Chef Carrie Scully heads the kitchen at Tiki Taka, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Chef Carrie Scully heads the kitchen at Tiki Taka, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she serves Asian-inspired pintxos and tapas.
We chat to her about what it’s like opening a restaurant for the first time, the cuisine of Penang and blending East and West, and how she deals with gender stigma in the kitchen.
So, Chef Carry, how would you describe your cooking style?
Modern traditional. I am Eurasian; both my grandmothers are Thai and Indian respectively, and my grandfather Irish, thus I incorporate a lot of these flavours using traditional recipes and giving them a modern twist.
You opened your restaurant, Tiki Taka, in 2016 – please describe the menu and explain why you have chosen these sorts of dishes.
The menu consists of Asian inspired pintxos and tapas. A trip to Barcelona in 2015 sparked a love affair with the pintxos concept, which has never been done in Malaysia.
I come from an island, so naturally I incorporate a lot of seafood and fresh sustainable produce. I gain inspiration from nature, my surroundings and culture, which I then put into creating my dishes.
Our bestseller to date is still the Salted Egg Crab in Charcoal Brioche and the Shaoxing Chilli Prawn Pasta.
Tiki Taka is in KL but you’re from Penang – please tell us about the food of Penang.
Colourful! We always say the best street food in Asia is from Penang. Due to migration in the early years, it is a cultural hotpot bursting with a myriad of cuisines. Where else in the world can you get Siamese, Indian, Chinese, Malay, Nyonya, Eurasian, Mamak and Western food packed into a tiny little island?
Many of the older establishments are still family run but we’ve seen a boom in the café and fine dining scene, particularly after being recognied as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What are two traditional dishes of Penang that you particularly like/ are particularly interesting?
I am devoted to my Penang Curry Mee (noodles) and Char Koay Kak. The Penang curry noodles is made from a rich coconut broth and condiments like cuttlefish, prawns, spongy beancurd, cockles and mint are added. But to up it to an epic level, our version has cubes of compressed pig’s blood, something you will not find in any other dishes. Char Koay Kak is lesser known compared to the Char Koay Teow but trust me, once you try these wok-fried steamed rice cakes cooked with copious amounts of seafood, chilli paste, eggs and soy sauce, you will instantly fall in love with this dish.
Do you cook with unusual ingredients?
At Tiki Taka, I usually gravitate towards using local ingredients. We have our own garden which gives us many of the fresh herbs and vegetables that we use in the restaurant. My favourite is the butterfly pea flower which gives a natural blue hue to food, and nutmeg that I get from a farm in Penang. My principle is very simple: good food made with fresh produce.
Tiki Taka is your first restaurant – what was the experience of opening your own restaurant like?
The restaurant is owned by a few investors and I head the kitchen. Overseeing the opening from scratch was overwhelming to say the least. We had a few hiccups along the way, but were blessed with an amazing team of people at every stage, from conception to construction, making it possible to open our restaurant exactly the way we wanted to.
How did you build support for your restaurant?
I like to evolve with technology so we spread our marketing activities via Instagram, Facebook, and IGTV for Tiki Taka. I also do a weekly show called Budget Gourmet, in which I share recipes and tips with my followers on my Facebook page ChefCarrieScully. These avenues allow us to engage with our customers in a more up-to-date and personal way.
What is the dining scene in KL like?
The KL dining scene is vibrant! A mélange of chain restaurants, street food and independent restaurants thrive together harmoniously. Malaysians in general look at eating as a favourite activity, and our local palate is used to different flavour profiles in our cuisine thus making us extremely open to embracing food from different cultures.
Have you ever faced any issues to do with being a woman chef?
The stigma is still very much alive that the professional kitchen is best left to be led by men. However, I believe that opinions are a dime a dozen and it is far more crucial to be focused on becoming the best version of yourself as a chef.
It is a tough industry, passion alone is insufficient, you need to have fortitude and perseverance. I have always taken it to be my role to inspire other women that if you put every ounce of effort, heart and soul into this profession, you can and will achieve wonders.
What are your plans for the future? Would you ever open more branches of Tiki Taka?
I like to keep my options and mind open. In this ever-changing environment I always look for new ideas, concepts and people that I can collaborate with.
Thank you, Carrie, and for the recipe you have shared that gives us a sense of your multicultural approach to cooking: Sriracha Gambas Al Ajillo – sounds wonderful! See here her new recipe.
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