Sara La Fountain demonstrating her culinary skills
A Taste of Finland
By James Gibbs
Photographed by Caning Alexis
Photographed by Caning Alexis
For those of us who are so familiar with Asian Cuisine, it was a refreshing change to sample some delights from the other side of the globe. Sara la Fountain, a renowned Finnish American-chef and former model has the ability to turn simple ingredients into artistic masterpieces.
The first things that one normally associates with any mention of Finland are wide open spaces covered with snow, reindeer and trees. This was all about to change however with the return to Malaysia of one of Finland's best culinary experts, Sara la Fountain. Sara, hosted by Asia Food Channel and American Express, appeared to present three of her amazing Scandinavian recipes at The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur. Sara la Fountain created three dishes from her newly released book, in front of an audience of Malaysia’s most discerning press members and food critics.
Sara’s overall approach towards cooking is summed up in her basic philosophies: “The ideas must be clear and distinct; with clear themes suited for the type of people, (e.g. older people or children) Food must be easy to prepare, shared amongst friends and the most important spice being love.” This kind of passion is clearly seen throughout the dishes she prepared from salads that represented the forests of Finland through to a zingy pavlova desert with passionfruit cream and pistachios.
In Finland the dramatic seasonal shifts influence the type of foods eaten at different times of the year. Hence the first course prepared was a creamy Goat Cheese Salad with Beetroot, Dark Sweet Bread Croutons, Marinated Red Onions and Blueberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette. The tangy blueberries and beets are an indication that the northern summer has finally arrived and are a great addition to a salad that was prepared, in Saras words, to “look like a painting”.
The main course, while being simple, was a subtle blend of flavours that are mostly foreign to Asian palettes. The diced potatoes were covered with a creamy horseradish and mayonnaise dressing. The fried fish fillet was crunchy on the outside and delectable on the inside. The garnish of dill complimented the horseradish to provide a pleasantly aromatic eating experience. Nothing is more colourful and exciting than the use of salmon roe as a final topping to this dish that added further explosions of flavor.
As we learnt from Sara, the Pavlova was actually created in Australia when the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova visited many years ago. In search of a light and airy dish reminiscent of a ballet dancer the chefs created this desert from beaten egg whites and toppings. The Fins then have taken this concept to new levels as seen in Sara’s artistic creations. The final result being a riot of colour and texture that would raise the eyebrows of any hardened desertaholic.
Sara spoke with passion about collecting chanterelle mushrooms as a young girl in the forest for her grandmother. Her recent idea is to combine learning Music DJ skills combined with cooking. La Fountain was awarded the Best First Cookbook award at the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for her debut book à la Sara in 2006.