Events Food and Drink Interviews

An Interview with… Ping Coombes from MasterChef UK

Is this your first time in Glasgow and have you had much time to explore?

No, I haven’t been before and I haven’t had much of a chance. I arrived here and I’ve prepped pretty much the whole time and I’ve been with the team . I had the chance to go to the Opening Ceremony yesterday. It was amazing and I particularly love, you know, I’ve seen a lot of Opening and Closing Ceremonies in a lot of countries on telly but I had never been to one so that was amazing in itself. Secondly, I really love the spirit of Glasgow. I loved that they used the people to make the ceremony and it’s all about the people, the different kinds of people and what you have. It’s just so amazing. I really feel the warmth and I realise that Glaswegians are so friendly!

Me: I know, Glaswegians get a bad reputation at times but they [we] really are friendly.

Ping: Yes, they are really friendly. Everyone that I’ve come across is lovely so that is really really good.

Throughout your time on MasterChef, did you ever think that sticking to Malaysian cuisine could have held you back at all?

I love food generally. I love all kinds of food but I know that I have to actually portray something different. I have demonstrated on their [MasterChef] that I can cook other cuisines but you know, this is where I’m from, I can’t change that and it’s the food that I love. I love other foods so I experiment as well but what I realised is, this is my root and I want to stick to it. I can explore it in other areas but this is where I want to be. MasterChef is a good opportunity to showcase where I’m from and what I love to cook and love to eat.

What was your favourite dish to cook during your time on the show?

Throughout the whole experience, my favourite has to be the pork dish that I cooked for Ferran Adria. There was no Malaysian influence in there but it is my family on a plate. It is about my husband, it’s about my daughter and it’s what we love as a family and that is why I call it “The Little Things”. To be able to cook for Ferran Adria (Head Chef of elBulli), well it’s amazing.

You’ve collaborated with Malaysian Kitchen to bring Malaysian food to the public and that’s why you’re currently here in Glasgow. Do you think think Malay food is under represented in the UK?

Massively under represented, I think Malaysian food as a whole, not just Malay food, is under represented. We have huge arrays of food and here today, I’m going to showcase chicken curry but I’m also going to do another variation featuring the same paste but I’m going to make it into a salad which you can BBQ. The Glaswegian weather is amazing [right now], so you can make it on your BBQ and serve it on top of a salad. Bringing that type of food together with Malaysian flavours. You don’t necessarily need to stick to the traditional dishes but actually do variations of it.

Malaysian Kitchen Braehead Pop-Up Products

What does your mom think of your cooking? Has she ever tried it since she is one of your biggest inspirations?

She hasn’t really tried it, I think the last time I cooked for her which was a few years ago , was a Roast Chicken. She was like “yeah, it’s alright”.

Have you been back to Malaysia since your win? You must be rather famous back home now!

I haven’t been back to Malaysia but I’m trying to go back in August bringing my daughter and husband back to see my mum. I’m trying to go back there before the craziness starts with the MasterChef popup in London. So before that starts, I’d like to actually take my family back there to see my parents.

You are also doing a pop up in Bath as well?

I’m doing one in Bath too and that is in October, so September and October are really really busy. It seems like the whole year of work is crammed into two months.

One of my favourite childhood memories from living in Singapore was getting Roti Canai and a little pot of curry sauce walking down the street. What is your favourite food memory growing up in Malaysia?

My childhood favourite dishes, oh god I have so many. I think if you say memories, it would probably have to be Nasi Lemak. If it is something that I could buy and my mom would buy me for breakfast, it is Nasi Lemak. If it is one that my mom makes, she makes a really lovely pork dish with coriander, oyster sauce with loads of garlic and won ton noodles and that is what I’d have on the way to school for breakfast every morning because I loved it so much.

Malaysian Kitchen Braehead Pop-Up Ping Coombes

Do you have a favourite Malaysian restaurant in the UK?

I don’t actually, because I live in Bath. It’s really hard to get Malaysian food in Bath, it’s just non existent in Bath and in Bristol it’s really hard to find as well. Normally I’d cook it myself but if I’m in London, I’d go to C & R Restaurant which has recently been reviewed by Jay Rayner so that’s a good cafe to try and you have a few more popping up too. I think in Glasgow you have Nanyang? [it’s actually in Edinburgh]

M: We have Banana Leaf in Glasgow.

P: Yeah, I’d like to go try that in the next few days when I finish the cooking demonstrations. I’d like to.

M: I know Banana Leaf especially because from growing up in Singapore, it is one of the places that I go to to feed my cravings. It is also a family run restaurant.

P: Where is it?

M: It’s on Cambridge Street, opposite the Thistle Hotel.

P: Maybe I could go and try it tonight.

M: It is really really good.

P: Brilliant, I’d really like to go and there is a place, cause my sous-chef is from Glasgow, she says Asia Style is good. I’m really really craving Asian food. I’m doing a chicken curry in about 10 minutes time so you should stay.

Malaysian Kitchen Braehead Pop-Up Ingredients

And stay is what I did. I watched Ping demo her Malaysian Chicken Curry and then sampled the dish. It was creamy, full of flavour and very simple to make. Those who watch the demo and do a short survey are given a free curry paste. I’m definitely going to try recreate the dish at home myself.

Malaysian Kitchen Braehead Pop-Up Ping Coombes Malaysian Chicken Curry

The Malaysian Kitchen Food Truck will be at these upcoming locations from 11:30am with Ping carrying out her last demo on Saturday:

  • Friday 25th July Buchanan Galleries – Ping Coombes
  • Saturday 26th July Braehead Shopping Centre – Ping Coombes
  • Sunday 27th July Braehead Shopping Centre – Norman Musa
  • Monday 28th July Braehead Shopping Centre – Norman Musa
  • Tuesday 29th July Sauchiehall Street – Norman Musa
  • Wednesday 30th July Sauchiehall Street – Dhruv Baker
  • Thursday 31st July Braehead Shopping Centre – Dhruv Baker
  • Friday 01st August Braehead Shopping Centre – Dhruv Baker
  • Saturday 02nd August Braehead Shopping Centre – Dhruv Baker

Have you ever tried Malaysian food? Do you have a favourite dish? Have you seen the food truck in Glasgow? Do you think Glasgow needs more of these types of events? Let me know!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Alison McKenzie
    July 25, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Great interview! Might try and pop in to Buchanan Galleries today! :)

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