Join MasterChef favourite and resident gay guy Khanh Ong as he helps you rediscover how food can make you feel, how it brings friends and family together and how it helps reconnect. With more than 70 recipes and charming anecdotes about life, love, family and dating, A Gay Guy’s Guide To Life Love Food is an explosion of fashion-led fun and influence, delicious food and Khanh’s distinctive tongue-in-cheek humour.
Without my friends, I would be an absolute bubbling mess. They give me advice on boys, career and fashion; they make me laugh and cry and laugh again. They cut me down when I’m being arrogant and build me up when I question every single decision I’ve ever made.
Sometimes they tell me what I want to hear, sometimes they tell me what I don’t want to hear, but they are always there when I need someone to just listen. They say things like ‘you are strong, you can do better than him, he was a drainer, now you can DM cute 6 am gym guy’ or ‘you look dumb, why are you wearing leather slides to pilates?’
I couldn’t survive without my friends. First there are my gays, who I regularly use as guinea pigs for new dishes. I like to cook when I’m hungover – it’s kinda my thing – so it’s just expected now that if I drink with them on Friday night, then Saturday lunch I’ll be cooking for them.
My old friends who have been there for over a decade. They were there when I was having packaged taco nights in a studio apartment and they are still here now when I make cheese platters that have exotic, high-altitude Swiss gruyeres. (I know it sounds wanky but it’s the bomb – really sharp, hard and with extra spicy notes.
The Cheese Room at Emerald Deli in South Melbourne Market will hook you up – ask for Maria or scream her name and greet her with a hug like I do, I think she likes that … or she might just be too nice to tell me to piss off.)
My new friends, who are lovely enough to share their special recipes with me. I’m so thankful for this because it’s not always about how long you’ve known someone for. Friendships can be important and meaningful in so many different ways.
My housemate, Diana, who has separation anxiety (one time I got up from the couch to get water and she actually panicked and screamed ‘WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!’ … Ummm, for water you psychopath). Anyway, I love her for it. We also throw hissy fits together when our food is under seasoned.
This chapter is full of recipes to share, to spill tea over or enjoy with a bottle of wine. There are recipes you can make for a long lunch or dinner party. Recipes you can eat while you have Bumble connected to the TV so that you can swipe as a group (yes, we do this). Recipes you can cook with your #girlgang.
People say they get worried about cooking for me, but I feel like when someone cooks for you, feeds you, nourishes you, they are doing it out of love, so to me that is always appreciated. Try these recipes, spend some time over good food with your people – you’ll love each other more for it.
Crispy Vietnamese Pancakes:
Banh xeo are crispy, savoury, turmeric and coconut-based plates of heaven and so moreish due to the perfect balance of salty, sweet and umami flavours. The herbs boost the freshness level and really bring everything together. Feel free to play around with different fillings, too – you can use chicken, tofu or mung beans.
Just like breakfast pancakes, the first one you make is usually a dud, so don’t be disheartened. My mum never enjoyed making banh xeo for us, because we would chow down on them straight off the wok as she cooked them, so she would never get to eat with the fam when she made these.
175g (1 cup) rice flour; 2 tablespoons cornflour; 400ml canned coconut milk; 250ml (1 cup) iced water; 2 teaspoons ground turmeric; 1 teaspoon caster sugar; 2 spring onions, finely sliced; sea salt; 250g boneless pork belly, finely sliced; 150g raw tiger prawns, peeled, deveined and chopped; 1 onion, finely sliced; 1 tablespoon fish sauce; 2 teaspoons ground white pepper; 3 tablespoons peanut oil; 45g (½ cup) bean sprouts
Nuoc Mam Dipping Sauce; lettuce leaves; ½ bunch of Vietnamese mint; ½ bunch of coriander; ½ bunch of mint
Mix the rice flour, cornflour, coconut milk, water, turmeric, sugar, spring onion and ½ teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl to make a smooth batter. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the batter to develop. Meanwhile, in another mixing bowl, combine the pork belly, prawn, onion, fish sauce, pepper and a pinch of salt and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
Heat a large wok over high heat and add 2 teaspoons of the peanut oil. Once the oil is hot (just before it starts to smoke), add 2 tablespoons of the pork belly mixture and cook for 2 minutes. Add a ladleful of the batter and roll it around the wok to spread the mixture thinly like a pancake.
Turn the heat down and cook on low for about 5 minutes, then place a small handful of the bean sprouts over the banh xeo. Cover with a lid and cook for 1 minute, then remove the lid and cook for another 2 minutes until the edge of the banh xeo is crispy and coming away from the wok.
Using a spatula, carefully fold the banh xeo in half, remove from the wok and tip onto a platter. This is your first banh xeo done, now repeat with the remaining pork mixture and batter. You should be able to make four. Serve on a platter with nuoc mam on the side for dipping, and a big pile of lettuce leaves and herbs.
Khanh Ong has a passion for Asian flavours, and with his infectious smile, cheeky sense of humour and captivating story, he quickly became a MasterChef season 10 fan favourite. Khanh was born in an Indonesian refugee camp to Vietnamese parents and grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, and family and heritage have always influenced the way he cooks.
Khanh is an accomplished DJ and has studied fashion design and worked as a stylist. He is currently at the George on Collins in Melbourne, where he has revamped the menu and created a space where food is not just eaten, but experienced.
A Gay Guy’s Guide To Life Love Food is published by Pan Macmillan Australia and available from all leading book sellers including Dymocks. Extract and Recipe republished with kind permission of Pan Macmillan Australia.
Image: A Gay Guy’s Guide To Life Love Food and Khanh Ong – courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia