Malaysia's youngest celebrity chef

Anis Nabilah is 23 and Malaysia’s youngest celebrity chef. Nigella Lawson is her idol, meaning that Anis follows a sumptuous strain of cooking – with a Malay twist. She explains to the Asian Palate team how she does it, and what she plans for the future.

I read that your mum wants you to “make a difference to the world” and that is part of the reason that sets you off your cooking mission. Can you tell us more about your ambitions? Say, how would you see yourself five years from now?

One can make a difference in this world many ways, since I have always loved cooking I realise that I find pleasure in not only seeing people enjoy my food but also in preparing the food. I love to share my experience in making cooking fun and easy. Perhaps this will invite more people to want to learn how to prepare food for their loved ones. One day I hope to open a culinary school that would highlight the colorful array of Malaysian cooking. In five years from now I would certainly like to see myself established internationally as a culinary figure from Asia.

What trends have you noticed in Malaysian restaurants these days? Any new ingredients or techniques?

I noticed an uptrend in Asian fusion and I particularly noticed that concept restaurants are very popular in younger generations. Now chefs are more open to the usage of Asian spices like lemon grass, pandan leaves, tumeric, and even the very hot birds eye chilli in their cooking from soups and salads right down to desserts. They also use tropical fruits such as mangoes, papayas, durians in their cooking, in fact I had just found out that we even have wine made from durian and mangoes.  

What is your favourite comfort food?

I would say it’s savory pies. 

Do you think about wine pairing when you cook?  

When I was working in the hotel, I had to consider wine pairing, but now that I’m cooking for family and friends who are muslims I dont. 

What would your dream kitchen look like? Which is your favourite utensil in the kitchen?  

My dream kitchen would have a big island in the middle attached with a breakfast bar complete with a set of induction stove and grill, and modern gadgetry to make working in the kitchen quick and easy. My favourite utensil would be my knives. I’m completely obsessed with knives. 

Since you advocate the idea that “anyone and everyone can actually cook”, what are your tips or words for females who are adamant on their inability to cook?  

I would say just try it, its really not that hard.. the end result is satisfying, especially if it turns out nice! You might be addicted to it! I have very simple and easy recipes that anyone and everyone can follow.

Do you draw inspiration from any other types of cuisines when you create?

Yes, I do draw inspiration from other types of cuisine such as traditional Malay cuisine, Italian cuisine, Indian cuisine and others. 

Who would be the person you want to cook for most and what would you cook for him/her?

I’d love to cook for Jamie Oliver!! I’d make him some of my favourite authentic Malay traditional dishes like ‘Masak Lemak Daging Salai’, which is Smoked Beef cooked in spicy coconut gravy.

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