Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Masterclass In Session: Light Malaysian Bites With Chui Hoong

Malaysians. We love our food. We trawl the newspapers and the Internet, searching for food reviews and accounts by fellow gourmands of their (mis)adventures at latest artisanal coffee joint, high-end Shangri-La of cuisine, or a hitherto unknown hole-in-the-wall that existed for decades. And when someone claims a certain local dish as their own, we will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it Malaysian, however absurd it might sound at times.

But with a growing number of people turning away from such calorie- and sugar-laden, artery-clogging, and liver-taxing delights as char koay teow, nasi lemak, teh tarik, mee mamak and kopi C peng, can we still trump for much-vaunted Malaysian fare?

There might have been some attempts to make some of our local dishes more palatable to the increasingly health-conscious, which purists might consider heresy - what's char koay teow without the egg, cockles and all that garlicky grease?

Goo Chui Hoong's Lite Malaysian Favourites - yes, I believe she
eats what she cooks

Enter dietitian and cookbook author Goo Chui Hoong and her compendium of Lite Malaysian Favourites. After co-authoring and co-publishing Food for Your Eyes, a cookbook of dishes for eye health, with her ophthalmologist husband, Goo goes solo for this cookbook which features healthier options to some Malaysian dishes and snacks. This will be the first of a series of Masterclass Kitchen cookbooks published by MPH.

Goo claims to be a foodie, one who loves to experiment with different ingredients and try new things. Her tendencies to tweak recipes took off when she began studying dietetics and continues, perhaps to this day. Some of the results of those experiments ended up here.

Snacks are improved by baking rather than frying. Coconut milk is eschewed in favour of the lighter low-fat milk and slightly heavy evaporated milk. And can you imagine baking muffins with fruit purées or leftover bits of fruits or veggies from the juicer? Or a dish of oat-and-wolfberry noodles?

Other surprises include banana 'fritters' that's basically bananas wrapped in rice paper or spring roll pastry, not unlike what's being served at several other cafés in the Klang Valley, and cucur udang (prawn fritters) that are baked (not fried) in muffin tins. There's even a low-fat ginger-milk pudding, in case you're hankering for a taste of Hong Kong/Macau at home, minus a few calories.

Like the dietitian she is, Goo tacks on nutrient comparison tables to lay down all the caloric reductions if one uses her recipes rather than the 'originals'. Heresy? So was believing that the earth rotated around the sun.

She also shares some tips on measuring portion sizes when one prepares food or eats out. And you will, at some point, dine out with others who aren't as OCD with calories. The author's advice: moderation, and portion control.

Sadly, not all Malaysian favourites are covered in his book. For one, there is no skinny version of char koay teow, which leads one to conclude that such a thing is impossible.

Perhaps we do need something comfortable to land on should one fall off the wagon. The road to wellness is fraught with temptation, and things can get out of control when one bottles it all up.

But one needs to start somewhere, somehow. Let Goo Chui Hoong's Lite Malaysian Favourites guide the way.

Goo Chui Hoong's Lite Malaysian Favourites
Goo Chui Hoong
MPH Group Publishing
188 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-185-0

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