Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Masterclass In Session: Fat Bites With The Fat Spoon Girls

Many Klang Valley urbanites would be familiar with Fat Spoon, a rustic little eatery in Damansara Utama owned and run by sisters Melissa and Michelle Pong. The establishment, with its repertoire of Nyonya-inspired delights that incorporate family tradition and Gen-Y ingenuity, has gained a following since opening around the middle of 2010.

And now, they're coming up with a cookbook - are you not excited?

I can't remember when my first visit to Fat Spoon was, but I do remember the décor that made the relatively small space cosy and homey.

Small touches like the wooden food cabinet and the trays of canned drinks that were sometimes placed at the bottom reminded me of Chinese New Years at the ancestral home in Taiping. Small old read-with-me hardbacks were recycled into their menus. A larger chalkboard menu was hung on a wall. A fat wooden spoon was the handle to the front door.

Part of the interior of Fat Spoon Café, 06 May 2014 or, as they'd say, "yesterday"

Ah yes, the food. It was the first time I had ulam fried rice, and their Fat Hot Chocolate was rich, warm and creamy. And whether you're out of a traffic jam after work, or back from the airport, college, a boring meeting or the hospital, you'd want to come home to a bowl of their Spicy Beef Macaroni (soup).

But I haven't been back for a while. So I returned yesterday evening. Oh, quite a bit has changed. The chalkboard was replaced with a mirror, and the old menus were replaced with ones that looked more like menus. I guess some change was inevitable. But the food was still good.

New dish: ulam angel hair pasta and the pumpkin fritters (left) and the
durian crème brûlée; recipes for the fritters and dessert are in the book

Still, I was surprised to know that the Fat Spoon girls were coming up with a cookbook. Months in the making, it has blossomed into the visual feast that I knew it would be. Just about every facet of the book said "Fat Spoon".

The Fat Spoon Cookbook is a wonderful collection of recipes that offer a glimpse into the kitchen at Fat Spoon and the minds behind such creations as ulam fried rice, pumpkin fritters and cempedak spring rolls with vanilla ice cream.

It is a reflection of their personality and passion for good food, nurtured by a familial love of the good stuff and their adventures in food.

Among the old-school recipes and favourites from their family’s kitchen, revitalised by a youthful zest for new flavours and cooking techniques, are some original creations that showcase the sisters’ inventiveness and flair for marrying old and new.

But don't just take my word for it.

"Their innovative creations never disappoint — they’re always so surprising and comforting," gushes Joyce Wong, aka KinkyBlueFairy, in the foreword. "I always feel the love that goes into their food, which is probably why I crave it when I travel overseas for long periods."

After taking you through the basics: making chicken stock, fried shallots/garlic, batter for frying, gula melaka syrup and the like, Michelle and Melissa take you through the making of things like avocado fritters with kaffir lime mayo, beef and basil popiah wraps, Asian salmon tartare with poppadom chips, teapot mushroom soup with rice and durian crème brûlée.

Cockle non-fans will be tempted to try out their cockle salad, and the duck and goji burger sounds like something that Fat Spoon would make. Fans will recognise at least two items in the book: the pumpkin fritters and the signature Fat Spoon noodles. The pictures, by photgrapher Audrey Lim, are gorgeous and manage to capture the essence of what Fat Spoon is and what can come out of it.

Though merely a small sampling of what their eatery has to offer, the book manages to convey a small slice of that rustic yet homey atmosphere from the sisters' childhood that would, they hope, encourage you to re-live yours by trying out the recipes within – and maybe come up with your own.

"We hope this book will inspire you to go crazy in your kitchen," says the girls in the preface. "Take some ideas from our recipes and go wild with them. What if your culinary creations fail? Remember how that four-year-old kid who fell from the swing picked himself up and ran into the monkey bar? It’s a playground, go nuts!"

The Fat Spoon Cookbook
Melissa and Michelle Pong
MPH Group Publishing
155 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-195-9

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