Cook, swap and make friends

Goodies galore in the basket from the Food Swap. - Pictures by Choo Choy May
Goodies galore in the basket from the Food Swap. - Pictures by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 -- “I’ll trade you granola for rendang.” Or how about some basil pesto for the sugee cake, and so forth at the first Food Swap event in the Klang Valley.

A total of 11 participants attended the inaugural event organised by the people behind Food Bites. The event held at Food Foundry in Section 17, Petaling Jaya saw homemade items ranging from Greek moussaka, artisanal bread, smoked salmon crepe torte to lemon curd being traded.

Attendees included a varied bunch of amateur cooks, bakers and even homegrown brands like Forty Licks ice cream, It’s Baked, Hankerie, Sugar and Cream, and Hummus Co.

Tables set up by the organisers were piled high with homemade goodies. Each participant had to fill up cards to let others know their product’s ingredients.

Vita Lysovaite fills up the ingredient list for Food Swap cards
Vita Lysovaite fills up the ingredient list for Food Swap cards

Some got innovative with their packaging to showcase their wares like Loke Poh Lin who used disposable piping bags and ribbons to create nifty packages for her homemade granola.

It’s Baked’s Pang Su Li collaborated with her sister Pang Su Yen to present her homemade chocolate chip cookies and Parmesan shortbread in brown paper bags tied with twine.

Dinner hosts PlateCulture’s founder Audra Pakalnyte also attended with her fellow Lithuanian Vita Lysovaite to introduce their country’s food in the form of Tinginys or Lithuanian lazy pie.

The simple dessert bears a close resemblance to our own kek batik and is made from digestive biscuits, cocoa powder and condensed milk.

Cutting tasting samples of the Lithuanian Lazy Pie (left). Loke Poh Lin’s homemade granola is packed into disposable piping bags tied with ribbons (right)
Cutting tasting samples of the Lithuanian Lazy Pie (left). Loke Poh Lin’s homemade granola is packed into disposable piping bags tied with ribbons (right)

Hummus Co’s Fariz Zain Zahedi and Aneesha Veriah got into their business last September after they returned from overseas and could not find their favourite spread at supermarkets. They started selling their preservative-free spread with various flavours by order or at flea markets. For this event, they brought two hummus flavours: tangy jalapeno and sun-dried tomato.

During the two-hour session, the participants were given the opportunity to sample each other’s homemade goodies. This was to help them decide what to swap. Others took this opportunity to communicate with other foodies.

Hoe Han Ker from Hankerie swaps her basil pesto for a slice of homemade happiness from PlateCulture Audra Pakalnyte
Hoe Han Ker from Hankerie swaps her basil pesto for a slice of homemade happiness from PlateCulture Audra Pakalnyte

“I want to network with new people,” says interior designer Hayati Ismail. She has been dabbling -- on the side -- in the sale of homecooked rendang, kuah kacang or peanut sauce and pineapple tarts for seven years.

For the Food Swap, she brought her sugee cake. “It’s a family recipe made for Christmas and this is the first time it is leaving the family occasion,” she says.

Similarly Mariam Abdul Wahab is a novice in marketing her homecooked wares. The 60-year-old brought her rendang made lovingly from a family recipe. “There is a secret ingredient in the rendang that I can’t tell you about it but that is what gives it the fragrance,” she says.

Mariam Abdul Wahab checks out Sugar & Cream’s handmade cakes and cookies
Mariam Abdul Wahab checks out Sugar & Cream’s handmade cakes and cookies

Her rendang is slow cooked for 3-4 hours in a tembaga or brass pot. “The brass pot retains more heat and makes the daging empuk (meat tender),” she explains. She is also considering marketing her sambal tumis ikan bilis, another family recipe.

Once the official trades were done, participants took matters into their own hands to distribute their excess items. Some marched up to others to ask for an exchange.

Once business was over, it was time to tuck into their rewards like the friendly Lithuanian duo who could not help relishing the delicious chicken ham and mushroom quiche from It’s Baked.

Participants of the Klang Valley’s inaugural Food Swap event get busy talking to each other
Participants of the Klang Valley’s inaugural Food Swap event get busy talking to each other

At the end of the day, everyone scored big and walked away happy with a big basket of homemade happiness and a set of new friends. “It’s a friendly event so you are not afraid to tell your ideas since they are not competitors,” says Mariam.

Food Swap was organised by Food Bites. Follow them on https://www.facebook.com/FoodBitesPJ for further details on upcoming events.

This story was first published in Crave in the print edition of The Malay Mail, 6 September 2013.

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