October is one of my favourite months. Not only because it seems to be full of birthdays, and is only 2 months away from Christmas, but because every year in October the Crave Sydney International Food Festival (SIFF) is on and it’s a month of eating, eating and more eating. This year, SIFF kicked off with a series of BBQ madness events, where themed BBQ events were held all around Sydney to celebrate the barbecue grill. I was up early on Saturday morning to go to the Malaysia Kitchen BBQ Madness event, held in Church St Mall, Parramatta.
The event began at 9am and was an early start for me on a Saturday morning, but Malaysia Kitchen’s ambassador, Wanitha Tanasingam (aka the “Love Goddess”), was there to wake everyone up with her enthusiasm and sheer passion for Malaysian food. Apart from expounding the wonders of sambal belacan, she also demonstrated two dishes with the help of Sara from Belly Rumbles and Lorraine Wearne, the Lord Mayor of Parramatta.
Wanitha cooked up some sotong bakar, a marinated and barbecued squid, and ayam panggang, a spicy grilled chicken. Some samples of the squid were passed around and this was the perfect thing to wake up my stomach, with the sweet, tender squid being barbecued to a nice char on the outside, and a spicy flavour coming through from the marinade.
Next up in the demonstration kitchen was the ever delightful Florence Tan, who travelled from Malaysia to attend this event. I’ve seen her on Poh’s Kitchen before and she is just as a lively and bubbly in real life as she is on TV.
She is everyone’s favourite long-lost Malaysian aunty, entertaining everyone with her funny stories of how to keep fit in the kitchen (by wiggling one’s bottom while one cooks, apparently) and just how large the produce is Australia compared to Malaysia! That’s her holding up a giant stalk of lemongrass.
We were able to watch her cook two dishes today – otak otak, which is a spicy fish mousse grilled inside a banana leaf, and a simple grilled tofu salad (aka Rojak). Florence definitely knows how to win people over, with a big crowd of people forming around the amphitheatre to watch her cook as her session goes on. While she’s making her dishes, she engages the crowd by stepping out from behind the kitchen bench to show us the sauce that she’s making.
It’s no surprise that when she comes over, everyone’s cameras start snapping away. She’s surprised at her popularity and laughs, saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever been photographed so much in my life!”. She even strikes a pose, bowl in hand, big beaming smile on her face, which makes everyone (including herself) burst out laughing.
We get to sample the otak otak which is soft and fragrant with lemongrass and galangal flavours. It’s served with a piece of rice cake and some cool cucumber pieces which are the perfect accompaniment for the spicy, quite strong flavours of the fish mousse.
By this time, my stomach has worked up an appetite so we decide not to wait for the rojak samples and head straight to the main square where several Malaysian restaurants around Sydney are offering various dishes priced at $5 each. It’s certainly popular and we have trouble finding a table to sit down to eat our food and as the day goes on, more and more people arrive and the queues for food start streaming out of the entrance-way. Here are some of the dishes that were on offer:
Oriental Tucker Box (Shop 4, 101 George Street, Parramatta, NSW 2150)
Penang Cuisine (Shop 32, 74 Rawson St, Epping NSW 2121)
Temasek (The Roxy Arcade, 71 George St , Parramatta NSW 2150)
Albee’s Kitchen (282 Beamish St, Campsie NSW 2194)
Jackie M (85 Majors Bay Rd, Concord NSW 2137)
KampongBoy (370 Forest Rd, Hurstville, 2220)
After feasting on all the Malaysian food, we caught a bit of the demonstrations from two past Masterchef contestants. Adam Liaw was cooking char kway teow and chicken satay, while Alvin Quah demonstrated how to make ikan bakar (grilled BBQ fish in banana leaf) and tamarind fried prawns.
To finish off the day on a sweet note, we had ais kacang from Ma’Leisia Cafe (5/2 Horwood Pl, Parramatta) which was unfortunately missing some of the elements because they had ran out. The usual rose syrup vs. gula melaka (palm sugar syrup) broke out again but I was more disappointed that there was no corn in it. I heart my corn!
The Malaysia Kitchen BBQ was a great way to showcase some of the Malaysian restaurants in Sydney, and to celebrate Malaysian cuisine. For more info on Malaysia Kitchen events and recipes from the cooking demonstrations, head on over to www.malaysiakitchen.com.au. And don’t forget to check out the Malaysia Festival on this Sunday 9th Oct at Tumbalong Park from 10am to 6pm.
Penguin says Feed Me attended the Malaysia Kitchen BBQ Madness courtesy of Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence.