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Asian Chefs Competition

by Charles F. Tang

Conferences, Meetings, Announcements, and Reports

Summer Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(2) page(s): 9 and 10

Malaysia held the 1998 World Golden Chef Competition, and I was lucky enough to get an invitation. Let me tell you how and something about the competition.

When I was out of the country, Mr. John Lee who is the Chairman of America's International Culinary Exchange Council forwarded an invitation from the Malaysia Selanger and Federal Territory's Ku Su Shin Chung Hung Restaurant Association to me for the 1998 chef's competition, held from the 22nd to the 31st of July.

Since I was in Taiwan at the time, there was not enough time to organize an American team to participate in the competition, but I was able to ask Mr. Sung Mao Shen, chairman of the Chinese Food and Beverage Institute of Taipei, to let me join their eleven member team as an advisor.

When I first read the letter of invitation I was both puzzled and amazed by the long and strange name of the sponsoring organization, especially the words Ku Su. This is the nickname of the town of Wu in China's Jiangsu (also written Kiang Su) Province. Why this name in Malaysia? After I got to Kuala Lumpur, I was told an amazing story.

It seems that during The Spring and Autumn Period, about the time of Confucius, the states of Wu and Yue were at war. King Fu Chai of Wu defeated Yue and captured the then King, Bou Juan, and his consort. Fam Li, the Minister of Yue, decided to use a sex trap to restore his state so he offered Xi Shih, a great beauty, to King Fu Chai. To win her heart, King Fu Chai built a magnificent palace at Ku Su expressly for her.

Overjoyed at his military accomplishments, King Fu Chai was involved in all forms of sensual pleasure including those culinary. He summoned the best chefs to his palace to prepare exquisite dishes. Officials all over the state followed suit and soon Ku Su chefs became extremely popular; they were in great demand. Being a tyrant, King Fu Chai indulged himself at the expense of his people. His endless reveries plunged his people into depths of suffering. When rebellious feelings ran high, King Gou Jian of the State of Yue took invaded and annexed the state of Wu and set fire to the Ku Su palace.

The people of Wu blamed Ku Su chefs for the downfall of their state and boycotted these chefs who had no choice but to make a fresh start somewhere else. Many people from The State of Wu migrated southward to what is now called Guangzhou, which then was undeveloped and untouched by Han culture. They claimed they were celebrated chefs from Ku Su, once had been in the service of King Fu Chai, and that their cuisine was time tested with royalty approved specialties. The popularity of these chefs grew, the food industry of Guangzhou was bolstered, and this city and the surrounding area became a gourmet's paradise.

More than a hundred years ago, Chinese immigrants from Guangzhou came empty handed to Malaysia hoping that they would make money and soon return to China. In a rather short time, they adjusted to the place and decided to settle there. Those who went into restaurant businesses used the name Ku Su to connote the excellent quality of their cuisine. Soon they organized themselves setting up a commercial welfare group called Ku Su Hung. Now in Malaysia, there are six Ku Su Restaurant Associations. Apart from the one in Penang, the name of all other Ku Su Restaurant Associations contain the Chinese word Shin; they are closely related and all of them are more than 100 years old. The Selangor Shin Chung Hung is 105, the Penang Ku Su Kwang Chun Tang at the ripe age of 127, is the oldest among them.

The Malaysia Selangor and Federal Territory Ku Su Shin Chung Hung Restaurant Association organizes the conference with Maggi, a subsidiary of Nestle Food Service Company. There are other co organizers including The World Chinese Cuisine Association, The Pan Malaysia Ku Su Restaurant Chefs Association, the Restaurant Keepers Association, The Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council, Sin Chew Jit Poh (The Daily News), Nanyang Siang Pau (Commercial News), and The China Press. There are also many other sponsors including, but not limited to, American Express, Malaysia Airlines, Jardine Wines and Spirits, Mobil gas, Hai Kee Trading, and The Legend Hotel.

As to the competition, it is in two categories, Hot Dishes and Chinese Snacks or Dim Sum. Each contestant participating in the Hot Dish category has to make both a hot dish and a cold platter. In the snacks category, each entrant has to prepare one sweet and one savory item. The hot dish must be completed in one hour and be enough to feed ten people. It must show that it is a harmonious blending of ingredients, color, fragrance, and taste. Each dish is graded on taste (30), texture (25), color (15), concept (20), and hygiene (10).

Cold platter entries must be completed in an hour and a half and also be sufficient for ten persons. All finished dishes must be nutritious and artistic and none can use artificial colorings. Foods in this category are evaluated for set up (25), cutting technique (20), color (15), taste (25), and hygiene (15).

Foods in the snacks category can take up to two hours to make. They, too, must feed ten persons. Dough and fillings can be brought in but kneading, shaping, and cooking must be done on site. These food must blend color, fragrance, and taste, and be nutritious and hygienic. They are graded, though in different categories; these are for texture (25), concept (25), taste (25), color (15), and hygiene (10).

The competitors were from many Asian countries and cities. First prize in the hot dish category went to Mr. H. Chu of Singapore. Second and third prizes went to Mr. H.S. Lee of Hainan and Mr. C.Y. Su of Beijing, both in China. The next also went to Hainan Island, while the fifth and sixth awards in this category stayed in Malaysia. In addition to these there were other gold and silver medals, prizes, even some consolation awards.

Local talent shined in the snacks competition. In the two special gold medals, the first went to Mr. W.M. Shih of Malaysia, the second to Mr. T.Y. Ko of China. Other gold and silver medals were shared by others from many countries, all in Asia. Every delegate had a wonderful time during the competition and at every meal and every banquet. I will never forget the comraderie nor their wine song:
Drink! Drink!
Happy to Drink!
Lets all Together Drink!
Bottoms Up!
Drink to Bottoms Up!
Let's All Together say Bottoms Up!

They also had a marvelous time tasting. Here are two recipes served there adopted for Flavor and Fortune. Try them and compete with the best.
Charles Tang, ISACC's Business Manager knows the Chinese food business better than most. As a well known restauranteur, he attended, tasted, and touts this competition as one of the best.
Fragrant Crispy Lamb's Leg
1 three to four pound leg of lamb
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon ground white pepper
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon MSG (optional)
3 Tablespoons cinnamon leaves or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium onions, chopped
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup corn oil
3 Tablespoons Ziran
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1. Prick small holes in the lamb with a skewer then rub with salt and pepper. Next marinate the leg in a large heat proof bowl for four hours in the refrigerator with the wine, sugar, MSG (if used), cinnamon leaves, chopped onion, and the cornstarch. Remove from the refrigerator and let rest for half an hour.
2. Then, steam the lamb and sauce in the bowl for one or more hours or until tender. Remove the lamb to drain.
3. Put oil in wok and heat then deep fry the leg of lamb, turning often until it is brown on all sides. Remove from the oil and drain.
4. Tear or cut the meat into small pieces. Arrange bones in the center of a platter, put the meat on top of them. Sprinkle with Ziran and serve with a mixture of finely ground Sichuan peppercorns and salt.
Note:Ziran is a special mixture of spices from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region; it is primarily fennel.
Peas Cake
2 pounds fresh peas, crushed
1/4 pound sugar
2 Tablespoons ground agar agar or gelatin
2 teaspoons osmanthus flower syrup
1. Steam peas until thoroughly cooked and softened (about half an hour), then grind them and force through a fine strainer or a sieve. Discard any solids left in the strainer.
2. Soak agar agar (or gelatin) in eight to sixteen tablespoons of tepid water until thoroughly swollen, about fifteen minutes. Then bring this mixture to the boil and stir just until it all liquifies.
3. Mix pea paste, sugar, and syrup and add to the gelatin mixture and stir well. Then pour into a shallow bowl and allow to cool. When set, cut into six or eight serving size pieces.

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