooking demo here. although i love cooking but my time is so tight always. I am interested to attend maybe one day.

    have a nice day

  23. Hi
    J.C.. thanks so much for the info. Will make the contact and make my garden greener :)

    June, yeah, it was great fun

    adrienne, passion in what one enjoys always shines thro. As in the case of Chef Wan.

    M.Kate, do you love to eat? So are you a follower of food blogs? So many choices there.

    eden, it's one thing to use the recipes one collects and another to let them collect dust!! I guess you have your favourites and that's what matters. Keep cooking - you're making lots of people happy!

  24. What fun! I love all the photos and commentary. looks like a good time was had by all.

    I am the worst cook in the world, next to my husband. LOL.

  25. To cook right and fast the healthier way have been my goal to achieve, and still go. So I would like to have a must-meeting with this cheerful self Chef Wan:) I bet I'd like to his non-stop food talking in an entertaining way and encouraged to enter in the kitchen -shame but I dislike cooking:)

    Doesn't he have any plan/s coming to Istanbul?

  26. Hi
    Patty, aha! but you haven't met the ones worse than you!! it's alright, as long as you're well -fed and happy:)

    Nihal,i do not cook fussy food! the less time in the kitchen, the better!!
    Chef Wan his widely travelled. I'm sure he has visited Istanbul , at least for pleasure.I heard he's doing something on the Silk Road/ Beijing??

  27. Wow! What a treat to watch a chef of his stature up close and personal. I'm glad you had such a great time! : )

  28. What fun! Not to mention yummy! :-)

  29. H
    Suzanne Casamento, yes, i was lucky to enjoy his presence.

    Martha, thanks for visiting.

  30. Hi... oh what a lucky chance to take photos of one and only Chef Wan... He is guy bubling with life and wordddssss.... and of course his cooking speciality.
    ~ bangchik

  31. HI Bangchik and Kakdah, so many words to describe Chef Wan - bubbly is so appropriate too!

  32. I know his daughter is real pretty, looks like his son is good looking too.

    He's one entertaining chef. Proud that Malaysia has him.

  33. Hi Ocean Girl, oh yes, Chef Wan showed us photos of his daughter too. Real pretty, like you say. Good genes:) Yeah, Malaysia loves him too.

  34. Hi Keats,

    Chef Wan was my idol and one of the first chefs who taught me how to cook and bake. I always enjoyed his cincai-style (hands on) style of cooking; something which became popular with the emergence of a certain Jamie..

    Lonely Chef

  35. Hi Edward Saminathan, it's great that you were taught by the CHEF himself! Now we know who to go to for a taste of great food!
    It's amazing how many people follow the AFC channel for all kinds of cooking and getting to know the different personalities.
    Thanks for visiting.


Great to have you popping in!