Cooking with mum on TV

Chef Sherson Lian injects East-meets-West twists into his dishes, such as curry powder in the classic Western dish of baked cod with caper butter.
Chef Sherson Lian injects East-meets-West twists into his dishes, such as curry powder in the classic Western dish of baked cod with caper butter.PHOTO: ASIAN FOOD CHANNEL
Chef Sherson Lian injects East-meets-West twists into his dishes, such as curry powder in the classic Western dish of baked cod with caper butter (above).
Chef Sherson Lian injects East-meets-West twists into his dishes, such as curry powder in the classic Western dish of baked cod with caper butter (above).PHOTO: ASIAN FOOD CHANNEL

Malaysian celebrity chef Sherson Lian serves up more than 20 family favourites with his mother on the show, Family Kitchen With Sherson

8Q

Many people would avoid the stress and scrutiny of cooking with their mothers. But not only does Malaysian celebrity chef Sherson Lian do that often with his mum, he also does it on television with her.

Family Kitchen With Sherson returns for a third season on Thursday on the Asian Food Channel (StarHub TV Channel 435).

On the show, the affable 32- year-old Malaysian and his mother Ann, 56, dish out more than 20 family favourites spanning cuisines such as Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese.

It is filmed in the idyllic El Sanctuary resort in Malacca, which is the Lians' family business.

The chef says with a chuckle: "My mum has gotten more comfortable with doing the show that she bosses me around more."

Things were not so smooth about 10 years ago when he worked with his mother in the resort's restaurant, whipping up meals for about 100 guests from 6am daily.

It was a stressful time and we used to argue a lot as we had to cook large volumes of food and under high pressure. Doing the show now seems like cooking at leisure.

MALAYSIAN CELEBRITY CHEF SHERSON LIAN on cooking with his mother Ann (both above), at the family business in Malacca 10 years ago, as compared with doing it on the show, Family Kitchen With Sherson

"It was a stressful time and we used to argue a lot as we had to cook large volumes of food and under high pressure," he says. "Doing the show now seems like cooking at leisure."

His mother likes to "multi-task over a big work space and leaves trails behind as she cooks", while he gets edgy when the kitchen is a mess.

But over the years, they have learnt "not to step on each other's toes".

In the upcoming eight-episode season, viewers can expect more South-east Asian cuisines from the Lians.

Mother and son take turns to cook in each 30-minute episode. Chef Lian injects East-meets-West twists such as curry powder in the classic Western dish of baked cod with caper butter, while his mother shares her traditional recipes such as stewed five-spice duck.

Cooking has been a vital part of Lian's life. At 11, he started peeling onions and garlic at his mother's Paradise Cafe in Kuala Lumpur.

In 1997, at the height of the Asian financial crisis, the oldest of four children dropped out of a hospitality course to work at the cafe.

It later expanded into a chain and was sold before the family moved to Malacca in 2007 to run El Sanctuary.

In 2010, Lian was talent-scouted to become a television host by television executives who were dining at the resort.

He also co-owns two restaurants, including Anglo-Indian restaurant Makhan By Kitchen Mafia, which opens next month in Petaling Jaya.

He is married to a 33-year-old housewife and they have a 11/2- year-old daughter, who seems to love spicy food.

He says: "I fed her sambal petai (stink beans) as a prank and prepared the video camera to record her reaction, but she kept eating more."

1 Between you and your mum, who is the better cook?

My mum. She has been cooking for about 40 years and she had more time to build up her instinct of getting the right balance of flavours in her dishes.

2 What are your favourite dishes cooked by your mum?

I love her stewed sour plum duck, which she cooks once or twice a year for Chinese New Year and special family gatherings. It has a mix of sour, sweet and savoury flavours and is simply mouth-watering.

Her sambal is a killer, as she fries the garlic and caramelises the onions so well into the chilli paste that it becomes very fragrant.

3 What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?

I like using coriander as an aromatic that neutralises the richness in dishes such as butter chicken. Everything tastes better with coriander.

I also like adding raw ginger flower into salads - its aroma is fantastic.

4 Where do you get inspiration for new recipes?

I get ideas from dining out, the Internet, television shows and from my mother's cooking.

Since I didn't undergo any culinary training, I am not bound by rules on how I should cook. My cooking style is the result of experimentation and cooking in my family's restaurant.

5 What are your favourite dining places in Malaysia?

I like Asam Pedas Pasar Borong in in Malacca.

Its assam pedas (sweet and sour fish stew) has a thick gravy with intense flavours and the fish is very fresh.

Another place is Tak Kee Restaurant in Gohtong Jaya, Genting Highlands, which serves fresh lala and prawn soup cooked with rice wine. It is perfect for the chilly weather there.

6 What do you think of the dining scene in Kuala Lumpur?

It is evolving with more funky and hipster cafes and a strong coffee culture.

More cafes are coming up with more creative and gourmet food. It is also great that more chefs such as Darren Teoh of Dewakan in Selangor are showcasing dishes made with Malaysian produce.

7 What do you think of Singapore food?

I have visited Singapore only a few times for work and it is not enough to really know the food scene. I went to Newton Circus Food Centre, but I was not too impressed by the food.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who encourages people to go into the kitchen to cook. Cooking is subjective, anyone can cook as long as you do it with heart.

• Family Kitchen With Sherson (Season 3) premieres on Thursday at 9pm on the Asian Food Channel (StarHub TV Channel 435).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Cooking with mum on TV'. Print Edition | Subscribe