Eating on the street corner sat on plastic seats at a plastic table.
Washing down rice cooked in coconut milk, grilled marinated chicken basted with a spiced coconut milk gravy and satay made from marinated beef and chicken pieces skewered with wooden sticks and cooked on a charcoal grill, and deep fried tempe – with a cold beer. The noise of the street, the smoke from the chargrill, the hawkers, sellers, traders and prostitutes all set a scene, eating next door to the 7-Eleven on the corner of Changkat Bukit Bintang and Tengkat Tong Shin a couple streets back from Jalan Aloor.
I love Asia and have formed a strong connection to Malaysia, in particular Kuala Lumpur – this place emanates strong smells and colourful vibrations of food cooked on the side of streets where cars and motorbike spew noise and exhaust. The food from the the warungs, carts and restaurants is fresh and diverse, and many businesses are known by locals as the best place to get a specific dish. A couple of years ago I spent some time on the streets and in the markets of KL shooting for the Pink Lady Food Photography competition.
“We try to shape The BIG Group on this philosophy and like an onion, we try to build it up layer by layer. The core idea is to help build relationships between people and good food. We work collectively as a group. We talk, we share ideas and these ideas tend to spin by themselves and we end up creating something BIG.”
Each visit to KL I meet up with my friend Ben Yong and shoot food for his eclectic collection of restaurants, cafes and bars. The restaurants and cuisine are rooted in the traditional street food of Malaysia, however there is also influences from the world over as Ben travels extensively looking for new ideas, and has worked to create a diverse range of comfortable and refined dining experiences which fall under the banner of the Big Group – and range from casual Western dining to Premium bands serving haute cuisine. The man is a creative force to be reckoned with, and seems to effortlessly run a very successful set of diverse food brands. Spending time with Ben is always a highlight of a visit to KL, as he makes the time to take me to his current favourite spots to try the specialty of that location. If he is enjoying the success of a restaurant he is interested in he simply orders most things on the menu – its a blast and such a great way to share a meal.
Shooting food in hot a humid conditions can be tough – it is important to remain hydrated and to keep cool to retain concentration for long periods and always book a hotel with a swimming pool so you can cool off at the end of the day.