By Tan Mei Kuan
Kicked off in 2018, the monthly Master Chef Series by Crew Skills International featured Nyonya cuisine by Pearly Kee recently.
“As part of our effort to preserve Malaysian food, we invite master chefs to teach our students because we do not want the knowledge to be lost. We are one of the few schools in Malaysia, surprisingly, to teach Malaysian food. We want more schools to be proud of Malaysian food,” Suresh Subramaniam, Managing Director and CEO of Crew Skills highlighted.
According to him, the previous sessions had featured the Malay traditional kuih (bite-sized snack) and nasi lemak (fragrant rice dish).
“Every month we have different chefs coming in to teach our students. We have got an exciting array next year including Louis Tay, a Culinary Olympics gold medallist who is coming in March. Recently, we have become the first school in Malaysia to offer authentic Japanese cuisine training (two-year programme), awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. We will start the intake in March,” he shared.
Meanwhile, Penang-born Pearly is a fifth-generation Nyonya and award-winning food ambassador for Penang. She named the late Dato’ Lim Bian Yam, a well-known chef extraordinaire and Baba as her mentor. Also the author of “A Nyonya Inheritance”, she runs the Penang Homecooking School in George Town as a full-time cooking teacher to enthusiastic home cooks and professional chefs since 2009.
With over 50 years of culinary experience, she started cooking at six years old. “Most Nyonya dishes are a fusion of Malay and Indian food. The prominent ingredients would be galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, chilli, onion and shrimp paste. You must know the correct technique to stir, dry out and cook the paste with lots of patience,” she explained to Ipoh Echo.
Under her guidance, the students prepared assam laksa, stir fried vegetables with dry cuttlefish, kapitan chicken curry, five spice chicken roll, sambal belacan and sago gula melaka (sago pudding) for the luncheon.
Commenting on the students’ performance, she enthused, “I’m so glad the students are learning how to do it the authentic way. The future of our food lies in their hands. The students here are very enthusiastic, observant and keen to take instructions. I believe they will go far.”
Her other forte includes Indian and street food.
When asked on her general food philosophy, she said, “It’s the responsibility of every person who loves to cook to be ethical and to eat wholesome food. Eat things from your garden, as much as you can plant.”
“It’s important to me that our Malaysian food doesn’t die. Things are getting too modern and we have got to preserve our heritage: Malay food, Indian food, Chinese food, Indian-Muslim food and Eurasian food among others,” she added.
Here’s her advice for aspiring chefs: “Cook with a lot of love.”
Present was Garry Prior, Director of Crew Skills.
Crew Skills International is cited by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) as a Recognized Quality Culinary Education school. This makes it a first for Perak and the fourth in Malaysia, thus putting Crew Skills International on the culinary school map.
Its triple award professional chef course is designed to provide graduates with the capability for top-earning and international skills migration: Australian Professional Chef Certificate 3 & 4 in Commercial Cookery – Western (Australian Qualification Framework) awarded by Culinary Solutions Australia; Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking (Supervision) awarded by City & Guilds Institute of UK; and World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) Professional Chef and Chef de Partie certificates (international kitchen passport) which is an international industry recognition of competence and attainment.
The school is located at 9 Lintasan Perajurit 17G, Taman Perdagangan dan Perindustrian, 31400 Ipoh. For more info, visit www.crewskills.edu.my or call 05 545 9800.