You may recognise him as one of the top 12 finalists of MasterChef UK: The Professionals, Season 11. Kuala Lumpur-based Chef Mo started off his career working in various local hotels before moving to the United Kingdom where he learned to master his craft. His illustrious resume includes the likes of The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur and The Gainsborough Bath Spa and now has taken up residence at The Starhill Dining’s Shook!
The earliest memory of food I have is from the age of 12 when I first started helping my parents out with their business. My parents ran a mamak restaurant, serving dishes like roti canai, mee mamak and nasi lemak. Naturally, my love for cooking was ignited by simply helping them out. Growing up in Kuala Lumpur and watching my parents run their restaurant, I felt like cooking is an art. All the ingredients from the diverse cultures I was brought up alongside were like paint to me, and the world was my canvas. My life’s mission continues to be all about sharing my love for food with the world and that is how I became who I am today.
My favourite childhood dish was definitely my mother’s chicken curry which she cooked religiously every Sunday while I was growing up. For many people, Sundays are for relaxation and spending time with their loved ones and my family was exactly the same. Sundays were special to me growing up; my father would have his day off work, I would not have any classes to attend, and we would all just spend our time together as a family, cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
The first dish I learned to cook was chicken curry. Having had it so much when I was younger, it was only natural that chicken curry would be the dish that I first learned to cook. My mother would spend hours in the kitchen, guiding me through the whole process of cooking the dish. My very first cooking experience is definitely a memory that is embedded in my mind forever.
My ultimate comfort food is a good piping hot plate of char kway teow, it always satiates my craving for something comforting. When I was in high school, I had a Chinese best friend who would exchange packed lunches with me. His mother’s homemade char kway teow was always the one I was looking forward to having at lunch. I loved it so much that it eventually became my favourite comfort food. If I had an unhappy day at school, and he happened to bring char kway teow from home, it would always lift my spirits. Until today, the dish would always remind me of the good old days and I’d feel thankful for her humble plate of noodles that brought me so much joy.
My signature dish to impress would be the sous-vide halibut with laksa capellini – this is a dish that I created when I was a contestant on MasterChef UK. I love sparking new flavours into international and western recipes with much loved Malaysian ingredients, so it was only natural for me to create this dish then. Laksa is commonly made with thick rice noodles. However, I thought of replacing the thick rice noodles with capellini for the competition to elevate the dish. As for the sous-vide halibut, I just love how good of a source of protein halibut is as well as being such a light-tasting fish. It’s meaty and firm, yet melts in your mouth with every bite. Cooking halibut with the sous-vide technique is also my favourite way to do it, as it is literally just a temperature-controlled water bath technique that produces perfect results for any kind of meat you are cooking, every single time.
My current go-to restaurant is Restoran Ping Wai in Kota Kemuning. Their most famous dishes are Hakka Mee, Pulau Ketam nasi lemak, fried chicken chop rice and Pulau Ketam curry laksa. I absolutely adore their Pulau Ketam Curry Laksa. The broth is beautifully thick and flavourful and the portion is just right for my liking. After a long week at work, all I want to do is have a hot bowl of curry laksa and Restoran Ping Wai has just the right fix for me.
I often go for drinks at Shuang Xi in Petaling Street. The bar looks like it’s taken straight out of a Wong Kar Wai film. With the red neon lights all over the bar and also seeing Wong Kar Wai’s film posters being plastered all over the walls makes me feel like I too could be as versatile as Tony Leung in many of his films. I love how even though it is in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, it is still very hidden and the rundown aesthetic that they have makes the bar much more charming too.
For my morning coffee runs, I keep it simple – Starbucks is always the way to go. My usual order is double shot iced shaken espresso, perfect to give me a boost in the morning so that I am ready to face a day filled with new adventures and discoveries in the kitchen.
My favourite place to shop for ingredients is Ben’s Independent Grocer (B.I.G.) at Publika. Much like their tagline, I believe that B.I.G. truly selects the finest finds from all over the world. As a Chef and as a foodie, I love how it is so easy to find so many imported goods in the grocery store. The store is spacious, the staff are friendly, and the produce are of good quality.
My current favourite ingredients to cook with are pomegranate seeds and cauliflower. I love using pomegranate seeds as a garnish, not only are they so versatile that they can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes, but they are also rich in vitamins and minerals, so that is always an advantage. Cauliflower on the other hand should be everyone’s favourite ingredient, really. It is easy to cook and is suitable for most people as it is light on the palate, blending perfectly with everything.
My current obsession is Itameshi. Itameshi really just means “Italian Food” in Japanese, and fascinatingly, it is actually a really famous type of fusion in Japan. In my quest for understanding more diverse foods and cultures, I researched famous Japanese food trends and came across Itameshi pasta and have been in love with it ever since. My favourite Itameshi pasta is definitely Shitake Mushroom and Umami Ravioli. You can never go wrong with a hot plate of ravioli.
A dish that I would like to try the most at the moment is Iberico Pluma Steak. Iberico Pluma is the neck end of a Black Iberian Pig, a pig with a diet that consists only of acorns and elements of the natural forests, making the taste of the meat extra nutty and unique. I would also love to pair this meal with a glass of Spanish Sherry.
My current guilty pleasure is Cocoraw Chocolates from Chocodash Bangsar. Not only are they absolutely delicious, but they are also a homegrown Malaysian brand infusing local ingredients like gula melaka and teh tarik in their chocolates. They are also quite affordable so many people can have the opportunity to taste these locally produced chocolates. I for one do try to support local businesses when I can.
I would love to cook for Thomas Keller and Massimo Bottura. They are the biggest inspirations in my professional life and would be a dream of mine to be able to personally handcraft a spectacular dinner for them, featuring my hero dish – sous-vide halibut with laksa capellini.
Italy has to be the country that offers the best cuisine, in my opinion. Italian dishes are very honest, simple yet bursting with flavours. Italians put so much care, passion and love into their food, which I feel are the most important elements in creating extraordinary dishes in the kitchen.
Feature Image: The Starhill Dining