Food & Drink

Recipes, cookbook reviews, interviews with chefs, culinary insights and wine columns
South China Morning Post
  1. How did you get interested in cooking? “My father was a big part of it. Every Friday he would go to the market – he still does – buy ingredients and cook a family meal for eight to 15 people. He doesn’t have to cook, but he enjoys doing it. He likes going to restaurants and trying to recreate the dishes at home.“He worked hard during the week and on his half-day off he slaved in the kitchen, but he has a passion for food. He was a mechanical engineer, building and fixing machines, and he has a…
  2. To the interested outsider, the Baba-Nyonya people – descendants of intermarriage between the Straits Chinese and Malays – can be fascinating. They are famous for their ornate jewellery, distinctive architecture and clothing, and food.Nyonya (also spelt nonya) cuisine is notoriously difficult and time consuming to make, and the recipes are traditionally passed down through the family, with dishes prepared by (or under the strict supervision of) the matriarch.Singaporean food writer, chef and…
  3. Tod mun pla, or fried fishcakes, is a popular dish from Thailand. The best I’ve eaten were in Bangkok, where a street food vendor was frying them as fast as she could for a line of eager customers. Thai fishcakes are different from the tender, lightly seasoned fishcakes you get outside Asia.In many Asian cuisines a “bouncy” tex­ture is prized – meatballs, seafood balls and fishcakes have a resilience that is almost, but not quite, chewy. This texture is achieved by vigorous mixing of the fish …
  4. What are your earliest memories of food? “My father taught me to have passion and dedication in cooking, and to look for the best flavour. He is from northern Spain, where the flavours are stronger and spicier; lots of soups and stews to keep you warm in the winter.“The first thing I made was fried eggs when I was six years old. My father told me the oil in the pan had to be hot to get the crispy edge around the egg. It was scary to crack open the eggs over the hot oil, but at the same time it…
  5. Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra had an enviable childhood. From a Hindu Brahmin family, she toggled easily between living on sugar plantations in what was then British Guiana, visiting her grandparents in rural India, where one grandfather was a Hindu priest and the other basically owned their village, and Catholic convent school. She attended university in Canada and spent a year in Spain, where she met her Dutch-Jewish husband. They now live in the Netherlands.In the introduction to Warm Bread and…
  6. The marinade for these fried chicken sandwiches couldn’t be easier, but the slaw takes a little work. Acar is a Southeast Asian vegetable pickle, and every cook has their own recipe.This one is made with ground aromatics that include chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal and turmeric, which are cooked with dried belacan (fermented shrimp paste), mustard seeds and tamarind pulp, before being mixed with salted cabbage and carrot.While traditional cooks would use a mortar and pestle to pound the…
  7. If the only churros you’ve eaten are the stick-straight frozen type, you’re in for a treat when you taste the home-made version. Churros are easy to make, and dangerously easy to eat. What I love about them is that there’s a lot of surface area, which means more crunch.After they’re fried and drained briefly on paper towels, dredge the still-hot churros in plain granulated sugar, or mix in some ground cinnamon. They can be served with hot chocolate, or dipped in chocolate sauce or caramel sauce…
  8. I’m assuming (hoping) that most people are having a socially-distant New Year’s Eve and staying home or gathering in very small groups, rather than going out and partying with friends and strangers, as we might in normal years. So instead of being groggy (read: hungover) on the morning of New Year’s Day, you can be up bright and early, and spend a little more time making breakfast for the family.AebleskiversI first ate aebleskivers in the Danish town of Solvang, California, where I watched with…
  9. Instead of doing my usual cookbook review this week, I’m giving a recap of some of my favourite books that I’ve reviewed over the past year (well, year and a bit). After all, Christmas is coming and many cooks will welcome a gift of a new book to give them inspiration in their kitchens.My favourite cookbooks are the ones where you hear the author’s voice. Yes, of course the recipes are the most important part of the book, but knowing something about the author makes them a lot more interesting…
  10. Tell us about your childhood. “I was born in Koblenz, Germany. My father was a German chemist and my mother is French. When I was five years old, my father committed suicide, so my mother moved my older sister and me to Strasbourg, Alsace [in France], where she had family. We had visited during the holidays, but I only spoke German so I started learning French.”How did you start cooking? “My mum opened a casual restaurant near Nice serving traditional French food. I liked to dress up, so she…