World Italian Cuisine Week: Bridging borders with Italian masterclasses for Malaysia's future chefs

November 23, 2021

World Italian Cuisine Week is in full swing throughout the globe: Italian restaurants across the continents are serving exclusive menus that offer a true taste of Italy, including in Malaysia, where 14 establishments in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang and Langkawi are thrilling patrons with special selections.

As Malaysians feast not only on pastas and pizzas but a wider range of wholesome, authentic Italian recipes, the next generation of Malaysian chefs is also celebrating World Italian Cuisine Week with another initiative: Virtual Cooking Masterclasses for Malaysian universities in the culinary field.

Participating universities such as Sunway University, Berjaya University College and UOW Malaysia KDU University College are being connected with Italian culinary institutions like Tor Carbone di Roma, Polo Tecnico Del Mediterraneo Aldo Moro di Santa Cesarea Terme and Istituto F. Datini di Prato. 

The cooking classes feature recipes from different Italian regions, ranging from Risotto Alla Zucca, a pumpkin risotto from Veneto and Lombardy, and Riso Patate e Cozze, a popular dish from Puglia, the region renowned for rice, potatoes and mussels. 

We were online as Rome and Kuala Lumpur came together virtually, with Chef Claudio Fattorini of Tor Carbone di Roma instructing Sunway University's students on how to prepare Mont Blanc.

Read on to learn more about this distinctive dessert, first created in 19th-century Piedmont, and to read our interview with Chef Claudio.

To find out more about the 14 restaurants in Malaysia with special menus this week, click here.

Dr. Filippo Fusaro, Trade Commissioner of the Italian Trade Agency in Kuala Lumpur, noted that the event "celebrates the essential link between Italy’s food tradition and the variety of Italian culinary heritage to its health benefits and environmental sustainability."

"Over the centuries, Italy’s universally beloved products have become ambassadors of Italian excellence in the world," he said in opening remarks to the masterclass.

Prof. Dr. Daniel Chong, Associate Dean of Education at the School of Hospitality & Service Management of Sunway University, said the Malaysian institution was "looking forward to build stronger academic and professional relationships with Italian counterparts, where student learning and professional development can be enhanced.” 

“Italy is something very very inspiring in the heritage and the history," he said.

Chef Claudio Fattorini of Rome's Ipseoa Tor Carbone noted that Italian cuisine is "not only about Rome but also about North Italy and South Italy.”

“Every region has different types of food - wherever you go, you are going to find different plates and different flavours," he said. 
Chef Claudio introduced the Mont Blanc, which has a French name but was born in north Italy, where chestnuts from the forests have been famous for generations. The chef showed how to use chestnuts to prepare the plate, with elements of Meringue Switzerland, Crème Patissiere and Chestnut Cream.

The hour-long session was filled with step-by-step demonstrations that students could appreciate, from whipping egg whites and sugar together to checking the temperature with a thermometer. Precise measurements were provided in each step. The masterclass ended with piping crème patissiere to produce beautiful little swirls on top, then piping the chestnut cream in a zig-zag pattern to finish.

The result: A magnificent Mont Blanc in tribute to Europe's renowned snow-capped mountain. 

Chef Claudio was also gracious to take some questions from us after the masterclass about the nutritional and environmental benefits of Italian cuisine.

EDKL: What are some interesting differences in Italian cuisine in different regions of the country that foreigners might not be aware of?

Chef Claudio: In Italy, there are many food differences between the north and the south of the boot. 

There are features that not even all of the Italian citizens know. Years would not be enough to have a picture of the biodiversity and the favour granted to us by the microclimate that has developed individual food excellences.

The secret, in my opinion, lies in the heritage left to us as a gift from the old traditions and the mix of people who have shared the love of good food over the centuries. 

EDKL: Pizzas, pastas and risotto are often considered indulgent food that’s full of carbohydrates and fat. How do Italians turn them into part of a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet?

Chef Claudio: It is true that three of the most known and consumed foods in Italy belong to the family of flours and starches. Combined with the various condiments, this could be 'heavy' in the food pyramid of daily needs.

But the secret, in my opinion, lies in the balancing of a healthy diet to our body, a rotation of these foods.

In recent years, for example, ancient grains with little glycemic index are being rediscovered that favour an orderly diet and therefore less possibility of favouring celiacism. 

The seasonality of certain foods also produces more pleasant effects to our body combined with other essential foods. 

EDKL: What are some of your favourite fresh, wholesome Italian ingredients that are unique to the country or to the Mediterranean diet? What kinds of dishes can they be used in?

Chef Claudio: Daily products, make consumption of foods not created by large food distribution or by intensive crops and farms.

In order not to create food waste, we should be able to fully use every single product of our territory seasonally. The farmer who cultivates the land with love and produces his own needs will always have genuine things.

A dish with everything that represents this aspect? Genuine homemade bread with special grains, a beautiful fresh tomato grown with love, basil from your garden and 100% national extra virgin olive oil. You can't ask for more!

EDKL: Many people worldwide are accustomed to popular Italian recipes like pasta aglio olio, risotto alla funghi or pizza margherita. What are some less familiar regional dishes that deserve to be introduced to a wider audience worldwide?

Chef Claudio: If we think of the dishes known all over the world that are part of the heritage of our cuisine, half already comes from my region, Lazio. Just think of carbonara, amatriciana, tonnarello cheese and pepper, saltimbocca all Romana. But also the Milanese cutlet of Lombardy and so on. 

There are foods and recipes that are 'slow food presidia' that enrich the territory in the field of gastronomic tourism. Varieties of rice that constitute a heritage for the territory of Vercelli or Oltrepo Pavese. 

You can't ask a lover of good food which is the best. You have to travel the length and breadth of our nation with a gastronomic guide. 

EDKL: There are many restaurants worldwide that serve Italian cuisine - you can find pasta and pizza for example in every modern mall. What are some considerations that people should make when choosing where to best enjoy an Italian meal?

Chef Claudio: It is understood that today, we find in every corner of the world an Italian restaurant - but sometimes not with excellent quality or a little changed in authenticity, based on the request of customers where the restaurant is located.

Even in the big Italian cities, sometimes you will have not great quality, given the great tourist business. Having Italian staff working in the restaurant will be an index of knowledge at least of the products. But the true tradition or excellence often resides outside the city circuit.

If you're hankering for authentic Italian cuisine after reading this, visit one of the 14 restaurants in Malaysia participating in World Italian Cuisine Week, on 22-28 November 2021. Click here to read our post or find out more on italianfestival.info

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