If you are visiting Malaysia, you would want to let your appetite take charge. Malaysia is a food heaven. Our culinary diversity is one of the most famous in the world.
You’ll practically find food everywhere, from the downtown corners of the streets to the narrow back lanes, from restaurants to cafes, mamak stalls to food trucks…you name it, we have it. There is always more than enough variety of foods to cater for every picky eater’s taste buds.
Malaysians are very passionate when it comes to food. Two years ago, when the Asian edition of MasterChef reality show Masterchef Asia was premiered, three Malaysians participated among the 15 contestants, competing their way to become the next big celebrity chef.
Making it to the top 3 is this wonderful mommy from Sarawak, a beautiful state in eastern Malaysia. Her name is Jasbir Kaur, who is also fondly known as the Spice Queen.
I was so lucky to be able to catch up with her at the recent History Con Malaysia where she gave some really wonderful cooking demonstrations. It was difficult to resist the nice smell of her cooking, so fragrant and aromatic from the spices she used.
When I approached her after the show and asked if I could do an interview with her, she immediately accepted without a single hesitation! I was so thrilled as I didn’t expect a ‘yes’ from a celebrity chef.
We chatted for awhile and I was immediately connected to her by her friendliness and warm nature.
And here’s a good news for you. Ms Jasbir is going to be sharing one of her recipes here which you can find later in this post. So, make sure you don’t miss out on that one.
Let’s hop over to the interview now and be inspired by this wonderful mommy idol.
From a humble homemaker to being a celebrity chef, appearing on TV and magazines as well as starting her own multiple businesses. This is definitely a big achievement that has made many green with envy.
WM: Ms Jasbir, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
JK: I am a mother of 3 grown children. My husband is a retiree who worked for Sarawak Shell. I am a trained Montessori kindergarten teacher and for many years ran a kindergarten with my partners.
When we decided to move from Miri to Kuching I decided to work from home. As my youngest child had asthma triggered by some food colourings I had to learn to make a lot of the food myself so that she would be able to enjoy eating everything that her other siblings could.
I learned how to make my own pasta, pasta sauce and pizza from scratch. And I also learned to bake all kinds of cookies and cakes too.
WM: Have you always been passionate about cooking? Who inspires you and what’s your favourite dish?
JK: I have always enjoyed cooking. In my teens I saw it as a chore forced upon me by my mother. As I grew older it was more of a necessity.
Having moved from Singapore to Kuching, I found the food in Kuching very different. I missed the flavours that I grew up with and decided to learn how to make the dishes and flavours myself.
As I discovered different dishes and flavours my passion for cooking grew. Today I can say that cooking is my passion and I love feeding my family and friends. It is my way of showing them how much I love them.
Now if I look back I can say that my family inspires me. Their support and appreciation of my food has always been my motivation.
While I enjoy cooking all kinds of cuisine and experimenting with different and new ingredients, especially my favourite dish which is the Sarawak laksa,and the Singapore laksa.
WM: What made you decide to compete in Masterchef Asia?
JK: I am an avid fan of MasterChef Australia and when the call for auditions for MasterChef Asia was made, I was speculating whether to apply or skip the chance and that was when my family stepped in and encouraged me to participate.
“Take the opportunity and enjoy the process”, was what they said. I was terrified to submit my entry but after a day of contemplating I decided to try my luck and see what transpires.
WM: Participating in Masterchef Asia and emerging top 3 have indeed opened doors and opportunities for you. Being a celebrity chef now, how has your life changed and what have you learned from Masterchef Asia?
JK: Life after emerging top 3 from MasterChef Asia has been amazing. I have been busy doing food demonstrations and collaborations for charity. I have also taken part in Lifetime Facebook programme on female empowerment and recently have been part of History convention 2017. I am really enjoying myself and learning so many new things along the way.
WM: Do you think age is an issue when it comes to lifelong learning and pursuing your dreams?
JK: Age should never be an issue when if comes to learning and pursuing our dreams. Many of us put ourselves aside to care for our families and have forgotten our dreams and passion. I am here to say that our dreams can come true at any age as long as we give ourselves a chance to pursue them.
WM: Please tell us about your exciting business ventures and what your future plans are.
JK: I am presently developing products for sale online. I have a range of spice rubs, masala mixes as well as sauces and chutneys which are great with roasted and grilled meats and seafood.
I am also working towards opening my first restaurant THAALI in Kuching. It’s a Punjabi restaurant where I will serve food that I would serve my family at home. That is my food philosophy, only the best and quality food.
WM: Many moms stopped or on hold their dreams after stepping into motherhood. I would like to quote some words of encouragement from you to inspire all wonderful moms, not to give up their dreams and embrace lifelong learning and to enjoy a more fulfilling life.
JK: I would say do not despair because one thing I have realised is that you can always do what you like on a smaller scale. For example, if you enjoy baking and want to start a business, do it from home on weekends or holidays. That way you still have a foot in the business and your family is also well taken care of.
Pick up some short courses online and manage your time wisely. Never let age or fear stand in your way. Seek advise and plan your days. Time management is the key to every success.
There you go, wonderful mom. Never let age or fear stand in your way! I hope these words serve as a little reminder to give you a gentle push if you are currently putting your dreams on the back burner. Give yourself a chance to fulfill those dreams. You deserve the best!
Recipe by Celebrity Chef, Jasbir Kaur:
Grilled Prawn and Broccoli Salad
Makes a delicious lunch or a scrumptious salad anytime.
100 gms shelled deveined prawns
100 gms broccoli florets
100 gms butterhead lettuce
50 gms cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons Spice Ranee seafood rub
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Marinate prawns with 2 teaspoons seafood rub and enough salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Parboil broccoli in salted water for 5 mins. Drain and set aside.
- Wash and dry the butterhead lettuce.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside.
- Heat a fry pan and add olive oil. Grill the prawns 2 minutes on each side, turning as little as possible.
- Take the prawns out of the pan and set aside.
- While the pan is hot add the broccoli and tomatoes and stir well.
- In a large plate, layer with butterhead lettuce and top with broccoli, tomatoes and grilled prawns.
- Serve with garlic bread.
Note: Products by Jasbir Kaur can be purchased online from her Facebook page Spice Ranee.