Thursday, January 30, 2003

Ambassador of York promotes Malaysian
delights in Britain

BY LIM AI LEE

PENANG: If Jennie Cook has her way, the humble serai, bunga kantan and lengkuas will soon find their way into the English kitchen.
Penang-born Cook, who is one of the most sought-after cooks in England, said she planned to popularise nyonya cuisine and spices among the English who were acquiring a taste for Malaysian food.
Back home for a three-month holiday, she is looking for suppliers who can send regular shipments of pandan leaves, serai, bunga kantan and other local herbs and spices.
EXOTIC TASTE: Cook displaying an array of Malaysian spices and vegetables in George Town recently. She is looking for suppliers who can send regular shipments of the spices.
She is working with a British food manufacturer to market her nyonya sauce.
Cook introduced nyonya food at a roadshow organised by the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board and the Malaysia Trade Commissioner in England last year.
“Unlike Chinese or Malaysian food, nyonya cuisine is unheard of and the English love the food and the mix of spices,” she said, adding that some restaurants in York used serai or lemongrass in their egg custard.
Cook, a former nurse who settled in York three decades ago, was voted Ambassador of York in November last year by the Mirror Group in a poll conducted by the Evening Press.
Apart from running a guesthouse with her husband John Cook, 51, Jennie appears regularly on television and radio as a guest in cookery shows and holds cooking demonstrations for packed crowds.
Cook, whose maiden name is Koh Siew Lee, has also published a book on Malaysian food and writes a weekly food column for the Yorkshire Post.
As Ambassador of York, Cook intends to hit two birds with one stone – promote her adopted city to foreigners and popularise Malaysian food and culture among the British.
“I am glad to say that in York, I have converted thousands to Chinese and Malaysian food,” she said.
Apart from “selling” Malaysian gastronomic delights, Cook has made it her mission to assure the British that Malaysia “is one of the safest countries in the world.”
“After the Sept 11 incident and the Bali bombing, people tend to have a negative impression of Malaysia. But I tell them, if it’s not safe, would I go there three times a year?” she said.
“There is more racial tolerance, people are highly educated and there is a lot of development. I think the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad) has done a great job in taking the country out of the Third World and modernising it. Today, Malaysia has become almost on par with western nations,” she said.