Pretty Kiwisian lass idea of delicious and hearty is simply to go au naturel.
YOU can think of Nadia Lim as an exotic fruit; she is after all, the fruit of the union between a Kiwi and a Malaysian. The winner of Masterchef New Zealand 2011 was born in the “land of the long white cloud” of a Malaysian father and Kiwi mother. She moved to Malaysia when she was six, and went back to New Zealand six years later.
All of 12 years old, Lim discovered her flair for cooking, inspired by Jamie Oliver’s show, The Naked Chef. Lim dreamt that one day she too would write a cook book and star in a cooking show called “Food in the Nude”. She meant the food in the nude of course (not her), stripped down to Nature’s bare basics. In other words, eating food grown without chemicals and cooking without the use of additives. Lim loves Oliver’s approach because they share the same goal of trying to get people to eat more healthily. It was through the show that she started to write her first recipe and it was something similar to Oliver’s rolled bread, a recipe he did on the show at that time.
Fast forward to the present and her latest recipe book has been nominated in the Best TV English Cookbook
category, making her a finalist in Gourmand’s ‘Best in the World’ Awards. Having two recipe books published, this current one plays around four “four-letter word”: the Good Food Cook Book.
Lim said that it’s easier to write this one because she knew what to expect after having more experience in the food industry.
“It’s all simple, healthy and really delicious. Since people are short of time these days and they need something fast, these recipes are written for a good cooking session of just 30 minutes or so,” said the bubbly 28-year-old whom we met at the Prince Hotel when she was in Kuala Lumpur on a promo tour.
Dietician to Masterchef
You would be surprised that this chef studied nutrition and dietetics in the University of Otago for five years.
However, Lim believes that the key to eating well is not something that can be quantified in a laboratory; rather, the key to eating well is simply enjoying your food!
Her experience at New Zealand’s most gruelling culinary television contest had toughened her up. From the 25 finalists, only Lim survived the cut in the final episode after successfully identifying 18 out of 20 ingredients used in a bouillabaisse (a traditional Provençal fish stew).
After winning Masterchef New Zealand in 2011, her first cook book, Nadia’s Kitchen, did very well and had five reprints.
The Malaysian experience
“I credit my time living in Malaysia to why I am such a good cook now. Malaysia is so unique compared to other countries in the world. The food is like a melting pot: you have Indian, Malay, Chinese, and Peranakan, which are all very unique.
“If I grew up in New Zealand, I wouldn’t have been exposed to the same amount and varieties of food. I’m very lucky to have been brought up in Kuala Lumpur.”
Lim said that she’s definitely going to make use of Malaysian cooking styles but she would work on a better, healthier notion. “I’m a believer of keeping things simple and natural because today, most people are trying to complicate matter by being fanciful.”
Lim said she craves for Roti Canai when she is back home in New Zealand. “I miss my Nasi Lemak, Bak Kut Teh, Lou Shi Fun, Char Kway Teow, Hainanese Chicken Rice, and Hokkien noodles. Asam Fish, too, is one of my favourites and you will have to come back here to get it.”
Keeping it simple and natural
“New Zealand has the best naturally-grown produce in the world. With only four million people and a land mass much bigger than Malaysia, there’s so much farming land and room to grow fresh vegetables and fruit.” Being two main islands also mean the availability of fresh seafood.
Lim said that she uses high quality natural produce and then pairs it with Malaysian or other Asian flavours. She recreated the asam laksa using premium New Zealand salmon instead of the mackerel.
“Malaysian food often isn’t that healthy and can be very high in fat and salt. That’s why Malaysia has quite a high rate of diabetes and strokes, but we can change that around. We can focus on eating real food, and by that I mean unprocessed natural food because too much food nowadays comes out of a packet.”
The rise in food marketing to promote convenience food is something that Lim frowns upon. Her philosophy of eating food plucked from the ground, sea and sky – and not generated from factories – is something we need to live by. Lim believes that if we stick to that basic concept of building good food, add Malaysian flavours to it, and it would make a great dish.
“Malaysian food can be healthy, but I think we need to add in more vegetables.
“And if we start with premium products, we don’t need to do much to it to make it taste great.”
My Food Bag
Along with her husband, Carlos Bagrie, 28, Lim and three other entrepreneurs started this business in New Zealand about a year ago.
“In a nutshell, the concept of My Food Bag is that we deliver beautiful recipe cards with the photograph and the recipe at the back, together with all the ingredients used to cook those recipes with, right to the person’s door. Every week we will deliver the bags for five nights of dinners.”
Lim said that this saves people from having to crack their heads over what to cook for dinner, and also provides convenience to the recipients.
My Food Bag is a global concept, but it was not set up in New Zealand until a year ago. In that span of time, My Food Bag New Zealand expanded to four areas, three major cities and one small city. Head chef and dietician, Nadia Lim explained that “the head office has a staff of 22 and we employ about 100 contractors every week to pack and deliver the bags.
“It’s all about fresh New Zealand produce and the whole bag is bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables, all grown locally, and high quality meat and seafood.”
On the side
Lim rates Malaysian cuisine as one of her favourites, alongside Vietnamese, Thai, Middle Eastern and Indian flavours. However, she feels that Korean food is one of the most underrated ethnic cuisines and needs to be tapped into more.
The workaholic strangely believes that time is the biggest factor now. “I always find myself having not enough time because I try to fit everything in. I wish I needed only two hours of sleep at night, so I can work more and that would be fantastic. I’d love to have that power but I must still have the energy and the whole package.”
With such a charming smile and a beautiful personality, this young lady has brought a breath of fresh air to the food industry – and one who credits Malaysian flavours for her success is something you don’t often hear.
300g fresh salmon fillet, skin removed and pin-boned
1½ tbsp chopped capers
2 tbsp finely minced shallot
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 firm ripe avocadoes, cut into 1cm cubes
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crispy baguette or lavash crackers to serve
Beetroot relish (optional)
Using a sharp knife, cut the salmon into 1cm cubes and mix with the capers, shallot, chives, dill, and lemon zest. If not using immediately, keep in the fridge (for up to four hours).
When ready to serve, mix with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, avocadoes and flaky sea salt and black pepper, to taste.
To assemble, divide mixture evenly and pack into four small ramekins or tea cups. Press mixture down gently, but firmly, with the back of a spoon.
Invert each tartare onto individual plates.
Serve with crostini or lavash and a little bit of beetroot relish on the side. – Recipe from Nadia Lim’s Good Food Cook Book.