My Stint on 弹指间的料理 Touch-Screen Cuisine!
I’d been neglecting my blog for the past 2 months or so, but I haven’t been neglecting my kitchen, my cooking and my kueh making at all. In fact, quite a number of events have unfolded during the course of this short “hiatus”, which includes a hanami trip to Tokyo which I’ll be blogging about (hopefully) soon. I also started my own blog page on Facebook where I would be concentrating on for a while, so please follow me there for the latest updates on my blog and what I am doing if you have not already done so. By the way here’s the link- http//www.facebook.com/travellingfoodiesblog/. I also made my first baby step into the F&B industry by kickstarting a small home-run catering service of kuehs and other delectables, which I’ll be talking about more in near-future posts. But most, most, most importantly, I was given the exciting opportunity of being involved in the production of a new Mandarin TV variety-cum-cooking program called 弹指间的料理 “Touch-Screen Cuisine”!
弹指间的料理 “Touch-Screen Cuisine” is a Chinese variety show on Mediacorp Channel 8 here in Singapore. Hosted by Ben and Vivian, the half-hour-long program showcases a prominent recipe blogger every week who will cook and feature a popular recipe from his or her blog which would be attempted by one of Mediacorp’s artistes at the same time. Quite a number of my blogging friends have been featured so far, with their signature dishes being cooked and prepared on the spot. Honestly, I was taken by surprise when I was approached, and reluctant at the same time. Reason is simple, my house, particularly my kitchen is a huge huge mess! It is a working kitchen afterall, not in pristine showroom condition, in fact no where even remotely near. I’d been asked prior to this project, for another cooking stint where I would be filmed in my own kitchen as well, which I’d humbly declined the offer then as my kitchen is really “见不得人”. Then this opportunity for Touch-Screen Cuisine came knocking on my door and I knew Lady Luck may not smile at me twice. So I set this home filming task as a challenge for myself and possibly a psychological obstacle which I would have to overcome in due time. I’m glad I did!
During the initial discussion with the production team, I’d proposed Ayam Buah Keluak actually. It is afterall a signature dish of the Peranakan cuisine, otherwise known as “laok embok embok“, well-known to non-Peranakans as well. After much deliberation, we thought that it would be too difficult, too time-consuming, and too tedious for the artiste to attempt the full recipe given the limited air time. So we settled for another popular dish, Ikan Gerang Asam which incidentally uses the same rempah gerang asam like Ayam Buak Keluak, and is no less yummy. Cracking the buah keluak would have to wait for another day, or another TV program perhaps!
The production of the program was divided into 2 parts. An earlier day was set for a “home shoot”, just days after my Tokyo trip as I frantically raced against time to recover from my trip, have my kitchen cleaned up and at the same time, prepare a spread of seven dishes which would be showcased in the style of a mini Tok Panjang set in antique pinggan mangkok i.e. old Peranakan porcelain known commonly nowadays as “nyonyaware” for the crew to film. Kuah Hee Pio, Sambal Jantong Pisang, Kari Ayam, Ngoh Hiang, Sambal Timun, Ayam Buah Keluak, and of course, Ikan Gerang Asam.
The identity of the artiste was kept a secret until the very day of the “studio shoot” itself. Both the producer and the director maintained a tight lip over who “she” was. Yes, that was all I was told, that it is gonna be a “she”. The “bombshell” was eventually dropped unto me just barely minutes before the commencement of the filming, when Ms Quan Yi Fong 权怡凤 walked through the studio doors and everyone suddenly became really quiet. She is one of the 大姐大 of Caldecott Hill after all.
And the best part is, she has almost zilch experience in the kitchen. Getting her to recognise the ingredients used in the rempah was already tough, let alone getting her to make the rempah itself. In private, she commented that she is more nervous about filming this episode than to have hosted 红星大奖！takot mati gua!
I was teamed up with Ben, who is quite a good home chef as well, while the equally clueless Vivian is paired up with Yi Fong. And this is when it all began… the hilarious laughter, the moments of desperation and hysteria, the release of anguish frustrations, often amounting from the transpiration of the feeling of being loss within the tedious procedure of rempah making dealing with the different ingredients. Adrenaline levels raged and ran high through the few hours in the cooking studio, despite it all being edited down to barely 30 min, excluding commercial time! All I can tell you is, the “fun and laughter” you can see in the show is only a small fraction of what went on during those hours. From us “on stage” to the crew behind the cameras and involved in the props management, suma ketawa sampey sakit perot!
The initial conceptualization of the program involved going all traditional with the prep work, down to making the rempah the “bibik” way with a batu lesong, i.e. mortar and pestle. Well, I am all for that if it is truly Peranakan cuisine that is to be showcased and featured properly. But after deliberating over how time-consuming it would be for the artiste who is doing this and for all your known “proper cooking” for the very first time in her life, and factoring the amount of “emotional and psychological turmoil” she would have to go through, which may subsequently manifest as an unleashing of wrath unto the crew (yes, she is really well known for her feisty temperaments!) we eventually settled for using a food blender in grinding the rempah instead, for everyone’s welfare and well-being sake. Not fully authentic yes the purists may nitpick of course, but nonetheless acceptable in our modern-day context, which I’m sure none would disagree.
Even with the “shortcut” through the use of the food blender, there were plenty of hiccups, which means plenty of comic relief, plenty of hysterical moments and plenty of hilarious laughter. Catch the show you will know what I mean!
For those of us here in Singapore, you can go to Toggle to watch my episode online on 弹指间的料理. The other episodes showing some of my blogging friends are also “clickable” on the right panel. But for my fellow friends, readers and fans from overseas, Toggle proved to be really tricky, so you can watch it directly over the YouTube link below. The link is however temporal and would be removed in due time to avoid copyright infringement issues. Should you be interested to try out Ikan Gerang Asam, the Peranakan dish featured in the program, here is the link to the recipe!
For the YouTube link, simply click the “right arrow” icon in the screenshot below! Catch it before the video is taken down!