MasterChef 2017 winner Diana Chan is once again busy in the kitchen with her new TV show Asia Unplated With Diana Chan.
The series showcases authentic Asian food, Asian culture, and sees Diana travelling to places such as Asian grocery stores and restaurant pantries. Diana also welcomes guest on the show, like her former MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan.
We caught up with Diana ahead of the show's premiere, to find out her tips for nailing Asian cuisine. Asia Unplated With Diana Chan premieres on SBS on December 19th at 8pm.
What's the idea behind your show?
It's an in-depth show about Asian food and culture. I'm not an expert on all the cuisines, so I invite guests onto the show. I cook with restaurateurs, friends in the industry and home cooks who specialise in a certain cuisine. It feels like a conversation you'd have with a friend while you're cooking a meal at home. To me, food is a universal language – you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal.
How challenging are the recipes on your show?
I focus on the authenticity of the cuisine and dishes, rather than showcase what's mainstream. There's a mixture of both simple and more complicated recipes. I give people options for how to simplify it, and how make it if you want to go down the route of being super-traditional. I also travel to restaurant pantries, markets and Asian grocery stores to share more knowledge.
What do people find most difficult about cooking Asian dishes?
People get put off when they see 20 ingredients in a recipe. It doesn't have to be complicated: you just need to have the basics in your pantry – and it's stuff that won't go off for one or two years. Your basic spices are cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, clove, cumin and fennel; the main sauces are chilli oil, sesame oil and soy sauce. Then you can make 20 different dishes from a few ingredients.
What should beginners learn first?
Understand the flavour profile. For example, if you think about Thai cooking, it's all about balance of flavour: sweet, sour and salty. The sourness always comes from lime juice. However, in Malaysian cooking, the sourness usually comes from tamarind. Then you can think about the treatment of spices. What do you use more or less of and how do you cook them?
Is there a cuisine you'd like to master next?
There's no particular cuisine I could call myself an expert on. I can safely say I know a lot about Malaysian cuisine, but even that is so vast. Most people only know laksa, but there are eight. I don't know how to make all eight laksas – I can make about five or six. So there's a lot I have to learn, and this show is as much a learning curve for me as it is for the viewer.
Asia Unplated With Diana Chan Premieres Thursday, December 19, 8pm, on SBS Food.