She beckons us to come closer to the cooking station so that we can better see and hear her demonstrate her recipe for chicken satay (no peanut butter involved!). She regales us with why chicken thigh is the preferred cut of meat for satay - it’s the most active portion of the bird resulting in firmer flesh – complete with animated physical demonstration, as well as tips on how to keep a trim figure – mix things by hand in the kitchen and wiggle your arse whilst doing so!
Florence checks on each bench’s progress attentively and dotes on us like children. She marvels at the size of Australian fresh produce compared to that of Malaysia and is a laugh a minute with her stories. She retells of time shared as a six-year-old with her mother in the kitchen and being inspired to pursue a path in food and cooking. Surprisingly, she mentions having wanted to be a dentist at one stage and being discouraged from doing so due to her being left-handed.
We’re pressed for time so it’s observation only for the making of the satay sauce. Florence tells us that if she was to cover in detail the two recipes presented to us that it would take four to five hours!
The other recipe being demonstrated is otak otak, a fish mousse prepared most often grilled inside a banana leaf. Due to time constraints, we are treated to some which have been lovingly grilled by Florence earlier without the usual banana leaf packaging.
The class ends with everyone digging into a shared meal of chicken satay, pressed rice and otak otak, and with Florence encouraging us each to eat more. Would you expect any less from this Malaysian aunty? We file past her to say goodbye at the end of the evening and, after I’ve given her a peck on the cheek, she says to me, “Another kiss. Give me another kiss on the other cheek.”
Yes, Aunty, okay lah. How could I say no?
Get your Malaysian on this Saturday, 1st October, at Church Street Mall, Parramatta with Malaysia Kitchen’s BBQ Madness to kick off the 2011 Crave Sydney International Food Festival. Masterchef alumni Adam Liaw, Alvin Quah and our favourite Billy Law will be giving demonstrations along with Malaysian chefs Wanitha Tanasingam and, of course, Florence Tan. The fun runs from 9am-2pm with barbecued dishes from several of Sydney’s Malaysian restaurants.