Award-winning chef and partner of the critically acclaimed Fatty Crab, Fatty ‘Cue and Fatty Snack, Zak Pelaccio was on hand this week to give a demo for ICE students and alumni. As a representative for Malaysia Kitchen for the World, Pelaccio used the demo as a chance to teach the audience about classic Malaysian dishes and ingredient. He prepared Rendang Minangkabau, which is a dish of braised short ribs with coconut rice and pickled vegetables.
The dish was an excellent chance to learn about a wide variety of unfamiliar ingredients. For example, Pelaccio showed the crowd pandan leaves (large leaves used to add aroma to many dishes), fresh galangal (a rhizome similar to ginger) and gula jawa (a type of sugar derived from palm trees). Pelaccio discussed traditional methods used in Malaysia that he now uses in his restaurants. For example, tying pandan leaves in a knot and adding it to the rice while cooking to perfume the rice.
Pelaccio fell in love with Malaysian food when he traveled to Southeast Asia after graduating from college. He spent close to a year working at a traditional Malay restaurant in Kuala Lumpur — he was the only westerner who had ever cooked there. Upon his return to the U.S., Pelaccio decided to attend culinary school where he learned classic French techniques and style. Originally, Pelaccio and his partner planned on opening a French bistro, but he realized that what he really wanted to be cooking was the Malaysian food he loved so much.
In fact, Pelaccio shared how he borrowed the name Fatty Crab from a restaurant he used to frequent in Kuala Lumpur. And even though the restaurants are very different, he hopes that his cuisine brings a taste of Malaysia and the food he is passionate about to New Yorkers.