Hi John! How's it going?
Good thanks, busy busy busy!
First things first, can you tell us a little bit about your new show, John Torode's Malaysian Adventure, and what inspired you to create it?
I love travelling and I love Asia and I love Thailand and I love Vietnamese food., but I didn't know much about Malaysian food and I thought that most people don't. So I wanted to go and discover a country which I'd done very little research on and I wanted to go to it and just find out about it, and that's really what we did. We travelled the country over a period of a month and just went along with it. We had a great time and learned a huge amount.
Well it sounds like you had an amazing time! What were some of the highlights during your filming?
I went to Kuala Lumpur by myself and landed there on the first day and I wandered out of my hotel and I turned around the corner and I could just smell food. I searched out the food and I found this amazing street which was just like China Town. It seemed to me, in Malaysia, that everywhere you go whether you're in a city or the country or a small town whatever it might be everywhere you go you can find food just by smell. Then the next thing you know, you've found an amazing street market or an open air restaurant - it's all there in front of you, ready for the taking.
Sounds incredible - we'll have to check it out ourselves someday, we've not yet had the chance to visit.
You'll love it!
So you mentioned Kuala Lumpur, were there any other locations that specifically stood out for you on your journey?
You go to places like Seremban, which is actually just outside Kuala Lumpur, and you see their markets and you start to really see how the people of Malaysia live and how they shop. And what they do is, they go to these big (wet) markets and you go and buy your fresh produce; your vegetables, your fish and your meat, it's all there, whatever you want. Each stall owned by someone completely different. Then once you've finished your shop you walk upstairs and there are all these (hookah) stalls and you go and have something to eat. So you've done your shopping, you have something to eat and then you go home and work out what you're going to cook. It's a great way of life!
It really is! We really need to adopt more of that over here in the UK!
Yeah, I definitely think so.
Talking about the UK, Malaysian cuisine has been growing in popularity over here recently, what is it that you think captures the nation's interest so much with Malaysian cuisine?
The thing is, a lot of people know about competition. They know about Rendang, Roti and they probably know about Laksa - but it's a very good starting point. Laksa is a great steaming bowl of spicy soup, Rendang is a lovely curry which is really a stew and that's a pretty cool thing to have, and Roti is a lovely lovely bread to dip in curry sauce. So that's enough for people to start with, and because all those three things are so delicious and addictive I think people just want to know more. We as a nation love adventure, we like variety, but there is something about foods with chilli in them that make people feel happy. We know that chilli does release endorphins, and it makes people happy, but I think it's so good and so delicious that we underestimate the power of it.
We love a bit of spice with our food, but sometimes struggle going out to eat with friends who aren't such fans. Do you think Malaysian cuisine offers a good variety for those who don't necessarily like very spicy food?
This is the great thing about Malaysia, a lot of the food you originally eat is not spicy. You usually have a jar of Sambal and you just add that to the food yourself. So if you were to eat Malaysian food, and were to eat something like Nasi Lemak, which is a classic rice dish with dried fish and peanuts, you'd then have Sambal on the side and you make it as hot or as un-hot as you like.
What would you say are your top Malaysian dishes, or top introductory dishes that everyone has to try?
Well I think you've got to try Roti and there's a place in Euston down a side street called Roti King and it's amazing! He makes this lamb curry and you take the roti and dip it into it. Roti is a really thin dough which has been stretched out, almost like a strudel dough, and then folded multiple times, cooked on a grill plate and then smashed - and it's just this lovely flaky delicious bread and you use that to mop up your curries. Satay is something everyone needs to make, a little bit of chicken and soy sauce and you marinate and then cook them really quickly with a peanut sauce. I also think everyone should be buying a bowl of Sambal and making themselves some Rendang and some rice!
It all sounds delicious! We'll be getting some of this to try ourselves, that's for sure.
You obviously tried a lot of foods whilst you were in Malaysia, but what was the weirdest thing you ate on your trip?
That's really interesting. There was nothing weird really. They eat a lot of fish on the bone, which I really love but I know some people wouldn't. You can buy bullfrog and they wok fry bullfrog, which is a bit interesting, but nothing crazy. But no, nothing mad!
What would you say are your store cupboard essentials for cooking Malaysian food and what are the top five things we should all have in our cupboards at home?
I think, if you're going to be cooking Malaysian food, you've got to have Sambal. You've got to have balachaung which is a dried fish paste. Coconut milk, turmeric and lemon grass.
Are there any hero recipes that you've adopted in to your regular cooking at home?
I've always made Rendang - Rendang has been one of my favourite things for years, and I suppose in a way that sort of spurred me on to actually go and travel Malaysia because it's one of those great dishes. So Rendang will be in there quite a lot. Curry Mee is becoming one of my new favourites, and Curry Mee is simply a noodle made from a packet of Penang curry paste and a little bit of coconut milk.
Finally, what can we expect to see from you next, John?
I'd like to go on and do something else that is really cool. I'd like to ride a horse across America, that's what I'd like to do. I'd love to discover the world for the rest of my life. I definitely want to go and see Korea, more of Vietnam. I'd love to see Cambodia and Laos I'd go back to Malaysia in a heartbeat. Borneo, Indonesia - I'd love to do all of Asia. I'd love to do India properly, you know like months and months would be lovely. So yeah, there are loads of places I'd love to go to!
John Torode's Malaysian Adventure is new and exclusive to Good Food, weeknights at 8pm from Monday 11th January