Kitchen Spy: Poh Ling Yeow

Poh Ling Yeow rose to prominence as a contestant in the first series of MasterChef and has maintained her profile with the ABC series Poh's Kitchen and Poh's Kitchen Lends a Hand. She has also had a decade-long career as an artist, working mostly in acrylics. She began baking when she was eight, but got serious about broadening her repertoire just a couple of years before she tried out for MasterChef, in which she finished second. The recently appointed face of Malaysian Kitchen Insiders (an organisation promoting Malaysian food) admits she is unusual for a Chinese Malaysian: she has a low chilli threshold and a fear of cleavers.

Most memorable meal

The first time I learnt to push through the pain threshold with chilli was with Assam laksa in a shopping centre cafe in Kuala Lumpur. I was about six and remember thinking, "This is so excruciatingly painful but so delicious", and beginning to understand that was part of the enjoyment of it. It remains my favourite dish.

The staples

My pantry: Dried chilli, dried shrimp, dried shrimp paste. They're great to throw in for a bit of protein when you have nothing else in the house.

My fridge: Butter and full-cream milk, because I love to bake. Loads of condiments for stir-fries, such as brown bean paste and chilli bean paste. Fermented tofu goes into a lot of stir-fries as well; it's my favourite way to eat vegies.

I'm cooking

Last dinner at home It was Italian, which I love because it has so few ingredients compared with Malaysian. Antonio Carluccio taught me how to make a traditional pan-fried pizza just with tomato sauce, grated parmesan and fresh basil. It's the most amazing meal.

Secret vice Two-minute noodles. If I'm stressed out, it's what I have for dinner.

I'm drinking

When I have coffee, it's flat white with full-cream milk, a good solid mug of it to start my day. But I'm really a tea person. I drink a lot of strong black English Breakfast tea, sencha green tea, peppermint tea. I don't drink wine, but I don't mind the occasional beer. Being a South Aussie, I like Coopers Pale Ale.

Saturday-night tipple Lychee, amaretto and lime cocktail topped up with soda.

My toolkit

A good sharp chef's knife. I'm actually really bad at using a cleaver, even though I'm Chinese and got raised with one. I'm always a bit scared of them. Whisk for baking. A blender for making curry pastes. And a mortar and pestle, of course. In a fire, I'd grab my old notebook that I keep all my recipes in. I take it travelling with me so I've got all the recipes I love to cook with me.



Cookbooks and googling. I love googling ingredients. Well-written cookbooks are really hard to find because there's so much of that fast, quick-and-easy mentality at the moment. More and more I'm steering towards those that are known for their writing, such as Elizabeth David and Nigella Lawson. Those old cookbooks are great because they teach you to rely on your instincts. I love How to Be a Domestic Goddess because I'm a mad baker.


There are a couple of eccentric items I'm so attached to. I have these two green colanders from the '80s, which we brought with us when we came from Malaysia. They have a couple of extra holes punched in them and I just can't get rid of them.