CHEF BRIAN CHEN – more fondly known as ‘Abang Brian’ – is the author of seven cook books, including Cooking for Kidneys, Beyond Rice Cooking and Malaysian Inspired Desserts.
Before becoming a chef, Chen, who has a degree in Finance and Accounting from Universite de Paris in France, began his career in the corporate world.
He first drew our attention when he joined the first season of the MasterChef Malaysia TV show and placed in the Top 3 of Masterchef Malaysia AllStars.
Chen, who is currently pursuing his Masters in Education, obtained a Diplome de Cuisine and Diplome de Patisserie from Le Corden Bleu Malaysia and even teaches children and young chefs how to cook.
What inspired you to become a chef?
“My father was diagnosed with cancer and I started cooking for him. I fell in love with the kitchen and later, I joined Masterchef Malaysia, and my whole life changed. Till today, Daddy remains a daily inspiration in all that I do, from running a cooking school for kids, writing cookbooks, hosting my own cooking shows and other media appearances, to everyday cooking in the kitchen.”
What type of cuisine do you excel at or prefer to cook?
“While I was trained in both, cuisine and pastry at Le Cordon Bleu, my techniques may remain French but my flavour profile is very Malaysian, putting forth spices, coconut and local fruits. While fine dining is an art to me, food is more about ‘hearty sharing portions’ to me, and as such I love cooking big meals for friends and family.”
What kind of food, do you prefer to eat?
“As a proud Malaysian, I simply just love eating! So yes, I love to eat almost everything! But as a chef, I have learnt the pure joy of (cooking with) the freshest ingredients. Nothing beats having a slice of a freshly picked ciku from my aunty’s tree, or snacking on newly harvested cucumbers, which I am growing in my yard.”
What challenges or difficulties, did you face as a chef?
“When I first joined the culinary and entertainment industry, the biggest challenge (even until today) is that many Malaysians see us as ‘cooks’, and not ‘chefs’. The mindset is – people become cooks because they aren’t smart enough at school, or aren’t able to get a professional jobs.
“It is why I love my job as a celebrity chef, whereby on a daily basis, I am able to share with people that I have always been good at school, gotten straight A1’s, got scholarships, I became a chartered accountant, worked in the oil and gas industry, but I chose to follow my passion.”
What is the latest food trend in Malaysia?
“I do not particularly observe trends that come and go because to me food is what always remains … good old curries, stir-fries and kuih (which) will never go out of trend.
“My favourite food is masak lemak cili api, and I am sharing the recipe with theSun readers.”
500g of chicken, cut into preferred size
3 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger
6 bird’s-eye chilli
1 tbsp of anchovies, soaked in hot water for 10 mins and drain it
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 lemongrass, smashed
125ml diluted coconut milk –1/2 coconut milk+ 1/2 water
1 piece of asam keping (tamarind peel or slice)
125ml coconut milk
Salt and sugar, to taste
1. Bring the pounded ingredients to a boil along with the lemongrass, turmeric powder and diluted coconut milk, in a pot.
2. Add chicken, and let it simmer until the chicken is cooked.
3. Add the coconut milk, and season with salt and sugar to taste.
4. Lastly, garnish the dish with chopped coriander and sliced red chillies.
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