Described as the “Jamie Oliver of Malaysian cooking”, Chef Wan was the undoubted star of the inaugural Wellington Malaysia Kitchen Night Market. A household name in Asia , crowds clamoured to hear him speak about and cook traditional Malaysian food. The packed audience included a very excited Lauren King, who was one of the lucky recipients of Chef Wan's demonstration dish Vermicelli Kerabu.
Held in one half of the cramped Opera House Lane, the market was the finale of this years Wellington On A Plate. Wan’s excited commentary (see him in action here), broadcast at full volume, contrasted with the slow moving crowds waiting for their fix of Malaysian cuisine.
Working under intense pressure the chefs from Kayu Manis, Rasa, The Long Bar and other Wellington Malaysian restaurants still managed to serve up delicious char grilled satay sticks, curry puffs, rendangs and gorengs ...
...the menus however lacked the real diversity I expected of Malaysian street food. This was a probably a reflection on having only a small number of stands to feed the heaving crowds quickly (the event ran for 3 hrs), with easily identified food.
The fundamental aim of Wellington On A Plate is to attract foodie tourists. Air Asia X ‘s arrival to NZ has seen a dramatic increase in Malaysian visitors to NZ (1300 to 5000 monthly in Christchurch) – no doubt coming for the clean green scenery. Likewise, tourism from NZ to Malaysia has increased markedly. I applaud the organisers of the Kitchen Night Market for getting involved with WOAP for the first time, but there is room to put Malaysian street food on a larger stage, with more variety and enthusiastic crowds in the future.