Your journey has been amazing so far. How have you enjoyed it?
I absolutely loved every part of it. People say MasterChef is like a roller coaster and now I can completely understand what they mean. There has been lots of ups and downs but I feel like I have had the best time. I have met the most amazing people and I have done things that nobody else could have had the opportunity to do. It’s been emotional and stressful but also a most rewarding experience.
Everybody loves Chinese food. What is the inspiration behind your Chinese dishes?
Chinese cuisine is my favourite both in terms of cooking and eating. My Dad inspired me a lot. Although Dutch, he loves Chinese cuisine. His work is based in China and every time I visit him, he cooks Chinese food - he would make hot pot, stir fries, dumplings. Every time, I travelled overseas to meet dad, my affinity for Chinese food increased.
Any comments on the influence of Chinese language and culture in your tryst with their local cuisine?
Like I said, my father worked there. I stayed with him for some time and fell in love with the flavours of Chinese cuisine. I used to explore the backstreets of China coming across things that I would have never found in Australia. Chinese have the most beautiful food culture and they like to share food together. I think I really like that.
Any ‘masterchef’ advice for first time traditional Chinese food cooks?
First of all, you shouldn’t be afraid how it turns out, just give it a go. The best thing about Chinese food is that there’s so many flavours that you can put as much as you like or as little as you like when it comes to adding ingredients like garlic, chili and other essentials. Try Chinese ingredients like szechuan peppercorn – they’re like chilli except they have a numbing effect on the tongue. Try new ingredients. Don’t forget to explore and experiment.
For starters, which Chinese dish would you recommend they try?
There’re two dishes I make for people who haven’t tried Chinese food before. One is kung pao chicken, it is a kitchen stir fried variety garnished with chilli and garlic. A traditional spicy dish; the mayo, cashew and peanuts makes it quite delicious. The other thing I want people to try is smashed cucumber salad. It’s made of cucumber, garlic, sesame oil and a bit of soy sauce. Generally taken after a hot meal, smashed cucumber salad cools your tongue and serves well as a dessert.