Hua Hee Makan Sarawak style!
By Patricia Hului
It is a food show like no other in Malaysia: Hua Hee Makan sets out to search, explore and rediscover dishes and family recipes exclusively within the Hokkien community, believed to be the largest Chinese ethnic group in Malaysia.
Now going into their tenth season, the show is pointing their cameras to Sarawak hoping to introduce many of our local Hokkien dishes to the rest of Malaysia.
The production of this season will commence this December in Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri.
Popular TV and radio personality, Phoebe Yap will bring viewers on a mouth-watering journey to document Hokkien cuisine cherished by generations of Chinese dialect groups from the Fujian province such as Xinghua, Fuzhou and Minnan.
“We will be visiting homemakers who will be sharing their treasured family recipes and let us witness how wondrous dishes are prepared,” said Phoebe when met at Hilton Hotel on Nov 29. “We hope to capture these precious moments to accurately depict the vibrant food culture among the Chinese communities in Sarawak.”
According to her, each home has its own recipe, each with its own distinct, memorable taste.
“These foods represent the daily lives of the people and their tastes are something that money cannot buy.”
Phoebe hoped that through this show, they will be able to pass these home recipes to the next generation. “And hopefully more people can enjoy these recipes in their own homes.”
Hosting the show has always been a learning experience for her.
“There is a story behind every cooking method these families use,” said Phoebe, who is a Hokkien from Batu Pahat. “I am personally touched by people on how they cook, it reminds me of my childhood.”
Part of the excitement of the show is when the homemakers take Phoebe to their neighbourhood markets to shop for ingredients. After nine seasons, Phoebe is proud to say she is the queen of markets.
“I think I have visited at least 117 markets while hosting the show,” said Phoebe, who finds that every market has its own attraction, each different from the other.
East Malaysians have always asked her when she is coming to this part of the country, and now that she is finally here, Phoebe said: “I am looking forward to what Sarawak has to offer.”
Executive producer of the show, Chin Wai Choon gave a glimpse of what to expect from Hua Hee Makan Sarawak.
“One of the highlights is that we are going to board a ferry to go to Dalat to meet with a family intermarried with Melanau,” Chin said, explaining that the show will explore how this intermarriage has influenced this particular family’s Hokkien recipe.
“From what we learned so far, they incorporate sago into their dishes,” he said.
He also talked about how Hua Hee Makan found their host families.
“Here in Sarawak, we visited the Hokkien associations. We told them the concept and from there we eventually found families who were suitable for our show.”
Chin also pointed out that they previously visited Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu twice to meet with these families.
Each episode features one family and each family would introduce two to three home recipes. Chin also revealed one of the recipes is ‘Cham Pok Chicken’.
“The story behind this recipe is that the homemaker herself does not know what ‘Cham Pok’ means,” Chin said adding that the homemaker learnt the recipe from her maternal grandmother.
“It is a little bit saddening that she did not know how the recipe came about but at least we still have the chance to learn how to cook it before it is too late,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Astro vice president of Chinese Customer Business, Choo Chi Han pointed out that just as love for food transcends all boundaries, so does their Hua Hee (‘happiness’ in Chinese) spirit.
“Keeping this in mind, we aspire to be close and part of the community where everyone lives, thus our presence here today.”
For Astro, localisation makes for successful programmes and movies.
“We believe localisation is important. We want to get into the lives of local people and document them on television,” Choo said. “Thus in every localised programme we have, we want to touch on the daily lives of the viewers.”
Choo said that the Hokkien lives and cultures are known for its family-based and community-oriented values, which is how they design their Hokkien programme.
“Hue Hee Makan is different from other food show because we take our cameras into people’s kitchens.”
The 10th season of Hua Hee Makan aims to deliver 13 episodes showcasing the best Hokkien culinary treasures in Sarawak for the enjoyment of viewers throughout the whole of Malaysia, and will be coming soon to viewers’ homes in March 2016.
“To celebrate the distinctiveness of local Hokkien delicacies, we are also introducing Hua Hee Star Chef, Malaysia’s first Hokkien cooking competition in our quest to recognise skilled chefs, be they amateur or professional,” he said.
Choo also pointed out that three from Sarawak had made it to the top 18 through nationwide auditions, two of whom are from Kuching.
Hua Hee Star Chef will make its debut this Dec 20 at 8.30pm.
“Hua Hee Makan is among our many Hua Hee franchises that appeals not only to the Hokkien speaking community but also viewers from neighbouring countries,” he said. “Just recently, we played host to International Hua Hee Karaoke, a singing competition that showcased the best of talent from around the globe.”
Since its debut in 2009 on the first 24/7 Hokkien channel in Malaysia, Hua Hee Makan has travelled across many states in Peninsular Malaysia to unearth over 230 Hokkien dishes in the past 117 episodes for Malaysian viewers.
It has also gone beyond Malaysia with a few episodes produced and broadcasted in Singapore.
Hua Hee Makan Season 10 will premiere in March 2016 on Astro Hua Hee Dai (Ch333 and HD Ch332).
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/HuaHeeDai.