Marion Grasby was one of the breakout stars of last year's edition of Australian MasterChef, but her culinary roots are firmly here in the Kingdom. Her Thai mother, also a chef, taught her how to cook, instilling in her a love for diverse cuisines and a desire to experiment.
''Being from a Thai-Australian family has made me love to mix Asian and Western flavours together,'' she says. ''If there is an 'Australian' cuisine, there is a huge Asian influence; part of this reason is being so close, the other is the climate, so I think there is a great synergy.''
Grasby, who launched the Australian embassy and Central Retail's one-month long ''Taste of Australia 2013: Australia Unlimited'' promotion on Feb 13, moved to Bangkok four months ago. Her Marion's Kitchen line of packaged food products is produced here and includes several Thai dishes, such as pad thai and red and green curries. And while that played into her motivation for relocating, she says, a desire to reconnect with her Thai heritage was also a major factor.
''I wanted an excuse to come here to spend time with my mum's family and immerse myself in Thai culture,'' she says.
Grasby left a career with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to pursue her lifelong passion _ food. ''I literally went from interviewing [Australian politician] Penny Wong one week to sweeping up in a cheese shop the next. But it was good because I learned from the ground up. From there I went on to Masterchef.''
Grasby has no regrets. Even though she didn't win on Masterchef, the exposure led to Marion's Kitchen. ''I'm very lucky that I took the risk to do something on my own. After two years on the shelves in Australia, we now sell about 150,000 packs every month,'' she says. ''If I tried to open a restaurant there's no way I could get that many people through the door every night.''
Now that she's based in Thailand, Grasby is wasting no time sampling some of the city's culinary delights.
Her top three favourite experiences in Thailand thus far have been chowing down on khanom jeen nam ya (fermented white noodles with a fishy, spicy broth) and loads of fresh herbs. ''You can pretty much only get it on the street,'' she says, laughing. Another was dining at Nahm, the Thai restaurant owned by Australian chef David Thompson, which she describes as ''phenomenal''.
''My third favourite is more just an experience,'' she says. ''There's [a Beatles cover band] they play every Monday night in a place called Fat Gut'z.''
She may have been among Australia's most prominent chefs _ the Aussie version of Masterchef is also a major hit in India _ but Grasby draws her biggest inspiration from Bangkok's legendary street fare. ''Those grandma chefs!'' she exclaims. ''I visit one that turns out the best larb and spicy salads, and it's just in this tiny little food cart. I guess the best food is where I can go and hassle an old lady for the recipe,'' she says, laughing.
STEAK WITH MISO SPRING ONION BUTTER AND CARROT SALAD
Use fork to mix and whip up the butter, shiro miso and spring onion. Scoop the whole lot out onto a square of cling film. Wrap up the butter and roll into a log shape. Now you can store it in the fridge and just slice off a piece whenever you need. You'll need four cm thick slices for this recipe.
Have your steaks at room temperature and give them a good rub with the olive oil and salt. Sear steaks on a hot grill or pan 1-2 minutes a side (for medium rare). When your steak is cooking on the second side, top each with a slice of miso spring onion butter. Rest steaks for five minutes then serve.
Meanwhile, for the salad, whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, palm sugar, sesame seeds and sesame oil. Toss dressing with carrots and bean shoots just before serving with steak.
CRUMBED LAMB CUTLETS WITH GRAPE SALAD
For the salad dressing, whisk wholegrain mustard, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Set aside until ready to serve.
For the lamb, gently flatten the meat on each cutlet using the palm of your hand. Combine breadcrumbs, rosemary and cheese on a plate. Spread mustard onto each lamb cutlet and coat in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with remaining cutlets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Pour oil into a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook cutlets for three minutes per side (for medium-rare) or until cooked to your liking. Drain on paper towel and rest for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, toss together the salad dressing, grapes, salad leaves and mint. Serve lamb cutlets with salad.
About the author
Writer: Bernadette Morabito