On today’s Favorite Foodie series I like to introduce you to Foodiva’s Kitchen. Maya is the talent behind this inspiration food blog. The moment I first read her blog, and drooled over her recipes, I knew I’d become a regular reader. Maya is intelligent, talented, creative and kind. All qualities that come across in every recipe and blog post. She’ll entice you with her creativity and open you up both your stomach and brain to exotic foods. Please help me welcome my friend Maya and please stop by her blog to see more of her scrumptious treats. Without further ado I leave you to get to know her a little bit more. Thank you Maya!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your blog ?
I started Foodiva’s Kitchen nearly a year ago as a way to fill up my free time and like many food bloggers, document the recipes that I’ve tried out or have created. Apart from that, I have friends living in various parts of the world who I only get to see once in a while, and whenever we do meet up, we love to try out new restaurants and cafes. I knew that if I started a food blog instead of say, a fashion, craft or design blog, they’ll tune in regularly. As it turned out, the blog has become my creative outlet where I get to invent recipes and write about them. It keeps me happy and intellectually fulfilled.
2. Are you really a Diva, should we be scared of you ? Hehe, just kidding Maya. (Tell us tell us how or why you choose this name for your blog?)
Yes, you should be scared! Not because I’m a Diva of any sort, but because most of my recipes will take you beyond your usual comfort level. When I first started the blog, I had no real idea where it was heading, but there was one thing I knew. I wanted to become a Diva in my own kitchen, to be able to create unique recipes and produce dishes fit enough to grace a Diva’s table (mine). That was a challenging goal though, because I didn’t really know how to cook many great dishes then! Wow, was that only last year? I suppose I’ve learnt a few culinary tricks since then…
3. What inspired you to become a food blogger ?
If I told the truth, you probably wouldn’t believe it. I became a food blogger because I was inspired by the writings on a number of food blogs (the first one being Orangette) and more importantly, by the stories behind their recipes. My fascination for these blogs was probably fueled by the fact that I’d always considered myself a lousy hand in the kitchen. You see, my family was quite spoilt and for the longest time we had someone cook for us but then one day she decided to leave. Around the same time, I had quit my job and then had to take over HER job… much to my family’s trepidation. Good thing I was always into writing so when I suddenly had to spend more time in the kitchen, I decided to write about my cooking ‘adventures’. So here I am!
4. Spending time in your kitchen means what to you ? (Meaning is it a time to relax and be creative or a frantic time spent putting a nutritious meal together for your family. )
Most of the time, I’m like a mad scientist in my kitchen. When everyone is out of the house on weekdays, I get my ‘me’ time and the kitchen is where I get to unleash my creativity. It’s incredibly fulfilling when I can come up with a dish that’s original and quirky, a lot like me. Being in the kitchen is also a stress-buster, I find it totally relaxing. Except when I burn something!
5. You’ve mentioned your homeland of Brunei in a few of your posts. Can you tell us about the cuisine of Brunei ?
Brunei, like many countries in Southeast Asia, is a multicultural society and much of our cuisine is a reflection of these cultural influences. Being a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian heritages, the cuisine in Brunei is diverse and similar to that of our neighbors, Malaysia and Singapore. The majority of our dishes are rich and spicy, and are eaten with rice or noodles. You may have heard of laksa noodles, beef rendang and nasi lemak (coconut rice with condiments). We are very lucky in that we can have a great range of food throughout the day, for example, eat dim sum in the morning, scrumptious Malay food for lunch and then feast on Indian food for dinner. It’s all rather hazardous on the waistline!
|Guest enjoying an ambuyat experience at my parents’ home back in the 80s. For how to dip into the ambuyat in style, just look at the guy on the left!|
I do want to introduce you to our local speciality, Ambuyat, otherwise known as ‘edible glue’. This starchy paste is cooked from sago powder and is mainly eaten on the island of Borneo (of which Brunei is a part of). The full meal is usually accompanied by grilled fish, a spicy mango sauce and a selection of vegetables. The way you eat it is to dip a chopstick-like utensil into the ambuyat, twirl the gooey sago paste around the chopsticks, dip it into the sauce and swallow! No chewing is required and it’s a dining experience unlike any other.
6. You studied abroad, what country did you go to? Is there a particular dish or food that you miss ?
As a teenager and young adult, I studied for many years in the United Kingdom. Those were pre-Nigella and Jamie Oliver days and the only British food I knew and loved then were fish and chips (wrapped in newspaper!), Toad-in-the-Hole (sausages in Yorkshire pudding) and Devon scones with fresh strawberry jam and clotted cream. I miss those the most.
7. What is your most memorable or most special kitchen moment, be it a happy or a disastrous memory ?
There have been too many kitchen disasters to tell! Equally though, there have been many good times, especially when my kids have joined me in cooking or baking something. They somehow like to potter about in the kitchen way more than I ever did at their age, and I feel blessed that we can enjoy many special moments together in there. Although, I must say, we inevitably always end up making a huge mess! My most special memory is when my daughter, who loves Japanese food, taught me the proper way to roll sushi. She was all of 10 years old at the time.
8. What is your idea of a perfect meal ?
A perfect meal for me is one where the food is fresh and bursting with flavors that it stuns me into silence while eating it. This doesn’t mean that it has to be extravagantly presented…no, for example, a squeeze of lime over the freshest grilled fish can send me into pure ecstasy.
9. What is your favorite ingredient, the one you couldn’t live without, the one you use most often ? And is this ingredient the one that inspires you the most or is there another ?
I would have to say dark chocolate. It’s decadent with just a hint of bitterness, it sinfully melts in the mouth and makes my heart palpitate every time I bite into it. In fact, I’d marry chocolate if it was a man…haha! I use it often in my baking and cooking, and chocolate really does inspire me the most because I can pretty much cook anything delicious with it.
10. Do you have a favorite spice(s) ?
I love coriander. Whether it’s fresh coriander leaves or coriander seeds, I seem to use both fairly often in my cooking. I just adore the smell and taste of the spice when truthfully, I can’t even fully describe to you what coriander actually smells and tastes like! (If someone out there can articulate this in a way that makes sense, please do write and tell me).
11. What food or ingredient repulses you ?
I eat pretty much all vegetables and fruits, but when it comes to meats, you couldn’t pay me enough to eat anything we normally consider as pets (cats, dogs, hamsters, horses, etc). Sorry if you have pet chickens or fish, because I do eat those :-).
12. What food is your food vice ? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking.
Only one? I have many! LOL. Okay, I’ll share one…chocolate-ganache frosted donuts. They’re pure evil but irresistible.
13. When you cook or bake are you a plan ahead kind of person or are you a let’s see what ingredients we have to work with ?
The second type, definitely. When I’m following a recipe and don’t have a required ingredient, I do either of two things: substitute it with something else, or leave it out altogether. I don’t see the rationale of rushing out just to buy the missing item(s). Having to work only with ingredients that are available in the house forces me to be that bit more creative.
14. Do you like to listen to music while you cook ? What do you listen to? Does the inner Diva come out and sings and dances along ?
The easy answer to that is yes, of course I do – to all the above! I even sing with a wooden spoon as my pretend microphone… I mean, who hasn’t done that? I like to chill to the soothing sounds of Sade and Luther Vandross…gosh I’m really showing my age here. Okay, Mariah Carey, Josh Groban and Rihanna too, then.
15. When you go out to eat what do you go for ?
I like to eat really fresh ingredients, so Japanese food and fresh seafood (where you can see your future meal still swimming in the tank) are my two favorites.
16. Who is your favorite foodie (be it a professional Chef, enthusiast, novice, friend or family)? Have they, do they or how do they inspired you and your cooking ?
I believe that as students, we can’t be inspired by only one person, so I have several favorites:
– Anthony Bourdain, for having the guts (literally) to eat really interesting street fare wherever he travels.
– Chef Lynn Crawford, for her over-the-top joie de vivre and really outstanding cuisine.
– Eric Ripert, for his continual quest to use the freshest ingredients available, his brilliance with seafood and his insistence to “Cook from Life!”
– Pastry Chef Anna Olson, for making the art of baking look so accessible and laid-back for the rest of us.
– Nigella Lawson, for bringing sexy back into the kitchen with her ravishing food and ravenous way of eating them.
17. What about hobbies (besides cooking and eating), what do you like to do to relax and enjoy your free time ?
Well, I love to run and climb hills in my free time. This helps burn off calories from my baking activities (or rather, consumption of the goodies). I’m also an adventurer at heart, so whenever I can, I try to fit in some adventure sports such as white-water rafting, mountain-climbing and riding ATVs across the countryside. Other than that, I read all the time and try to finish at least one book a week.
18. What is your goal or what do you hope to accomplish with your blog ?
I didn’t start off with any goal in mind, but now that the blog is starting to take on its own character, my hope is that people will be more open to new possibilities in the types of cuisine they are willing to try or cook. The more I look at it, the more I realize how some of my recipes seem to transcend boundaries, mixing flavors and techniques that don’t seem to belong together yet still producing food that taste good. Being a perpetual outsider, I’ve never really had a comfort zone and I think my cooking very much reflects that. Nothing deters me (except, at this point in time, making macarons!). If I can be relevant to my readers in a way that makes them want to stretch their minds and skills further, then that will be my blog’s biggest accomplishment.
Anything else you would like to say or share with us, tips or advice for fellow blogger ?
I believe it’s important to be supportive to fellow bloggers, to connect with people who make the most sense to you, and most of all, to be true to yourself. Blogging can also start to feel slightly obligatory at some points in time (oh, I have to post regularly or I’ll lose my readers’ interest, I have to buzz my friends because they’ve buzzed me, etc) but that then takes a lot of the fun away. Whenever I’ve felt that way, I stop, go away and do other things for however long it takes. Then when I return to blogging, I feel refreshed and full of ideas for new recipes. I really think that when you’re constantly innovative, people will always be interested.