Shopping, Cooking and Lunching with Sharone Hakman @ B.I.G.
B.I.G. (Ben’s Independent Grocers, Publika)
I woke up that Monday morning before the alarm clock. In fact, way before. Jumped out of bed, changed my outfit three times, and finally shook Lil’ Chef out of a deep sleep and bustled him out the door.
Why was I so excited? Thanks to the well-connected Fatboybakes, our dear friend who so kindly thought of us, via an invitation from Sailena Yeop PR, we were on our way to take the ‘blues’ out of Monday and get shopping, cooking and eating with Masterchef Season One contestant, Sharone Hakman.
First impression upon seeing him: WOW. Tounge tied. Starstruck.
First impression upon hearing him speak: WOW. Tongue tied. Starstruck.
There was such a presence about him, an aura of calm and authority that exuded knowledge and experience with every word that escaped his mouth and every movement he made.
It didn’t help that he was (to quote Ben Stiller from the movie Zoolander) “REALLY REALLY GOOD LOOKING”. And very tall. It was if the entire package was, well, to underplay it just a bit, all there. Don’t worry, Lil’ Chef (hubby) was with me and I didn’t make too much of an ass of myself.
Grocery shopping at B.I.G. is like putting a Weight Watchers member in the middle of a fast food court and saying, “Here, go nuts.” I myself have exercised great restraint in shopping there. It’s not only the fantastic and elusive products that are available from all over the world, I think it’s that ambience, the cozy, European market feel that you get about it.
I love that all of the group’s restaurants line the edges of the supermarket, serving up anything from coffee to pizzas to burgers to deli-style salads, even a rotisserie. I guess if you ever got bored of shopping there (unlikely!) you could always have a pit stop and tuck into… well, take your pick.
The morning began, and we began our stroll through the store. I thought it was a refreshing change to have a Sharone ask us for ideas on what ingredients to use for the dishes he would cook. We didn’t know what to expect, and I’m not sure if he did either! There were some very knowledgeable attendees who enthusiastically gave him suggestions and explanations.
He was familiar with some local produce like Bunga Kantan (ginger flower), but intrigued when he picked up a bulb of smoked garlic. He smelt it and added it to the basket. We walked around the impressive grocery store, with elusive items from every corner of the world. After swiftly adding local herbs & greens, and some coconut milk, Sharone had the base for an aromatic sauce and we soon found ourselves oogling some big eyed fish.
Moving on to the meat, he picked out a hunk of Wagyu that if I remember correctly, cost RM650 a kilo.
What a beautiful, marbled piece of meat it was. Satisfies with his purchases, all courtesy of B.I.G. of course, we headed to the back of the store to get cooking.
Cooking with Sharone Hakman
I didn’t actually cook with him, but he did have a volunteer and interacted really well with the group. There’s just something about Americans. They just know how to (I don’t know why I keep quoting from Zoolander) “TALK REALLY REALLY GOOD”.
So there we were, witnessing a delicious meal in progress. Once he started cooking, the smells wafting our way of frying ginger, garlic, ginger flower, lime leaves… heavenly. Drizzle in some coconut milk, let it simmer and move on to the fish.
Like a magician waving his wand, Sharone filleted that Snapper in a matter of seconds. Again, I was in awe at how he could REALLY cook, on the spot, improvising and making it up as he went along. The mark of a true chef.
The dish itself was simple, attractive, and incredibly tasty. He seasoned the snapper with salt, pepper and some lemon zest, pan-fried the skin side down and let it sizzle away for no more than two minutes on each side. Every ingredient was carefully placed with the precision of a surgeon cutting open a person. The result – Stunning.
Moving on to the beef, I thought that slab of Wagyu could feed either four to six skinny chicks on a diet or one very hungry man who loves meat. Actually, once he introduced us to his all natural, no artificial preservatives BBQ sauce, ingeniously named HAK’s BBQ SAUCE, I think all of us wanted that piece of meat to ourselves.
I don’t normally like BBQ sauce (please don’t shoot me) but Sharone’s was different. It was the perfect balance of sweet and spicy, using only the finest blend of fresh ingredients, and of course, bourbon. We were the first to try it and it’s soon going to be available at B.I.G. If you can’t wait you can bribe a friend who lives in the US to send you a bottle. Check out his website
It was delicious. Tangy without hitting those nodes at the back of your throat. Dark, thick and gooey, each dollop holding its shape on the cutting board as he plated the steak. A good steak needs little seasoning, he tells us. Just enough salt and pepper to encourage a nice, crispy crust.
I was shameless and I asked for a picture of him feeding me some of that magnificent steak. It’s okay, Lil’ Chef (hubby) took the picture. That makes it all ok.
We adjourned for lunch at BEN’s and were privileged to have the actual Ben dine with us. First time meeting him, what a charming chap! Lunch was indulgent, and we were treated to a light and fresh starter of Prawn & Pucuk Paku (wild fern), a thick and creamy Nyonya Laksa, and a colourful plate of Nasi Kerabu. For dessert, the chef’s own creation, a cross between a Melaka Sago Biji dessert and the Thai waterchestnut dessert, Thab Thim Krob. With Ben himself present at the table, the conversation was endlessly entertaining.
What a morning! Shame it ended so early (well, I’m lying. We left just after 3pm!). Thank you Ben for having us, and Carole for the invitation.
And of course, Sharone for a fantastic insight into your life, your cooking and your food. Hope to catch you next time you’re in town!
If you’re feeling inspired and feel like dishing out the dosh on some fancy groceries, head over to B.I.G. at Publika!
B.I.G. Ben’s Independent Grocer
50480 Kuala Lumpur
T: +603 -6209 1700