Jackie M is Sydney’s guru for Malaysian cuisine, and had a chat to bmag about how to make some delicious, Malaysian meals at home.

Our insider chat with Jackie M – make sure to look out for her recipes on bmag!

Tell us about your background of cooking and cuisine:

My parents were street food vendors back in Malaysia, so I grew up with food as the focus in my family life.

When I came to Australia I ticked all the right boxes from a career perspective, graduating from Sydney University and working in the corporate world for a number of years as an IT consultant.

When IT contracts became scarce post-Y2K scare I figured it was the perfect opportunity for me to indulge in my passion for cooking. I haven’t looked back since.

What influences and inspires your cooking?

The street food scene back home in Malaysia is what inspires me. Back in my parents’ day there was no Masterchef and the cult of the celebrity chef did not exist. These people had nothing but their craft to fall back on; they didn’t do it for the glory but to put food on the table.

I could fill a book with stories from street food vendors including my own parents about what it took for them to get to where they are – I am forever indebted to these pioneers for what they brought to the food scene in Malaysia and, on a personal level, I am humbled by their existence.

Describe the best moment in your career:

Someone asked in an online discussion board whether there was any stall selling ice cream at the annual Hyde Park Night Noodle Markets. The reply, “look for the stall with the longest line – and there’s an ice cream stall next to them”, was referring to my stall, next to which was the only ice cream vendor at the event.

It meant a lot despite the fact the post wasn’t even about me or about Malaysian food! In all the years I’ve participated at Hyde Park without mention in mainstream media write-ups it’s gratifying to think that all the excitement about my stall has been through word of mouth and social media.

What is your favourite ingredient to work with?

Garlic – because it’s incredibly versatile, and it makes everything better!

What is your favourite meal to make at home?

I tend towards noodle dishes – in prawn broth, or with Chicken & Prawn Dumplings and a dry-style sauce. If I’m feeling extravagant I’ll make Crab Noodles with Ginger and Shallot Sauce – which is actually quite economical and straightforward to make, believe it or not. There is a growing collection of over 80 cooking videos on my YouTube channel – and you’ll find Google Hangout recordings as well as shorter videos of many dishes that I would actually cook for myself for dinner.

What do you see for Malaysian cuisine in Australia in 2014?

We’ve started to see a lot more Malaysian restaurants opening and this will continue to help drive up the quality of offerings across the board. As the general public becomes more familiar with Malaysian food, I expect to see more people attempt to incorporate some Malaysian flavours into their dinner table offerings.

I’ve been busy developing Malaysian-Aussie recipes to help Australians do just that.

What would you recommend for first-time Malaysian cooks?

Trying to read a Malaysian recipe can be like learning a new language because of the variety of ingredients involved in each dish. I would suggest using high quality prepared spice mixes, sauces or pastes to simplify the task.

You can also be creative and add some Malaysian fusion into your regular meals. Eg. use a Malaysian curry powder mix as a dry rub on steak before grilling, serve pasta with a rich laksa soup broth or use a jar of Kaya (Malaysian dulce de leche) in your Bread and Butter Pudding to give it a nice Malaysian twist.

Anything else you would like to tell our readers?

It’s ‘Visit Malaysia’ year, so 2014 is a great time to book a trip there for your next holidays. Get off the beaten track to see how and what the locals eat, and get to sample some of the best food in the world.