MasterChef Asia finalist Jasbir Kaur is cooking up a storm in Kuching, Sara-wak, with her new Punjabi restaurant Thaali.
“Since there is no Sarawak Punjabi food scene, I’m making one,” she told the New Sunday Times at a recent interview.
True enough, there wasn’t a single Punjabi restaurant in Kuching before Jasbir’s restaurant.
The opening date has yet to be confirmed, but she hopes to have it ready by this month or the next, to mark the celebration of either Merdeka Day or Malaysia Day.
“People have been asking me when I’d invite them over to my house to eat, so now I say no more.
“I can now tell them that I won’t be cooking for them at home anymore.
“Instead, they are now welcome to dine at my restaurant,” she said.
When asked on the possibility of opening a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, she remained tight-lipped.
“It is in the works... I don’t know, we’ll see...” she said.
The 56-year-old mother of three said after appearing in the popular cooking competition in 2015, she had no plans to pursue a career as a restauranteur because she had always wanted to teach or write a book.
She ran a kindergarten after moving to Miri, but had to close it down when the family moved to Kuching.
“My children practically grew up there (in the kindergarten), but there were just too many things that I needed to do as they entered primary school.
“When you’re a housewife, you are everything; you are the cook, the cleaner, the maid, the driver and even their psychiatrist,” she said, adding that cooking later became her outlet for personal gratification.
“There are times when you need time to yourself where you can do anything you like. For me, it is cooking.
“It is not just putting a meal on the table, but also baking and trying out new recipes,” she said, adding that her passion later led to her starting her own catering business from home.
“Cooking is something I love to do. It is not just a passion but also part of my maternal sense.”
As the only daughter in the family with three brothers, Jasbir said she took some time to develop the skills required to make a chapati.
“Making chapati was not fun at first, but I had to learn to make it” she said.
When asked how Malaysians could be better cooks, Jasbir said it was all based on trial and error.
“No one is born a good cook.
If my mother had known how many eggs and the amount of flour that had gone to waste during my cooking experiments, she might have disowned me!” she said in jest.
Cooking was a constant learning process, she said, adding that despite following given recipes diligently, the results would almost never be the same.
Jasbir said food would always have a special connection with memories and emotions.
“Whenever someone is cooking something, the scent and taste will automatically take you back to the time when you had it as a child.
“That’s when you are flooded with good memories.”
She said cendol was one of her favourite delicacies as it reminded her of her late father.
“Every Sunday after visiting the temple, we would stop to get cendol at one of the stalls.
“Since there were four of us siblings, we usually got two bowls to be shared. I remember fighting with my brother over the cendol!”
In MasterChef Asia 2015 where she finished third, Jasbir was nicknamed “the Spice Queen” and was picked as the viewers’ favourite.