The restaurant industry may be dominated by men, but amid that majority, a female pastry chef is adding some tender tastes to the scene. Chef Michelle Goh is injecting delicate designs and composing exquisite flavours into the desserts and pastries that she and her team have created for Mia (MICHELIN Plate, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2021).
Chef Goh was born and raised on Kuching, a city on the island of Borneo in Malaysia. She has been captivated by cooking since she was a teen and when she turned 18, the determined dreamer carved her own path by leaving her birthland to study and hone her skills at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney, Australia. Following her studies, Chef Goh clocked in her hours and sharpened her talent creating the pastries she so loved to design in restaurants both in Sydney and Melbourne. Later, she moved to the island nation of Singapore to the kitchens of Pollen, then under the management of Chef Jason Atherton. She finally moved to Bangkok as a pastry chef when she was only 23. Here, the Malaysian chef worked with the twin chefs of Sühring, which soon enough went on to receive two MICHELIN Stars.
Currently, Goh and her fiancé, Chef Pongcharn ‘Top’ Russell are the main forces behind Mia, which won the MICHELIN Plate award for the first time in the 2021 edition of MICHELIN Guide Thailand. The beautiful artistry and divine flavours she creates for her pastries go hand in hand with savoury delights that Chef Russell cooks up, be it their usual Shiso sorbet or cereal bowl with corn and malted milk chocolate. All visitors know that a visit to Mia is not complete without one of Goh’s glorious desserts to end off the meal nicely.
It’s been a while since we last met this Malaysian chef because of the lockdown, but she’s more than ready to share her fascinating views on the humble egg that many may have overlooked.
Chef’s most favourite ingredient
“The one ingredient that I love to use and eat as a pastry chef is eggs. I find that they are extremely versatile, cheap and necessary in many preparations. I love the fact that they can be used to prepare both sweet and savory dishes. The possibilities are endless!”
Asked when she first tried eggs, she answers, “I grew up eating eggs. I come from a Chinese family from a small town on the island of Borneo in East Malaysia called Kuching. Many egg dishes I grew up eating were ‘water spinach with three kinds of egg’ and ‘Chinese tea egg’. As a kid, I never really thought much about eggs. They were always just something that was always available and cooked into many dishes in my home. Nevertheless, I especially loved a runny yolk over my fried rice and my grandmother's steamed egg with minced pork. These were just some of the dishes that really started my love of food.”
Gordon Ramsay’s sexy eggs
Who would have thought that Gordon Ramsay would have such an effect on her?
“My love of food really took off when I watched Gordon Ramsay make scrambled eggs on TV. This really blew my mind as I came to a realization that there was so much more to food than what I was eating on a daily basis. He made food look good. Sexy even! It made me want to learn how to cook scrambled eggs exactly like him.”
Previously, Goh used to work as a breakfast chef at a hotel in Melbourne, which has greatly sharpened her skills on working with eggs. “I was actually a savory chef before I decided to become a pastry chef full time. I was taught how to make omelettes, fry eggs, poach and scramble them. I had to replicate all this and produce it in front of a customer at the breakfast buffet. This was the first time I really appreciated all the skill it took to make perfect eggs, under pressure, at 7am with customers watching you. It was also the first time I had a truly amazing omelette, which I am proud to say I can still make perfectly to this day.”
“Sometimes the humblest of ingredients can make a dish magical.”
Another menu that changed Chef Goh’s outlook on the humble egg is “The Date Tart”, an original dessert at the restaurant Rockpool, since its opening in 1989 in Sydney by culinary star Chef Neil Perry. “This dessert changed my life,” the chef reveals. “This special dessert consisted of a flaky pastry, dates, a custard layer and a baked foam on top. It took me forever to learn how to make it. Many think that the custard layer and baked foam on top are two separate components but in actuality, it is just one.”
It was here where Chef Goh learned how to select different eggs for different pastries, be it the size or colour, that could enhance the taste of the pastry. It is also the careful handling and seasoning that goes into egg, which requires an understanding of science and well-honed experience, before a delicious pastry can rise from this simple ingredient.
“I never could have imagined that a simple egg could transform into this amazing custard tart with multiple layers of textures, ranging from the pastry to the custard to the foam. It is truly magnificent and has shaped my mentality as a pastry chef today.”
Chef’s signature dish using eggs
“On our latest tasting menu at Mia, we have a mushroom tartelette that we serve as a snack. It consists of crisp pastry, mushroom duxelle, warm hollandaise with a shaving of truffle over the top. To make the hollandaise, we clarify some good quality butter and emulsify it together with some yolks. We then put it into an espuma bottle and keep it in a warm spot where it is piped onto the tartelettes à la minute so everything is very fresh,” the pastry chef explains, before telling us about the dessert— a sorbet that’s always been her expertise and also a star dish with every visit to Mia.
“Before serving dessert, we have a mouth-watering pre-dessert to cleanse the palate, featuring a super refreshing mandarin sorbet sitting on a bed of toasted meringue. The egg whites used are all leftovers from preparing the hollandaise, because we try our best to reduce wastage. It is warmed together with sugar over bain-marie. It is then whipped and piped into our bowls before being torched. The sweetness and toasted marshmallow flavor plays extremely well together with the tartness from the sorbet. The dish is then topped with super cold mint granita for that extra freshness.”
This up-and-coming chef encourages all to not overlook the wonders of this basic ingredient that’s likely to be a staple at every household.
“For all those reasons, eggs are one of the ingredients I could never live without,” she shares. “I eat them almost every day and still cook with them all the time. With the right technique, they can be prepared in an unlimited amount of ways. I feel like the way I cook eggs has evolved as my career has progressed. Sometimes the humblest of ingredients can make a dish magical.”
With that, she concludes, “I mean, who doesn’t love a partially deep-fried egg on top of their kaprao?”
Hero image: © Mia