These Talented Malaysia-Born Chefs Are Making Waves In The Gastronomic World

·6-min read

Malaysia is home to a number of several chefs — originally born and bred here — who are elevating local cuisine with their restaurant ventures and cookbooks. Influenced by the blend of cultures and rich use of spices and ingredients in Malaysia, many of these talented chefs have taken their skills a step further by highlighting our local flavours and dishes abroad.

Putting Malaysia on the map, these cooks and chefs are introducing heritage recipes, authentic Malaysian flavours, and classic nostalgic dishes such as nasi lemak, roti canai, dosa, laksa, and mee goreng to the global level. What makes Malaysian food so unique and delicious are the complexity and depth of flavours and ingredients involved, the variety of spices, and the cultural richness of each dish.

We Malaysians know just how diverse and amazing our cuisine is, especially our street food, and it’s a delight to know that those abroad get to try it too, thanks to these chefs. When you’re abroad and missing home, you can make a reservation or pop into one of these restaurants as well. Many of them have also authored their own cookbooks for those who want to learn how to make authentic Malaysian cuisine from easy-to-follow recipe at home.

Here are 7 Malaysia-born chefs making an impact on the global stage:

Chef Mano Thevar







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Hailing from Penang, Chef Manogren Thevar previously worked at the one-Michelin-starred Pure C in the Netherlands, and later at the two-starred Waku Ghin and Indian-inspired barbecue joint Meatsmith Little India in Singapore. He is now bringing his experience to the innovative, two-Michelin-starred restaurant Thevar in Singapore.

The co-owner of the restaurant serves up Southeast Asian South Indian food in a fine dining ambiance, such as a crispy pork jowl in betel leaf and topped with a coconut-sambal aioli, a Keralan-inspired dish with a touch of north Malaysia.

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Chef Christina Arokiasamy







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Born and bred in Malaysia, Christina Arokiasamy is an award-winning cookbook author and chef known for her unique culinary skills, inspired by cooking techniques from various cultures and being a fifth-generation descendant of spice merchants.

She is also Malaysia’s first-ever official Food Ambassador to the United States, with over 25 years of world-class expertise as a former chef of various Four Seasons Resorts in Southeast Asia. She hosted The Malaysian Kitchen, a programme that reached over 80 million viewers nationwide in the USA showcasing the exotic blend of flavours born of the spice trade and rich in tradition.

Chef Arokiasamy currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, but continues to promote local cuisine and incorporated Malaysian ingredients such as turmeric, chilies, cumin, coriander and cardamom, combining them with fresh aromatics such as galangal, lemongrass, ginger, tamarind and curry leaves.

Read more here.

Chef Norman Musa







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Chef Norman Musa may have left Malaysia in the 1990s to pursue his education and work abroad, but Malaysia has never truly left him. After working as a quantity surveyor for a few years, he decided to develop a restaurant, Ning, with his partner at the time. The restaurant was located in the Northern Quarter and focused on Malaysian cuisine and Thai cuisine, where he acted as Heaf Chef. Following the success of the restaurant, he opened up a second Ning restaurant in York from 2012 to 2014.

Based in London and Leeds, he is also a Tutor at the Wagamama Chef Academy’s Tutor and has authored his own cookbook, ‘Amazing Malaysian: Recipes for Vibrant Malaysian Home-Cooking’. 

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Chef Poh Ling Yeow







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Poh Ling Yeow is a Malaysian-born Australian cook, artist, actress, author, and television presenter born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia into a fifth-generation Malaysian Chinese family. Her family emigrated to Australia when she was 9 years old.

A woman of many talents, she first started her career as an artist focusing on acrylic paint on canvas artworks. She also worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, and makeup artist. Her foray into culinary first happened when she appeared on the ABC television program Beat the Chef  in April 2005 where her auntie Kim Thoo assisted her as they prepared Ying Yang Prawns.

She has also appeared on a few seasons of MasterChef Australia and launched her own cooking shows and cookbooks. such as Same Same But Different,  published in 2014 that features Chinese and Australian classics such as noodles, dumplings, bagels, puddings, pasta, and cakes. In 2014, she collaborated with Malaysia Airlines with her signature Nonya Chicken Curry dish on their Australia and New Zealand flights.

Chef Julie Lin







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The owner of Julie’s Kopitiam and GaGa  in Glasglow, Chef Julie Lin is a Chinese Malaysian Scottish chef, broadcaster cookery teacher, and quarter-finalist on Masterchef. She was also recently named as one of the UK’s top food influencers at The Golden Chopstick award. 

Julie’s Kopitiam is a small humble restaurant in Kopitiam-style serving Malaysian food as was taught to Chef Julie by her mother. The menu includes nasi goreng, mee goreng, roti canai, nyonya-style chicken curry, and more. GaGa is a more upscale restaurant that serves Southeast Asian fare and drinks such as sweetcorn fritters, pork belly curry, and yellow sambal aubergine, among others.

Chef Azalina Eusope







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The founder and owner of Azalina’s in San Francisco, Chef Azalina Eusope is a fifth-generation street food vendor from Penang who moved to the US a decade ago. When she first moved there, she was comforted by cooking food that she grew up eating back in Malaysia. Soon enough, she became popular for other delicious home-cooked meals and she eventually turned her hobby into a business.

In 2009, she was named by Bon Apetit magazine as one of “10 Top Upcoming Chefs” for 2010, and honored by Women’s Initiative for Self Improvement for being an “Enterprising Woman on the Rise” in 2012. She has also catered food for President Obama. Azalina’s serves classic Malaysian favorites such as coconut-infused basmati rice, chicken curry, sambal, mee mamak, and more.

Read more here. 

Chef Ping Coombes







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Chef Ping Coombes is a British cook and winner of 2014’s MasterChef competition broadcast on BBC One. Living inBath in the UK, she is of Malaysian Chinese heritage and was raised in Ipoh, Malaysia. Her cuisine is inspired by her mother’s recipes.

Previously, she worked as an assistant hotel manager for a private hospital. When she was made redundant, Coombes entered MasterChef to “do something fun”. Her winning menu included Chicken and Shitake Mushroom Broth with Pork and Crab Dumplings wrapped with Egg Noodles topped with Crispy Wanton Skins, and a main course of Nasi Lemak with Spicy Sambal Lemongrass Prawns and Turmeric Fried Chicken.

She has since made several appearances at food festivals and various restaurants, appeared in John Torode’s Malaysian Adventure, been guest chef on daytime talk shows such as This Morning, and published her first book ‘Malaysia’  in May 2016.

(Main and featured image: Noahs Knight/ Unsplash)

This story first appeared on PrestigeOnline Malaysia