Chef Syed Fauzi (left) and Chef John

LONDON: “IT was kind of surreal. You see him on television doing MasterChef and suddenly he is in my small kitchen, watching me cook beef masak hitam (beef in soya sauce),” said Sharizah Hashim, of the famous MasterChef judge, John Torode.

Sharizah, who runs the increasingly popular eatery, Dapur, in central London, was chuffed to say the least when her small cafe was chosen to be one of 10 Malaysian eateries and restaurants in the United Kingdom, to be visited by Torode for his BBC Good Food programme called John Torode’s Malaysian Adventure.

The first of the 10-part series, filmed throughout the UK and Malaysia, will be aired tomorrow on BBC Good Food Channel.

Sharizah, a chartered accountant turned chef and restaurant owner, said, given that Dapur was still in its infancy, compared with other long established Malaysian restaurants in the UK, it was indeed an exciting experience to have the no-nonsense judge and international culinary expert tasting her mother’s recipe and enjoying the jelatah (pickled cucumber and pineapple) with nasi minyak.

“It was humbling and I felt honoured to be chosen,” she said of the programme, commissioned by the BBC Good Food Show in association with Matrade (Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation), the national trade promotion agency of Malaysia.

Torode, she said, was surprised that she used dried fruits such as prunes and raisins in her dishes, comparing them to Middle Eastern flavours.

The fans of culinary programmes will see Torode jetting off on a mouth-watering adventure in exploration of the varied and vibrant cuisine of Malaysia, where he cooked with local chefs, met celebrity restaurateurs, visited colourful night markets, exploring the impact of history and culture on the evolution of Malaysian food.

Torode made an appearance at Malaysia Kitchen’s sixth and last Malaysia Night in Trafalgar Square last year and said that it was unfair to choose and name one Malaysian dish that he liked, after the culinary journey which took him to stalls, cafes and restaurants in Penang, Ipoh, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur, to name a few.

Sharizah Hashim, who runs an eatery called Dapur, with Torode at her restaurant in London. Pix by Zaharah Othman

“I quickly learned why Malaysian food is so popular. You learn so much about the food when you know about the culture. That is what is so extraordinary about Malaysian food,” said Torode in an interview during the Malaysian Night last year.

He came back with memories of the azan in the air and the aroma of incense burning from a nearby temple.

Torode was probably first introduced to Malaysian food when Ping Coombes made her version of nasi lemak and became MasterChef champion several years ago.

In the UK, Torode made forays into the kitchen of Tuk Din’s Flavour of Malaysia in Paddington where he saw Chef Syed Fauzi cook daging masak lemak and sayur kerabu.

In fact, he helped pound the chillies for the dish. “It was a great experience having him at our restaurant and he was very interested in Malaysian food,” said Chef Fauzi. Torode also went to see the famous Roti King, Ning Restaurant in Manchester run by celebrity chef, Norman Musa, and Makan Cafe in Portobello.

According to trade commissioner Khairul Nizam Moonier in London: “Matrade is proud to be showcasing the very best of Malaysian cuisine with this in-depth exploration by John Torode.

His passion for our country is infectious and we are excited to see the effect it has on the UK public embracing Malaysian cuisine as one of the fastest rising food trends.

“Our focus is on the exportation of Malaysian food and beverage products to the UK, so that the UK consumers can bring a taste of Malaysia into their home.”