5 Self-Trained M'sian Teen Chefs Show Off Innovative Recipes At Local Cooking Competition

The mouth-watering winning dishes include Tilapia Satay with Ulam Rice, Shrimp with Padang Sauce, and Bird's Nest Platter, mmm!

Cover image via MAGGI (Provided to SAYS)

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Through their annual Secondary School Cooking Competition (MSSCC), MAGGI® has always celebrated the love for Malaysian food!

By encouraging the younger generation to come up with creative dishes, the competition gave them a way to share their passion for cooking.

This year was no different as teenage chefs from across Malaysia whipped up creative and innovative dishes for the competition, held under the theme of 'Anda & MAGGI, Sajikan Kelainan Untuk Inspirasi Harian' (You & MAGGI, Serving Different Dishes for Daily Inspiration).

About 1,000 young students aged between 13 to 15 from 350 schools took part, displaying not just their extraordinary cooking talent, but also the ability to make the right nutritional choices with the 'Pinggan Sihat Malaysia' or 'Suku-Suku Separuh' (Malaysian Healthy Plate / Quarter-Quarter Half) concepts towards building healthier eating habits.

Emerging as the Top 5 winners were Rafidah Fitri Hammidzol, Muhammad Faaris Salihin bin Mohd Firdaus, Nursyafiqah Binti Mohd Azmi, Yap Mei Wei, and Jaymee Ong.

Here's a look at some of the winning dishes and the inspirations behind them:

1. A self-sustainable winning recipe – Cooking with Plants You Grow

15-year-old Rafidah from SMK Syed Alwi, Perlis is no stranger to the kitchen. Having learned various recipes from her relatives and grandmothers, she is an adventurous cook who loves experimenting in the kitchen.

Often found whipping up meals like fried rice, Malay dishes, and fried kuey teow for her family, Rafidah's cooking is influenced by her mixed heritage, as her mother is Indonesian and her father is Malaysian.

For her winning recipe of Tilapia Satay with Ulam Rice, she was inspired by her grandmother's cooking. And the extra cool thing is that most of the ingredients in her dish consist of ingredients she grew herself at home.

Rafidah shared, "Nature inspires my cooking, and I particularly love using different kinds of herbs and colourful vegetables that I grow around my home. Meanwhile, my Tilapia Wrap Satay recipe is unique because it is rather unusual to use tilapia fish for satay."

"As I conceptualised the recipes with the guidance of my teacher, Cikgu Fiza, we experimented with various ingredients and MAGGI products to complement the dishes. We creatively replaced the belacan with MAGGI's anchovy (ikan bilis) stock cube, and substituted flour with blended MAGGI instant noodles and tom yam stock cubes! It was an exciting experience that I will never forget."

She hopes that her creative recipe can reintroduce easy-to-make traditional food to Malaysians, and provide nutrition to all, especially the younger generation.

2. Chief chef at home — Cooking Since 10 Years Old

The energetic and lively Faaris started cooking when he was only 10 years old. After his mother passed away, as the eldest brother of four siblings, Faaris took on the responsibility of preparing his family's daily meals.

The now 13-year-old student of Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah in Putrajaya fondly shared how his family's favourite dishes are the rendang ayam he makes every Ramadan, as well as chicken in coconut cream with bird's eye chilli and tempoyak.

Wanting to bring a smile to people's faces, the special dish he came up with for MSSCC 2021 was inspired by delicious Padang cuisine, and has a high nutritional content for a balanced family diet.

"I created this recipe because my father has always educated me about healthy eating, and this competition has also taught me about healthier and balanced food choices, hygiene, and food quality.

"My Shrimp with Padang Sauce contains high nutritional values from various healthy ingredients I used for my recipes such as capsicum, tomato, and shrimp. MAGGI Oyster Sauce and MAGGI CukupRasa are two must-have items that I added to my dish as my mom often used them," said Faaris.

Besides cooking, the young boy also has a passion for IT, and dreams of one day creating an app that focuses on healthy and balanced recipes, while inspiring a healthier lifestyle amongst the younger generation.

3. A culturally-curated balanced meal — Inspired by Heritage

As a result of spending time in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother from a young age, Jaymee naturally picked up a love for cooking. With a love for her mother's homemade Chinese dishes, Jaymee followed in her footsteps, cooking steamed fish, a family favourite, as her first-ever dish.

The 15-year-old student from SMJK Heng Ee in Penang found her love for cooking growing even more during the MCO, as her family of eight were all home together, and often bonded over family dinners.

It was this realisation of the importance of family relationships that inspired Jaymee to conceptualise her Bird's Nest Platter for MSSCC 2021, creating a symbol of the special bond between a family.

Jaymee explained, "Prevalent in Chinese culture, the bird's nest symbolises good luck and represents the love, commitment, and effort in building a happy home. My mum and I believe that healthy dishes like this can help strengthen family relationships.

"Through this competition, I have learned a lot about healthy eating and nutritional tips such as the 'Malaysian Healthy Plate' or 'Quarter-Quarter Half' that I can put to practice in my cooking. Nowadays, I focus on preparing tasty and balanced home-cooked meals for my family.

"In most of my dishes, I will also use MAGGI products such as the MAGGI Chicken Stock Cubes and Oyster Sauce, as it helps bring out the flavourful taste in every cuisine. I am happy that they loved my food!"

In the future, Jaymee hopes to become a successful chef like Gordon Ramsay, whom she admires for his self-confidence and determination, as well as the brilliant dishes he creates.

In addition to Rafidah, Faaris, and Jaymee, third and fourth place winners — Nursyafiqah and Mei Wei — also created impressive dishes!

Nursyafiqah whipped up an oil-free and nutritionally balanced Korean Egg Roll, while Mei Wei's Rainbow Fried Rice utilised colourful ingredients depicting hope, joy, and success.

You can take a look at them on the MSSCC 2021 website.

MSSCC 2021 marks the 25th edition of the annual competition, as well as MAGGI's 25th year of collaboration with the Ministry of Education Malaysia

The competition serves as a nurturing platform for the younger generation to cultivate culinary and life skills, knowledge, and self-efficacy, all of which are critical for confidence building and character development.

This year, in order to adapt to the new normal, the competition was held completely virtually for the first time ever, enabling all students to participate without risking their health and safety.

Participants were required to submit their recipes in a video format, and were judged based on the creative use of ingredients, cooking skills, presentation, and culinary inspiration.

"As many school children are still staying home due to the pandemic, this is the opportune time for them to cultivate their cooking skills. This competition continues to serve as a platform for these young talents to showcase their hidden talents, as well as a knowledge-sharing opportunity through various educational modules by industry experts," said Geetha Balakrishna, Business Executive Officer of MAGGI, Nestlé (Malaysia) Berhad.

Besides competing against each other, participants were also able to learn together as a group, via four brand new online learning modules on Google Classroom that were hosted by celebrity chefs and cooking personalities

MAGGI Chef, Chef Sharifah Hamidah

Image via MAGGI (Provided to SAYS)

The four learning modules consisted of:

- 'Healthy and Balanced Cooking' with MAGGI Chef, Chef Sharifah Hamidah and Nestlé Nutritionist, Mrs. Ven Luan

- 'Learning Food Safety and Hygiene' with MAGGI Chef, Chef Muluk

- 'Professional Food Styling Tips' with celebrity chef and TV host, Chef Sherson Lian

- 'Building your Self-confidence' with Brand Ambassador for MAGGI CukupRasa, Datin Paduka Eina Azman

To learn more about the competition, as well as get a closer look at all five winners and their winning recipes, check out the MSSCC website

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