Award-winning chef and partner of the critically acclaimed Fatty Crab, Fatty ‘Cue and Cabrito, Zac Pelaccio was on hand yesterday to give a demo at ICE. As a representative for Malaysia Kitchen for the World, Pelaccio used the demo as a chance to teach the audience about two classic Malaysian dishes — Assam Laksa (sour fish noodle soup) and Ikan Bakar (grilled fish). He introduced the audience to unique Asian ingredients and flavors such as belacan (shrimp paste), ikan bilis (dried fish) and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), taking the audience through the different regions and cuisines in Malaysia.

Pelaccio fell in love with Malaysian food when he traveled to Southeast Asia after graduating from college. He said, “I was blown away by the electricity of the food. It popped in my mouth like nothing I’d ever eaten before.” He loved it so much that he returned to Malaysia to live in Kuala Lumpur and work in a traditional Malay restaurant. Upon his return to the U.S., Pelaccio decided to attend culinary school. “At the school I went to, we learned classic French cuisine. The technique was amazing but it just wasn’t doing it for me.” Eventually, Pelaccio and his partner found a space and decided it was time to return to the food he had made in Asia and open the Malaysian-inspired Fatty Crab.

The process was a real learning experience for the chef who recounted how at first he was making the dishes too spicy and he had to learn to dial down his own love of spice so that people were able to eat the dishes in his restaurant. Since then, Fatty Crab has gone to open a second location and Pelaccio has opened two more restaurants. He described the cuisine at Fatty Crab as the flavors of Malaysia and Southeast Asia through his own American filter — a chance to travel the world without ever leaving New York City.

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