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
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