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Chefs compete in a Malaysian rendang cook-off

Malaysian cuisine took center stage at New York City’s Astor Center on February 1, as six celebrity chefs went head-to-head in the first ever Malaysian Rendang Cook-Off. Chefs Angelo Sosa, Anita Lo, Dale Talde, Shaun Hergatt, Todd English and Zak Pelaccio competed for the chance to win a $5,000 donation to their chosen charity, sponsored by the Malaysia Kitchen and MATRADE.

Chef Hasni “Jeff” Ghazali of Bentara in New Haven, Connecticut introduced the audience to the time-honored classic of Malaysian Rendang. A centerpiece of South Asian cuisine, Rendang is a slow cooked, spiced meat curry, intricately layered with flavors such as turmeric, garlic, chili paste, lemongrass and galangal. The dish is typically reduced to a dry consistency, leaving a powerfully robust flavor combination. Traditional variations can include toasted coconut, ginger, kefir lime and turmeric leaves.

As Chef Jeff wrapped up the basics, the chef-testants prepared to take the crowd on a modern Rendang excursion around the globe, proving the versatility of Malay cuisine. These were the six variations presented to the judges.

Angelo Sosa: Sweetbread Rendang with Charred Rice Espuma

Using cloves as a spice suppressor, Sosa’s rendition delivered an even flavor profile with an unexpected finish. His rice-milk espuma added a creamy texture that balanced the dish. A chef inspired by the past, but always looking forward, Sosa operates two New York City restaurants, Social Eatz and Añejo Taquileria.

Anita Lo: Beef Rendang Hot & Cold

The chef-owner of New York City’s Annisa restaurant incorporated a homemade sriracha sauce in her version of Rendang. The deconstructed presentation surprised the audience.

Dale Talde: Spanish Mackeral Rendang with Green Curry

Chef Talde, who recently opened TALDE restaurant in Brooklyn, went against the grain, combining green curry paste with Spanish mackerel. Then he ramped up the presentation with an eye-catching technique—dousing his curry mixture in liquid nitrogen, shattering some of the elements into a fine dust.

Shaun Hergatt: Beef and Pork Rendang with Chopped Peanuts and Toasted Coconut

Australian native Hergatt, chef at SHO in the Setai Hotel, combined beef and pork belly, adding new layers of texture and flavor to the classic Rendang. His focus was on tenderization, as he showed the crowd ways to create a softer, more luscious meat curry.

Todd English: Braised Short Rib Rendang with Fried Onion, Red Chili and Scallion

Infusing Italian technique with Malay flavors, English successfully pulled together two cuisines continents apart.

Zak Pelaccio: Smoked Brisket Rendang

Pelaccio, who cooks Malaysian specialties at his Fatty Crab restaurants, explained that Rendang could be re-imagined as anything because it is more a method than a specific dish. Fork-tender smoked beef brisket was the foundation for his Rendang.

When the votes were tallied, the crowned champion was Angelo Sosa with his Sweetbread Rendang. In dedication to his son, who suffers from Trisomy 18, Sosa plans to donate his prize money to the Chromosome 18 Foundation.

For more on the Rendang Cook-Off, visit  www.malaysiakitchennyc.com.

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