Recently, the US Potato Board (USPB) has teamed up with the Culinary Association of Malaysia (CAM) to launch the “US Fresh Potato Culinary Challenge”. This is a platform for our Malaysian chefs to showcase their culinary skills and creativity in coming up with winning dishes featuring US fresh potatoes, of course.
The prize for the winning chef is a study tour to the USA for a week, specifically at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) where he or she will be joined by other chefs from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mexico and Central America. During that week, these chefs will have an opportunity for interactive learning and exchange of knowledge and skills. Now isn’t that exciting? It sure is one helluva prize!
There were 5 competing chefs from leading F&B outlets – Dorsett Regency, Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur, Suka Restaurant, Bankers Room and Muzeum Café.
I was privileged enough to be invited as one of the food bloggers to judge the competition. Other judges came from representatives of the USPB and CAM.
On the 1st night of the judging, we started off at Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur. Chef Eugene Keith De Silva presented a plate of 3 appetisers. There’s a Chinese-style Taro Puff (“wu kok”) where mashed US purple and blue potatoes were used to wrap a filling of crispy duck skin, salted egg yolk and hoisin sauce. Next to that was an Open-faced Lasagna with layers of pasta interspersed with spinach, mushrooms, Chat potatoes and buffalo mozzarella anchored with a creamy pumpkin puree.
Then there’s the Croquette that used mashed Idaho potatoes with a stuffing made from beef cheeks flavoured delicately with Indian spices.
I like the diversity of form, flavours and textures offered in Chef Eugene’s creations. The “wu kok” was particularly appealing due to the clever use of colourful potato mash and the combination of crispy duck skin and salted egg yolk somehow worked out fine.
Chef Eugene Keith De Silva
From Sheraton, we hopped over to Suka Restaurant where Chef Khoo Keit Seng presented his dish comprising a mound of mashed Russet potato enclosing a strip of grilled steak inside. To top it off, there’s a golden torched ayer of parmesan and cheddar cheese. Cheese and potatoes always work well and this was no exception. The grilled steak strip was a bit tough though – perhaps a more tenderly cooked piece would have worked better.
The pairing item on the plate was a piece of perfectly grilled cod topped with crunchy ginger strips. This was so good that I polished off the entire piece!
Chef Khoo Keit Seng
From the city, I rushed off to check out the entry from Chef Kiong Lian Chai from the Bankers Room. His creation scored points on the plating concept. The whole ensemble looked like a sketch from a Chinese painting… it had semblances of rocks and foliage.
The components were a savoy cabbage wrapping a rounded mound of mashed potato, mango and salted egg yolk and this inspiration came from a mooncake, according to the chef. Backed against this was a Russet potato shell filled with minced chicken, mashed potato with a hint of sage. Then there were two guardian potato “tamago” made from potatoes, eggs, mirin, shoyu and sugar – I love the flavours! A dash of brown sauce (made from beef jus and roasted potato skin) completed the picture.
Chef Kiong Lian Chai
A couple of days later, we resumed judging for the final 2 entries. From Dorsett Regency, Chef Nor Hakim presented a Sous Vide Striploin with a pretty parmesan crust, flanked by a turkey ham roll stuffed with foie gras and sous vide vegetables with shallot balsamic glaze.
The texture of the stripling was tender and the parmesan crust was a nice touch. The foie gras roll could not be faulted. However, I was surprised that potatoes were not given sufficient prominence in this dish. The 2 small pieces of potatoes next to the vegetables were hardly outstanding.
Chef Norhakim Halkin
From Dorsett Regency, I shot off to Muzeum Cafe located in SetiaWalk Puchong. Chef Amirul Asyraf’s dish scored high for plating and presentation. I love the riot of colours on his plate. Pan-seared NZ tenderloin with Potato Pave and some colourful Idaho potatoes adding a punch to the plate. The layers of potato in the pave were buttery and even and those saute’ed mushrooms gave it a nice earthy twist.
In meticulously planning out his plating, Chef Amirul must have overlooked the cooking timing as all our beef came well-done instead of “medium rare” that we ordered.
Chef Amirul Asyraf
My general take on this competition is that I wish more Asian influences could have been added into the culinary creativity. I’m sure beef is already widely used in the American culinary repertoire using potatoes and it would be really interesting to see the versatility of US potatoes in our Asian cuisines here.
Good luck to all the participating chefs! Stay tuned to find out which chef will be going for that US tour!