Sitting down for a dinner with Adam Liaw at this year’s Good Food & Wine Show was a unique experience, not necessarily for the reasons you may think.
Sure, there is the fact that he is a national celebrity, having won Masterchef Season 2. Invariably, questions will be asked about his experiences on the show, thoughts on the current season and what he is doing with his new found fame and opportunities. Questions I’m sure that have been asked ad nauseum, which are answered with a practiced smile and a polite response.
However, there was more to this dinner than the company of a celebrity chef.
Before we move on to the dinner, a little on the show itself.
Whilst it has been a couple of years since I’d last attended the Good Food & Wine Show, the format on the whole was much the same. There were plenty of food vendors offering samples, making sales and answering questions about their various wares.
Naturally, there was a healthy representation of alcohol vendors, especially regarding wines which occupied at least a third of the showroom floor. Clearly, these were people, vendors and patrons alike, who have little interest for Dry July.
Whilst I’m not entirely against the idea of Dry July myself, the disconnect between the challenge (abstinence of alcohol) and the cause it raises funds for (cancer treatment) seems unusual, or at the very least a wasted opportunity as alcohol abuse and its associated medical and social issues could do with a catchy name like this to help raise awareness of its own.
Anyhow, I digress…
As with all Good Food & Wine Shows, celebrity chefs do the rounds presenting short cooking segments, educating the public on products or restaurants they’re spruiking (if any), encouraging the use of ingredients that they may not be familiar with and teaching simple recipes for people to try at home.
The chefs from Masterchef, George Calombaris & Gary Mehigan (not pictured), have always had a strong presence at the show; conducting cooking segments individually on a public stage, as well as a collaborative pay-for-admission Celebrity Theatre show.
There are also chefs from well-known restaurants such as Justin North of Becasse, Etch et. al. fame, doing their bit to educate the masses and promote their restaurants, cookbooks and the like.
A number of Masterchef alumni were also at the show, including Alvin Quah; a favourite of Masterchef Season 2.
In Alvin’s case, he was working the wok at the Malaysia Kitchen stand, along with other guest chefs such as Jackie M, promoting the wonderful produce, cuisines and culture of Malaysia.
A privileged few were invited to a private dinner with Adam Liaw. The meal was provided by Aida Gan of Kaki Lima (Facebook), a Malaysian restaurant located in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, whose food I had the pleasure of experiencing for the first time at the Malaysia Kitchen Food Market earlier in the year.
Adam, as one of the ambassadors of Malaysia Kitchen, served as dinner host and advocate for Malaysian cuisine discussing various aspects of Malaysian food & food culture throughout the dinner, such as the four broad cuisines of Malaysia (Malay, Malay-Chinese, Malay-Indian, & Nonya if you were wondering).
Interviews were conducted around the table by Malaysia Kitchen (I presume for online promo vids) and numerous photos by their staff photographer whilst we waited for food to be served.
We started dinner off with Prawn Fritters & Chicken Curry Puffs, both of which were crispy and flavourful without being at all greasy. Opinions were split as to which people preferred but my favourite was the curry puff, with its light, flaky crust and aromatic filling.
Ayam Masak Merah – a mild chicken curry with a sweet & tangy tomato base is a great tasting curry, though the meat was a tad on the tough side.
Tomato Rice, with slivered almonds and sultanas is a great accompaniment to the Ayam Masak Merah. Unlike a lot of fried rice, this was neither greasy nor stodgy, with the rice falling away into individual fluffy grains.
Beef Rendang – Sweeter than what I was expecting (perhaps a little too sweet for some) and the meat was a tad tough but overall, this was still a good dish. Rich with loads of flavour, I could easily see myself eating copious amounts of the rendang sauce on its own with little more than a bowl of steamed rice or mopped up with some roti.
Speaking of which…
Of all the wonderful dishes that evening, the Roti was something truly special. Flaky crisp on the outside with soft layers of slightly chewy buttery interior, I’d go so far as to question whether Mamak makes the best roti in Sydney after having some of these.
At the very least there is an alternate location for some really good roti in Sydney, hopefully one without the ridiculously long queues.
Acar Jelata is a light and tangy pickled salad made up of a number of sliced vegetables such as cucumber, capsicum, red onion, as well as slices of pineapple for a sweet contrast.
I liked this far more than I thought I would and could easily see this as a great side dish to many a BBQ.
Food bloggers doing their thang.
A quartet of kueh were presented as dessert – Seri Muka (green & white blocks), Baked Tapioca Cake (yellow blocks), Kueh Lapis (pink/white triangular layered cake) & Baked Pandan Cake with Sesame Seeds (green triangles).
Whilst all the cakes were good, my favourites would have to be both the pandan sesame cake for its rich pandan flavour, & kueh lapis just because it was so fun to eat. Grown adults were reduced to children for a short while as they methodically peeled and ate through each layer of the cake.
Dinner with Adam was an interesting affair. Not just because he was a font of knowledge regarding Malaysian cuisine, nor for his insight into life as a Masterchef contestant, the upcoming phone “scandal” involving Mat Bayer, or his current and future plans in the food industry. Having dinner with a well-known public figure in a not-so-private dining area invites a certain degree of, well, let’s say “collateral damage”.
The awkward stares, the supersonic squeals of excitement, the abrupt interruptions for photos and words of admiration, the overly familiar approach from absolute strangers, and even a shameless request for an invitation to dinner, was unusual and even a little embarrassing to witness as a bystander. Such is the price of celebrity I guess.
We bade our farewells and made our way out of the show and into the evening having shared a good meal and some great company. Though an unexpected drizzle sought to rain on our parade, our spirits could not be dampened.
Yes, it is. Yes, it is indeed :)
the heart of food attended the Good Food & Wine Show and dined at the Malaysia Kitchen private dinner courtesy of Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence.