Sunday, 7 December 2014

Masterclass In Session: Audrey's Malaysian Tapas

Tapas, which involves pairing bite-sized morsels of food with (usually alcoholic) drinks, is not merely a Spanish pastime, as seen in the food and travel channels on ASTRO.

From the Greek mezes and Italian antipasti to the English afternoon tea and Hong Kong dim sum, this culinary concept has been bringing people together over food, drink and conversation for ages.

Though Malaysian cuisine features many recipes meant for festive occasions and large banquets, it also has some for small appetites or cosy and more relaxed informal gatherings.

"Malaysian food, with its immense variety and adaptability, lends itself perfectly to tapas-style eating, to be savoured in the most relaxed of settings with minimal cutlery or fuss," says freelance food stylist and food photographer Audrey Lim.

Lim even sees parallels between tapas culture and the Malaysian idea of lepak, and hopes to change how it's perceived. "Some people view this word negatively but to me it's a wonderful concept," she says. "It's about being together, doing absolutely nothing other than enjoying each other's company, fuelled by delicious food and drink."

Inspired, I think, by the local kopitiam culture and third-wave coffee scene, as well as the midnight-oil burning sessions at the mamak stalls, which many might recall.

With Malaysian Tapas, the new volume in the MPH Masterclass Kitchens series, Lim shows how some local favourites lend themselves well to the tapas concept, especially when paired with complementary beverages.

Some thought has been given to how the food and drinks are paired, especially in this part of the world where one strives for balance and harmony in many aspects of life.

Cool off with zesty and refreshing limau ais after some rendang tok canap├ęs. Warm up and relax with some dong quai and rice wine-infused chicken wings and hot ginger tea. Fancy some stingray gulai, with fragrant pandan cooler afterwards?

But it's not all Malaysian-only. Lim also includes her Wild Pepper Leaf Wraps, which hark back to the Thai and Laotian miang kam.

She also clears up a misconception: "The wild pepper leaf (daun kaduk) used to wrap the ingredients is sometimes mistaken as the betel leaf. When chewed on, betel leaves give a mild high similar to that produced by nicotine – not exactly the effect you want the miang kam to have on your guests!"

No, but it would help the guests to chill.

Apparent nods to the Mediterranean origins of tapas include Stir-fried Baby Octopus with Pink Peppercorns (paired with a lemon-honeycomb tea), and Grilled Aubergine with Tomato and Pineapple Salsa (with her kedondong-sour plum drink).

"To me, lepak culture and tapas culture is a match made in culinary heaven, and this book is my little contribution towards making it even more heavenly," says Lim.

So, jom lepak with Audrey Lim's Malaysian tapas!

Malaysian Tapas
Audrey Lim
MPH Group Publishing
185 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-261-1

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