AsiaMalls Food On Parade: Cooking Up A Storm! @ Hougang Mall

This post is brought to you by AsiaMalls.

On a cool Saturday afternoon of 11 June 2011, the skies were overcast with hues of gray. But within the main atrium of Hougang Mall, excitement was brewing among 5 teams as well as crowds of supporters and curious onlookers.

This event was one of AsiaMalls preliminary cooking contests, spread out over two weekends in June 2011 at 6 AsiaMalls shopping malls. The finals will be held on 25th June 2011 at Liang Court.

Each preliminary cook-off has a different Asian theme, depending on the theme that each respective mall has been assigned. The theme at Hougang Mall is Malaysian cuisine!

Each team is made up of 2 partners. Their challenge: Cook up a storm using a mystery ingredient unique to Malaysia’s cuisine! They have to whip up one Malaysian dish in 1 hour based on the following judging criteria:

• Taste and flavour (25%)
• Use of mystery ingredient (15%)
• Relevance to theme (15%)
• Composition and harmony of ingredients (20%)
• Presentation and originality (10%)
• Completion of task (5%)

Each team was given 30 minutes to buy their ingredients from the supermarket with a S$20 budget.  After revealing the mystery ingredient – Penang belacan — each team dashed off to purchase their ingredients!

In the meantime, the audience were treated to a cooking demo by Chef Ming Tan of JAM (private dining outfit) and chef instructor at T0TT Store.

The young and talented chef has a deep appreciation for fresh produce and ‘slow’ food, enjoying every step of the preparation process from picking prunes and peeling potatoes to plating dishes. For this demo, he whipped up an all-time popular Malaysian dish — Penang laksa!

Also known as assam laksa, Penang laksa is flavored with tamarind which gives the gravy its distinctive tangy taste. Another distinguishing feature is the addition of fresh mackerel. Together with crunchy cucumber and sweet, juicy pineapple, it’s no wonder this sweet, spicy and sour noodle dish is such an iconic Malaysian dish!

After Chef Ming Tan’s 30-minute demo, the 5 competing teams were back at their stations, ready to cook up a storm.

This is the day’s mystery ingredient – Penang belacan.

At exactly 3pm, the cook-off began!

The atrium was filled with the strong aroma of belacan, leaving the hungry audience salivating as they hovered around the cooking stations, watching the ingredients come together to form a drool-worthy dish.

The teams were given one hour to complete and plate their creations.

Out of the 5 teams, three used fish as the main ingredient. One adventurous team used petai aka “stinkbeans”. This strong-smelling bean is something you either love or hate, so this team took a very big gamble indeed!

Here are the two chef judges, Chef Ni and Chef Chen. Though they are both mainland Chinese, they are no strangers to Malaysian cuisine.

To thank all participating teams, each team received limited edition AsiaMalls mugs and $100 shopping vouchers.

Now, for the moment everyone was waiting for — which is the winning team?

Here’s the winning mother-and-daughter team! They took a big risk using petai, but their gamble paid off, impressing the judges with the flavors and presentation of their dish. They won a bonus S$200 as well as a spot in the cook-off finals on 25th June 2011 at Liang Court. Well done and congratulations!

Stay tuned for more updates on exciting events by AsiaMalls Food On Parade 2011. For upcoming AsiaMalls Food On Parade happenings and articles on past events, you can go to AsiaMalls’ Yummy Fix! app on Facebook.