THE first lockdown in March last year inspired Dinesh Rao, co-owner of Tray Cafe, to start exploring popular Asian recipes.
On his Instagram account, the 41-year-old shared his own unique method of creating these dishes.
Recounting his culinary journey, Dinesh said: “It’s sort of like a journey of self-discovery but with irresistible food.”
Being passionate about food photography, Dinesh also styles and photographs his culinary creations. As such, his Instagram postings are awash with colourful photos.
A particular favourite of his is Angku Kuih in various designs and shapes.
Blessed with a knack for creativity, he also makes other local kuih using completely different ingredients.
Dinesh recently spoke to theSun about his quest to discover popular local favourites and his passion for cooking.
When was the first time you attempted to cook?
I was still in school and I needed to cook dinner for my family on nights when my parents had to work overtime.
My mum would prepare everything before she went to work. She would leave me with specific instructions on what to do.
I started really young, not so much as a hobby, but it was one of the responsibilities my parents gave me.
Over the years, my interest and passion for food grew and that sparked an interest in cooking.
What motivated you to start posting your culinary experiments on Instagram?
I started my Instagram page many years, ago. Since then, I have been periodically posting photos of my cooking and baking. Initially, it was not so much to share recipes but just photos of the dishes.
However, I began to realise that there were a lot of people out there who were curious and want to learn about cooking and baking.
That inspired me to share my journey and recipes, especially during the MCO, when everyone was stuck at home and needed to cook.
What new dish did you learn to cook during the MCO?
I picked up the art of making kuih during the first lockdown. I have always been curious but I never really found the time to do it until last year.
The only kuih I made prior to the MCO was Angku Kuih. It’s still one of my favourite kuih to make and eat.
I enjoy the creative process behind different designs. Eventually, I made it appealing to a younger audience as another option for gifts as opposed to the standard birthday cake.
What sets your cooking style apart from that of other food influencers?
All food Instagrammers have their own style and target audience. I don’t count myself as a food influencer at all but if you were to ask about my style, I would say I always focus on the basics of home cooking, especially with food that we are all familiar with, but have no clue how it’s made.
What is your favourite food and what type of cuisine do you excel at?
I love Indian food! It’s a sensory experience, to say the least, but I am not very good at cooking it.
Actually, I don’t just cook Asian food, as I run a little cafe in Plaza Damas called the Tray Cafe. Over the years, along with my team, I have come up with a lot of Western and Asian dishes. Desserts are also a big part of my repertoire.
How does food photography help you engage with your audience?
I think with the thousands of food accounts on Instagram, people are usually attracted by the visuals.
So, having a nice photo of the dish always encourages people to click on the post and it ultimately inspires them to try cooking it.
Good food photography also breathes new life into some of these home cooked dishes, which we all tend to take for granted as we are so used to seeing it served one particular way.
What is the most challenging food to make?
I am trying to learn how to make Chinese glutinous rice dumplings. It’s an extremely technical process and needs a lot of practice to get it right.