An Evening with Carol Selva Rajah

Carol Selva Rajah with her basmati turmeric rice and curry chicken

Carol Selva Rajah with her basmati turmeric rice and curry chicken

Having grown up in Malaysia, I have a natural affinity to deliciously tasty Malaysian cuisine. Classics like laksa, beef rendang, nasi lemak, chinese stewed pork or tau yu bak hold a special place in the hearts of many Malaysian foodies.

When I first came to Sydney in the early 1980s, there was hardly any Malaysian restaurants in sight but fast forward about thirty years later, Malaysian food has indeed won the hearts and tastebuds of locals with countless Malaysian restaurants dotting major capital cities throughout Australia.

Among those who promoted and played a major role in introducing Malaysian food to Australians are pioneering chefs and restaurateurs who were passionate  in educating locals about Malaysian delicacies. Carol Selva Rajah, widely regarded as the doyenne of traditional Malaysian cooking, is one of these pioneering Malaysians. She has written countless cookbooks which expounds her famed recipes, use of herbs, spices and ingredients, cooking techniques as well as leading food tours to more exotic food suburbs in Sydney to educate foodies about Malaysian and other major Asian cuisines.

Tonight, Mysaucepan and I are indeed among a group of privileged guests who are dining on the food cooked by “Aunty Carol” as she is affectionately called by her family and close friends.

Betel leave with mince pork and jicama

Betel leave with mince pork and jicama

Aunty Carol’s hospitality is infectiously warm and as soon as we arrive at her home, we are greeted by trays of canapes which offer familiar Malaysian finger food and some with a twist.

I fold a betel leaf with mince pork and jicama and pop it into my mouth. It is gently savoury with the crunchy jicama texture.

Our charming waiter Medy for the evening serving canapes

Our charming waiter for the evening, Medy, serving canapes

As soon as the betel leaves disappear a tray of cornflakes crumbed baked chicken wings and drumettes arrives.

Breadcrumbed baked chicken wings and drumettes

Cornflakes crumbed baked chicken wings and drumettes

The chicken is incredibly crispy with the clever use of cornflakes and succulent inside. This entire tray of chicken is disappearing as fast as I can eat just one.

Breadcrumbed baked chicken wings and drumettes

Breadcrumbed baked chicken wing

Mysaucepan holds up her piece of chicken drumette in delightful approval to show its succulence and crispiness and no surprise it is a favourite with the kids.

Carol with sweet belachan with rice cracker canape

Aunty Carol with sweet prawn sambal jam on rice cracker canape

Aunty Carol comes around to chat with a plate of sweet prawn sambal jam on rice cracker. The crispy rice cracker is brought alive by the sweet sambal jam. As you can see, the tray began to empty almost immediately until I requested for an obligatory photo before the last one was devoured.

2005 Clonakilla Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc

2005 Clonakilla Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc

A slightly mature 2005 Clonakilla semillon-sauvignon blanc becomes a flexible and flavoursome sip for all the different flavours from the canapes.

Fish cakes with spicy mayonaisse

Fish cakes with spicy mayonnaise

A tray of golden brown fish cakes with spicy mayonnaise is crispy with soft fish meat and potato inside.

Fish cakes with spicy mayonaisse

Fish cakes with spicy mayonaisse

Strips of thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves add familiar Asian flavours and the cold spicy mayonnaise does it job in giving a creamy temperature contrast.

Sparkling white wine

Sparkling white wine

Our handsome waiter Medy tells us he is of French and Algerian parentage like his famous footballing countryman, Zinadine Zidane, and got some of the girls in the room swooning.

Somehow, I doubt if any of them asked if he is as good kicking a soccer ball as his dashing good looks.

2009 VIC Shiraz

2009 VIC Shiraz

As our first entree is being plated up, we are presented with a 2009 Best’s VIC Shiraz.

2009 VIC Shiraz

2009 VIC Shiraz

I found the spicy blackberry flavours and tannins of this wine to be quite strong. As I gave it a little more time in the glass, the wine became a little smoother but still a tad strong for my liking. This bottle is definitely good in the cellar for a few more years.

Salmon salad with pickled vegetables with salmon roe

Salmon salad with pickled vegetables and salmon roe

Our first entree of salmon salad with pickled vegetables and salmon roe has a tangy vinaigrette to accompany the fresh creamy texture of the sashimi salmon. Freshly julienne carrots and beansprouts add good textural contrast with salty flavours from the salmon roe.

Carol Selva Rajah cooking fragrant glutenous rice

Aunty Carol cooking fragrant basmati rice

As we dine on our entree, a familiar whiff of tau yu bak or chinese stewed pork emanates from the kitchen.

Carol Selva Rajah preparing tau yu bak with basmati rice

Aunty Carol preparing tau yu bak with basmati rice

Aunty Carol plates up the long-grained basmati rice with the succulent pork made so dark and tasty with the signature Cheong Chan thick caramel sauce from Malaysia.

The fragrant five-spice powder comes through with each bite of the pork and the deliciously thick and flavoursome sauce is mopped up by the basmati rice.

Spanish mackerel with special black olive sauce

Spanish mackerel with special black olive sauce

Our next dish of Spanish mackerel with special black olive sauce is Aunty Carol innovative creation.

Carol Selva Rajah plating up Spanish mackerel

Aunty Carol plating up Spanish mackerel

Presented in banana leaf patterned plates to add that bit of authenticity to our food, the fish is garnished with slivers of haam choy or salted cabbage for an added twist from the usual deep fried mackerel that we are familiar with in Malaysia.

Basmati turmeric rice with curry chicken and ginkgo nuts

Basmati turmeric rice with curry chicken and ginkgo nuts

A dish that transported me back to Malaysia is basmati turmeric rice with curry chicken and ginkgo nuts.

Carol Selva Rajah with her basmati turmeric rice and curry chicken

Aunty Carol with her basmati turmeric rice and curry chicken

This vibrant yellow basmati rice is fluffy and complemented the mildly spicy chicken curry where Aunty Carol added the ginkgo nuts for texture and variety. Fresh coriander and grape tomato give this dish a light and refreshing taste.

Glutenous rice with beef rendang

Beef rendang with glutenous rice

As we get nicely fed by all the tasty dishes thus far, yet another classic in beef rendang with glutenous rice arrives. The beef is spicy sweet with bold flavours of roasted, desiccated coconut.

The sticky glutenous rice is a beautiful accompaniment for the rendang and every tasty mouthful brings us closer to dessert to end this beautiful meal.

Passionfruit icecream with crystallised ginger and honey melon

Passionfruit ice-cream with crystallised ginger and honey melon

A passionfruit ice-cream with crystallised ginger and honey melon is a cold and refreshing contrast to Aunty Carol beef rendang and curry chicken.

Chunky bits of ginger add zing to the sweet and creamy ice-cream.

Scotch whisky in Orrefors crystal short glass

Scotch whisky in Orrefors crystal short glass

I have the privilege of sipping an aged scotch whisky from a beautiful Swedish crystal glass given to Aunty Carol by her late husband.

This proves to be the perfect end to a wonderful meal with equally wonderful company tonight.

“Thank you Aunty Carol for having us!”

We feel the obligation to reciprocate Aunty Carol’s kind hospitality but also feel the pressure to replicate an outstanding meal from her.

Heavenly Fragrance cookbook by Carol Selva Rajah

Heavenly Fragrance cookbook by Carol Selva Rajah

Aunty Carol is proud to introduce her latest cookbook Heavenly Fragrance which delves into cooking with aromatic Asian herbs, fruits, spices and seasonings.

Carol Selva Rajah's plum sauce baked chicken wings

Carol Selva Rajah's plum sauce baked chicken wings recipe

I browse through this cookbook illustrated with beautiful and colourful pictures by award-winning photograper Masano Kawana who is born in Japan and based in Singapore.

The book is introduced with a foreword by David Thompson, the acclaimed Australian celebrity chef who is also a winner of the James Beard Award and IACP Finalist for Thai Food. Heavenly Fragrance is published by Periplus Editions in Singapore.

To find out more about Carol’s extensive range of cookbooks, food tours, cooking classes and gourmet dinners, visit Carol’s website at Carol Selva Rajah.com.au

Note: ChopinandMysaucepan dined as guests of Carol Selva Rajah, who is also a personal friend of the authors.

Clonakilla Wines
3 Crisps Lane, Murrumbateman
New South Wales 2582
Tel: +61 2 6227 5877

Periplus Publishing Group
61 Tai Seng Avenue
#02-12 Singapore 534167

 

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17 Responses to An Evening with Carol Selva Rajah

  1. JasmyneTea says:

    As much as I LOVE the look of all that food (especially the chicken wings), I just have to say that Carol’s hair is awesome!

  2. What an honour to be invited to this meal! The food looks spectacular! :D

  3. I love the diversity of Malaysian food that was served. Looks lovely.

  4. sophia says:

    1) I would LOVE to hang out with someone like Carol!!! She sounds wonderful and so passionate! I would die of happiness if I got to attend an event like this.

    2) I would also die of girly crush to be served by Medy. Damn he’s hot.

    3) Love that you call her Aunty Carol. :-)

  5. I’m fairly new to Malaysian food but I have to admit, everything looks and sounds delicious! I love the use of cornflakes and fried chicken, who would’ve thought! Hehe and Medy is quite the looker ^^

  6. Carolyn Jung says:

    Wow, what an amazing feast! And can I say, it never hurts to have a cute waiter serving it all, either. ;)

  7. Manu says:

    What an amazing dinner! I would have LOVED each and every dish! I am so hungry now! Thanks for another great post!

  8. Looks like an amazing night (and I bet the girls were swooning ha ha). The fish cakes with spicy mayonnaise look absolutely moorish. Carol’s book would definitely get a run in my kitchen!

  9. Fiona says:

    Wow.. What a wonderful privilege to dine and wine with Aunty Carol. The food looks incredible!! I must say that Aunty Carol is looking beautiful and regal. Medy offered a nice eye-candy touch :) (MySaucepan must have been very distracted.)
    Thank you for the beautiful photos.

  10. Hannah says:

    Oh my, that is a handsome waiter indeed! How wonderful to be invited to an event such as this! I definitely like the look of the pickles veg and salmon salad :)

  11. vivienne says:

    haha so funny how every girls seem to be commenting about medy :P hahhaa.
    id love a bite of the fish cake with spicy mayo…hmmmm. aunty carol seems like a lovely lady…her hair reminds me of cruella de vil tho :P

  12. Wow, what a wonderful opportunity, and such a great honor! All the food looks just awesome, I can almost smell the flavors when looking at your pictures! :)

  13. tigerfish says:

    You are so lucky!

    In one episode of Gordon Ramsay (Great Escape, Malaysia), he calls every good cook “Aunty” too! ;p

  14. Joanne says:

    I’ve never had Malaysian food before but it must have been amazing to be at this event!

  15. Chopinand says:

    Hi JasmyneTea, I think it’s a wonderful insignia.

    Hi Lorraine, it was a great evening!

    Hi Maris, indeed it was.

    Hi Dumpling Girl, some dishes like the fish was off left field.

    Hi sophia, come to Sydney and you will meet Aunty Carol.

    Hi Vivian, the cornflakes fried chicken was deliciously tasty and a good twist.

    Hi Carolyn, Medy’s looks didn’t do much for me so I focused on the food.

    Hi Manu, I’m sure you can rough up one of your fabulous recipes!

    Hi Keely, the spicy mayo was a great dip for the fishcakes too!

    Hi Fiona, Mysaucepan thought I was better looking :) :)

    Hi Hannah, the salmon salad is on my mind next summer too.

    HI vivienne, that’s funny, I thought I saw a few dalmatian puppies wondering about in her house?!

    Hi Kath, yes, come to Sydney and you will dine with Aunty Carol.

    Hi tigerfish, I doubt if those cooks call him Uncle Gordon though.

    Hi Joanne, I suggest you head to the closest Malaysian restaurant near you or try some of the recipes :)

  16. Pingback: Carol’s media links | Carol Selva Rajah

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