South Australian celebrity cook Poh Ling Yeow loves tucking into a bowl of two-minute noodles occasionally – she even admits it in the introduction to her latest cookbook.
“I do eat two-minute noodles!” she tells InDaily, breaking into that trademark bubbly laugh.
“It’s kind of my vice, when I’m really stressed. I guess my excuse is that I’m Asian and I grew up eating it.
“Everyone’s become such a gourmand these days but at the end of the day most chefs’ favourite food is something their mum cooked or something they grew up eating.
“Food and memory are all tied up together.”
The dichotomy in her own approach to food – the fact that some days she eats for convenience and comfort, while on others she cooks elaborate dishes from scratch – was the inspiration for the unusual concept behind Poh’s new cookbook Same Same But Different (ABC Books, $39.99).
The book comprises a diverse collection of recipe pairs which share a process, ingredient or texture. Her aim was that it would be fun and accessible.
“I just wanted the book to reflect how I cook in a very honest way – and that’s that I’m kind of all over the shop,” says Poh, who prefers to call herself a cook rather than a chef.
“I don’t just cook a single cuisine all the time. I think that [cooking a range of different things] is how most Aussies cook.”
An index with chapter headings such as Small Bites, Beast, Fowl & Fish and I Love Carbs helps cooks to navigate the book, while the dishes reflect a range of cultural influences and styles. The recipe pairs include a few surprises, such as beef wellington sitting next to plum tarte tartin (both use puff pastry) and a pan-fried pizza next to cinnamon twists with chocolate sauce (they share a pizza dough).
“The most outrageous one is probably the crème caramel on one page and a steamed egg tofu with century egg salad on the other,” Poh says. “Both use eggs and a water bath … but they’re wildly different.”
Poh’s career has gone from strength to strength since she was runner-up in the first series of MasterChef Australia in 2009, and these days she says she’s so busy she rarely has time to watch the reality-TV show that first brought her to public attention. In addition to publishing the new cookbook, she is also preparing for a solo exhibition during the South Australian Living Artists (SALA) Festival in August, and recently opened a stall at the Adelaide Farmers’ Market.
Called Jamface, the stall doesn’t sell the Asian-style foods some might expect from Poh, but rather goodies she describes as “the kind of stuff Nana used to make” – including potato pastries, pizza fritta and baked treats such as melting moments and a dark chocolate and beetroot cake.
“It’s less about jam, more about jamming stuff into your face,” she says, cracking up once more.
Click here for Poh’s recipe for Totally Unicorn Beetroot Cake.
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