16 years on, master chef remains loyal to palm oil

SMOKED AND SILKY: Chef Kern's personal favourite palm oil recipe features tender smoked tilapia fillets on a bed of paku shoots and a drizzling of red palm oil aioli.


    Jul 25, 2016

    16 years on, master chef remains loyal to palm oil

    MASTER CHEF Jochen Kern gives a big hearty laugh as he reminisces about the first time he cooked with palm oil.

    It was in the kitchen of a fancy hotel in Penang, when he was still very new to Malaysia and its ways.

    "My colleagues called it 'vegetable oil' but they didn't tell me exactly what it was made of.

    "I used it and found it was an easy oil to use for everything. No smell, no taste.

    "Only later did I learn that it was palm oil, which I had never used before then," said the chef from Braunschweig in Germany.

    That was 16 years ago and Kern still uses palm oil today.

    "I use it for everything," he says. "You cannot escape from using palm oil when living in a country that produces it."

    He loves red palm oil, in particular, for the silky reddish-orange hue it adds to salad dressings.

    Here, he shares a personal favourite creation made using palm oil.

    Smoked tilapia fillet on paku shoots with red palm oil aioli(Serves two)


    2 pieces of tilapia fillets,

    each weighing about 60g

    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Sugar, to taste

    1/4 cup uncooked white rice

    1 tsp loose-leaf green tea


    1 tsp brown sugar

    For red palm oil aioli

    20g garlic, roasted

    60g red palm oil

    2 egg yolks

    6g mustard

    12ml lemon juice

    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Vinegar, to taste

    Salt and sugar, to taste

    8 paku shoots

    For garnishing

    20g tilapia skin, julienned

    Edible flowers (optional)

    Sliced red radishes


    Rub the fleshy side of the tilapia with salt, pepper and sugar.

    Set aside for 10 minutes.

    Use a wok that is large enough to hold a metal cooling rack. Line the wok with a sheet of aluminium foil, with sides extending beyond the rim by at least 10cm.

    Mix the rice, tea and brown sugar in a bowl and pour into the wok.

    Lightly oil the metal cooling rack and place it in the middle of the wok.

    Place the fillets on the rack and cover with a domed lid.

    Cook over medium heat.

    When the rice mixture begins to smoke, fold the aluminium foil flaps over the rim of the lid to seal in the smoke.

    Reduce the heat to low and smoke the fish for 15 minutes.

    To check if the fish is done, uncover and cut into the thickest part. The fish should be moist, flaky and opaque.

    If the fish is not done, cover and smoke for a few more minutes. When done, remove and cut into slices.

    To make red palm oil aioli, pound the garlic in a mortar and pestle till fine, then add red palm oil to the paste.

    Whisk the egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice into the mixture until it is creamy and emulsified.

    Season with salt and pepper.

    To prepare the paku shoots, boil water in a large pot with vinegar, salt and sugar.

    Blanch the paku shoots in the mixture for 10 seconds, then remove and refresh in ice water. Set aside.

    Place paku shoots on serving plates. Arrange smoked tilapia fillet on top and pour the red palm oil aoili on the side.

    Garnish with edible flowers and red radish slices.