Meet the star chef at this weekend's Strathfield Food Festival

In a world of fusion cooking, Amina Elshafei may well represent the ultimate.  Her mother is Korean, her father Egyptian – a recipe for a heady mix in any kitchen. So expect a fascinating demonstration from the 28-year-old Masterchef Australia finalist, who knows Strathfield’s food precincts well.

Since the 2012 show, her life has been a whirlwind of travel and writing. We caught up with her in London. Nahrain John asked about her culinary style

 

Were you excited to be asked to be the star chef at the Strathfield Food Festival?

I was thrilled! I’ve grown up in the area and to be part of this festival is a nice reminder of just how dynamic Strathfield has become. 

Do you know Strathfield food? Do you ever eat here?

I know Strathfield over the years has become known as Little Korea. It has been an area my mother, who is Korean, has come to frequently to purchase her ethnic produce. My sister also attended high school in this area, so Strathfield has been a familiar place for my family. In saying that, Strathfield has been an ideal culinary spot for my family to come and eat, particularly Korean food and local coffee.

Do you use Korean influences in your cooking?

I especially love Korean noodle dishes such as naengmyun (buckwheat noodles in chilled broth), bibim naeng myun (mixed cold buckwheat noodles) and jajangmyun (handmade noodles in black bean sauce). It is also a reflection of the dishes that we have enjoyed eating in our households.

However, I can’t forget to include the famous kimchi (preserved vegetables) which comes in so many varieties. I certainly have a strong influence in cooking Korean food at home, as my mother cooks it regularly and I enjoy replicating her dishes.

How has your mother influenced your cooking?

My mother cooks her favourite Korean dishes at home for our family to enjoy. Her cooking is often seasonal-based, such as making beef soups in winter and lovely fresh dishes in the hotter parts of the year.

Your father is Egyptian, do you find your mixed background influences your dishes or your cooking preferences? 

Absolutely! I am very blessed to be brought up with two very interesting and delicious cuisines. My mixed background has exposed me to such vibrant flavours, textures and ingredients that play an important part in the way I cook. 

What’s your favourite Korean dish?

I enjoy eating Korean-style noodles. In summer I enjoying the buckwheat varieties such as naengmyun and bibim naeng myun and in winter I like jajangmyun. 

What’s your favourite Korean dish to make?

It takes a lot of time, but I like making a dish called tangsuyeok. It is the Korean version of sweet and sour chicken.

Will you take time out from being the star chef to try out some of the local chefs’ dishes? 

Most definitely. At any food festival, I always make it a must to try other food being prepared. I can’t go past great aromas and vibrant looking food! 

What will you be making at the Strathfield Food Festival?  

I am yet to decide, but I know it will have seafood and a good amount of heat to it.


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