I simply adore good food. I study it, research it, present and teach about it, but most of all, I love to enjoy it.

So how excited was I to be invited as a VIP guest to meet the three Asia Celebrity Masterchefs, and our Singapore contestants recent?

 Well, much more excited than you might think.

I’ve been fortunate to live in many of the best food cities in the world, at least according to my collection of cookbooks – Sydney, Hong Kong, Toronto and more recently Singapore. Toronto, in particular, stands out (that’s also where I did my nutrition studies) for it’s wonderful diversity of restaurants, farmers markets, and incredible chefs – with none other than Mr. Susur Lee paving the way, placing Toronto right up there as one of the best foodie cities in the world. He certainly deserves his nomination as one of the ‘Ten Chefs of the Millennium”.

I now live in Singapore, which is recently thriving in the gastronomy sphere – Susur Lee is involved in two restaurants here, and hopefully, many more to come – with his help Singapore will soon be on that world stage. So of course, meeting Susur was going to be the highlight of my MasterChef experience, but it was also a huge privilege to be on stage with 3-Michelin starred chef Bruno Menard, and Masterchef Australia 2012 Finalist, Audra Morrice.

As a holistic nutritionist and a total gourmet enthusiast, yes I’m all about food – but cooking and being creative in the kitchen doesn’t come naturally to me. I am passionate about having the best, freshest, most nutritious ingredients, but what to do with them? Well, I leave that to friends like Susur ;-).  Luckily for me, he and a host of other amazing chefs and home-cooks, are devoted to creating the best possible cuisine to tantalise not only our taste buds, but our eyes.

The three celebrity chefs were in Singapore to kick off the Masterchef Asia TV series, while hosting the first ‘cook-off’ – judging the creations of three Singaporean dedicated home cooks. I was as excited to hear about the ingredients in the Mystery Box, as everyone else was to witness what the contestants would manage to create in 30 minutes. 

Would the ingredients be mega healthy; provide a good balance of macronutrients, a broad range of minerals and vitamins along with necessary phytochemicals by way of colours, smells, textures and other food characteristics? OK, perhaps not what would excite most MasterChef fans, but hey, each to their own.

So how exciting were the ingredients:

• 6 Large Prawns With Shells

• Bunch Of Fresh Coriander/Chinese Parsley

• Old Ginger

• 1 Can Of Coconut Milk

• 1 Pineapple

• 2 Daikons

• Cereal

Ok, you agree, not terribly exciting.

 Here’s my synopsis on nutrient quality:

• Prawns, while very low in fat, offer good source of protein and are one of the best sources of the antioxidant, selenium.

• Ginger, known for its calming properties, helps against nausea and aids digestion. It has anti-inflammatory properties, as does

• Pineapple, which also contains rich digestive enzymes (bromelain).

• Coriander (cilantro) helps control blood sugar levels, and lowering cholesterol, while

• Parsley with its high levels of vitamin C, is a good antioxidant and touted to protect against arthritis.

• Daikon is a diuretic and eases respiratory symptoms.

• Coconut milk is high in saturated fats (although medium chain, which we burn off more easily) but should still be consumed in moderation. Coconuts also contain lauric acid, which is antiviral, therefore helps protect against many infections.

• Cereal provides fibre, good for lowering cholesterol, is a form of carbohydrate (necessary for good energy) and provides Vitamin B and other nutrients depending on the originating grain.

What’s missing? Firstly, colour – yes, the more colourful a dish, originating from nature, the more nutrients it contains. (I note a dash of red in the dishes created, so it seems the contestants were given chili peppers. These contain capsaicin – great for revving up our metabolism, so 2 bonus points for this inclusion).

However, I would love to see a lot more greens (leafy greens, asparagus, and broccoli) and reds/orange (peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots) for more fibre, and phytonutrients. More colour would also make the finished dishes more pleasing to the eye, which of course is so important in getting our digestive juices flowing, which helps us attain more nutrients from our food.

Incorporating healthy fats would make the dish more ‘complete’ along with some crunch for texture – nuts or seeds would provide both.

 From the three creations by the contestants, the dish that appealed to me the most, both in aesthetics and flavor (by description – unfortunately only the celebrity chefs got to taste) was the Prawn Tacos. I like how the very tropical ingredients were turned into a more western style dish, while still keeping the wonderful local flavours.

What would I have cooked?

My preference is to have meats and fish only a ‘little dressed’ so their intrinsic flavour is enjoyed; so here’s my plan

• BBQ the prawns with a splash of lemon juice, chili, and pepper

• Peel the Daikon into very long very thin strips, and marinate in fresh lime juice with lots of spices & herbs (chili, pepper, ginger, cilantro). Roast until crispy

• Make a thick sweet spicy curry sauce (pineapple, coconut, ginger, herbs)

• Create ‘green’ dumplings from the cereal adding lots of chopped fresh herbs

• Place dumplings on a plate

• Cover with half curry sauce

• Make waves of the Diakon strips over the dumplings

• Pour remaining curry sauce on

• Place BBQ prawns on top of the daikon ‘waves’ and dumpling ‘rocks’

• Sprinkle with fresh herbs and chopped chili peppers, and of course sea salt, to complete our ‘ocean scene’.

To the creators out there, what do you think? Perhaps I’ll drop a note to Susur or Bruno to get their opinion! To witness more amazing creations, and for wonderful family entertainment, do watch airings from September 3rd, 2015 at 9 pm.

As a final word, I am truly passionate about getting us, and our kids, into the kitchen – it’s one of the best things we can do in our goal to get healthier. I can’t think of a more fun way to get motivated, than watching these 3 judges critique the brilliance of our budding Asian celebrity MasterChefs.


To our health!

Liza Rowan

Holistic Nutritionist

When not not busy in my favourite role as mother to my two boys,  I dedicate my time to educate, motivate and inspire us all to lead healthier, happier lives. This involves hosting Nutrition courses (in-class and online), corporate wellness talks, workshops and when I have time, private consultations.

 You can follow me on one or more of the following channels:


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