The seventh season of MasterChef Australia premiered last May 5, 2015. And as most of you already probably know, a Filipino is vying, with 23 other home cooks, to become Australia’s next Master Chef.
Born in the Philippines, John Carasig aims to put Filipino cuisine on the map, with an East-meets-West style of cooking. He is all about “connecting with his culture”, adapting some of Filipinos’ most-loved dishes with Australia’s best produce.
John’s family moved to Melbourne when he was 10 years old. Being the eldest brother to two sisters, John took to looking after his younger siblings while his parents were busy, working. John started helping in the kitchen—preparing family meals—at a young age of six.
John loves to experiment in the kitchen, with his cooking mainly based on intuition. However, he has recently “converted” to recipe books. With pork adobo and halo-halo among his featured recipes, it’s safe to say that the 36-year-old’s cooking is heavily influenced by his Filipino heritage.
John studied architecture, and then industrial design. He has worked as a home ware designer and a flight attendant at Qantas airways.
Only until recently has he realised that real passion lies in food.
Encouraged by his family and partner, John entered the competition, asserting that the “most important thing in life is to be happy.”
“I really want to put Filipino cuisine on the map, to bring it to the world and put my name on my dishes,” remarked John.
MasterChef Australia is an award-winning cooking game show and is based on the original British MasterChef. It features chef George Calombaris, restaurateur and chef Gary Mehigan and food critic Matt Preston as main judges.
Here’s a dish John cooked in one of MasterChef’s episode. With very-easy-to-find ingredients and pretty straightforward steps, we’re sure you’ll be reaching for this recipe every time you’re missing home.
John’s Pork Adobo with Coconut Rice
600g pork belly, trimmed to even thickness
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
2 lemons, juiced
1 coconut, flesh removed and shredded
2 cups jasmine rice
2 lemongrass, bruised
Salt and pepper
Place pork belly, garlic, chilli and lemon juice into a pressure cooker. Cover pork with just enough water to cover. Cook for 40 minutes on high pressure. Remove meat, reserving the broth, and transfer to a baking tray. Place flat tray on top of pork belly and weigh down to flatten, set aside.
To make coconut milk, place shredded coconut flesh into a bowl. Pour 3 cups of hot water over and let it sit for 5 minutes. Using a muslin lined strainer, strain the coconut and squeeze it to collect coconut milk in a clean bowl and set aside.
Place 1 cup of reserved coconut milk in a small pan and reduce until it starts to crack. The coconut curd should start to separate from the oil. Using a spatula, scrape the bottom of the pan to start frying and caramelising the curd. Once brown, remove from pan and set aside.
Rinse 2 cups of jasmine rice under cold water. Place rice in a large pan, add 2 cups of water and 1 stick of lemongrass and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer gently until water has absorbed. Add 1 cup reserved coconut milk and cook until rice is tender and all liquid has absorbed, about another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place reserved broth and remaining coconut milk in a saucepan and reduce to half of the amount. Pound remaining lemongrass stick with a tablespoon of water and make a paste. Add the paste to the reduced broth and season to taste.
To assemble, slice pork into slices. Place pork into a flat bowl and pour over broth. Garnish with pineapple, cucumber, tomato and coriander. Serve with coconut rice, topped with caramelised coconut curd, on the side.