Cooking for a healthier and heartier Malaysia
No matter where you were brought up in, everybody has fond memories of their mother’s cooking. But do you remember how stressful it was working in the same kitchen as her? Sharing the similar sentiment; celebrity chef Sherson Lian and his mother are in an adventure of a lifetime.
“I was never a studious person,” says Sherson. “The only result I had that made my mother proud was when I passed my UPSR with 3A’s and 2B’s, I believe,” he continues as he look at his mother, who’s sitting next to him. “But I know I wasn’t stupid. I needed something to convince the world that I am a capable person. When my mom started the food business, I would go and help during the holidays and found my passion there. I really enjoyed it,” he exclaims. Such is the humble beginning of celebrity chef Sherson Lian who hosts ‘Family Kitchen with Sherson’ with his mother, Ann.
Ann says that she looks up to her son. “I think he’s fast, he’s creative and also very daring to be able to combine many things together to create something nice. I remember watching him on TV and found myself surprised by his technique, speed and creativity. I was impressed when he’d done things that I’d never thought of. It also helps that he is a fast learner.
Sherson says that hosting a show with his mother has it’s up and down. “Our work and personal relationship was never balanced. Once in a while, we couldn’t be on the same page and we have to just agree to disagree. Working with a family member always have its pros and cons. Once in a while, pride plays a role. Despite all that though, it gets us closer together.”
Palm oil in Asian cooking
The mother-son combo enjoys cooking with palm oil. Lian claims, “I use palm oil for a lot of Asian cooking. The distinct flavour that palm oil carries suit the Asian taste profile.” Ann continues, “Representing the Asian culture, our cooking would usually involve deep frying, sautéing and pan-frying. Palm oil is easily available and it has a very high smoke point and can withstand high heat without losing its nutrients.”
“Palm oil is also a good source of Vitamin E and it makes a good anti-oxidant. I think that’s why it is prevalent in Asian cooking.” Ann says with a smile.
‘Healthier’ alternatives in cooking?
Sherson doesn’t believe in substituting his ingredients to a ‘healthier’ alternative. “To me, healthy food is one that is home cooked. The choice is in your hand and you know exactly what you put in your food. I won’t replace mayonnaise with yogurt because I’m not that kind of person. If we do that, who’s going to look after the authenticity of our
food? Instead of changing the ingredients, I think Malaysians in general should consider changing their eating habit,” he explains.“
Growing up, I look up to Jamie Oliver. He is one of the first person to create a paradigm shift from the mentality of cooking is a hassle, or it’s difficult. He makes cooking look so easy and if you watch 5 Rencah, 5 Rasa; you can see that I strive to follow that example. I want to make cooking look easy. So that next time, before you order something; or go out to eat – you’d consider cooking at home,” he says.
Meanwhile, Ann thinks that her eating habit has changed as her age progresses. “Sometimes age is a concern. I eat fancy during lunch but I watch what I eat for dinner. After a heavy lunch, I would choose to have lesser or a healthier dinner. That’s why I said I don’t really sacrifice much. And I go for whole foods rather than processed or refined food,” she explains.
“Don’t rob the joy of eating our authentic Malaysian food.”
— Sherson Lian
Indulgence is not always sinful
“The Lians just love our food,” Sherson says with a chuckle. “I like Village Park Nasi Lemak. The ayam goreng is tasty and I love the crispy rempah. Don’t take that away from me. If you change it to a ‘healthier’ item, you’re robbing the joy out of it. If we’re going to use health as an excuse to substitute ingredients in Malaysian cooking, who’s going to take care of the authenticity of our traditional cooking?” he questions. “Instead, be moderate about it. I would usually go and indulge myself every six months or a year,” he exclaims.
Ann nods in agreement. “I love vadeh. I usually get them from the roadside stalls or ‘pasar malam’. Every now and again, I’d bring them home and being health conscious, I’d let the oil soak with a tissue and I could eat five or six in one sitting. But I wouldn’t recommend you do it every day. It’s just that once in a while, you should eat what you like and not feel bad about it,” she says.
Cooking with a heart
Sherson believes that any cooking that comes from the heart will taste good. It is the love and care that we put into preparing a meal that gives it a unique taste. Since everybody has different hearts and instinct; his mother Ann believes that love is always the best ingredient and she would always include. The chefs send us off with how to keep our hearts healthy. Liam explains that “moderation is key,” while Ann says that “go for whole food rather than processed or refined food.” — The Health Plus