Meet Char (short for Charmaine), the recipe developer, author, and photographer behind Wok & Skillet, where she ‘takes the mystery out of Asian cooking so that you can make your favorite takeout dishes at home’.
Aside from her blog, she works full-time and is a busy mom of two boys. She currently lives in Malaysia with her husband David and her sons, Jayden and Brennan. Although she was born and raised in Malaysia, Char lived in the United States for 15 years after attending university in Oregon.
Some of her favorite things in life include french fries, going to the beach, Midori sours, and listening to true crime podcasts. She’s like the friend in your head, am I right?
I am so lucky to have lived in both of these countries. With Malaysia being a melting pot of multicultural and multi-ethnic cuisine, I was already somewhat exposed to a lot of American and ”Western” food but when I moved abroad, I still experienced a bit of culinary culture shock…but in a good way!
I learned how to cook and discovered that I really enjoyed it! I watched Food Network all day, every day to learn as much as I could about cooking.
Over time, I started to really miss authentic home-cooked Asian food. I regretted not spending more time actively helping my mum and my grandmother in the kitchen when I was little. But I started to learn and found myself really drawn to Asian cooking so this became my focus.
Now that I’m living in Malaysia again, I often prepare the dishes I enjoyed in America as I reminisce about my time there.
While I was living in the States, I started Wok & Skillet as a creative outlet and as a way to challenge myself to improve my cooking skills. Living so far away from my family and the foods that I grew up with, I started on this culinary journey to learn how to cook for myself, and to attempt to replicate the foods that I missed so much. I also had an interest in photography so I figured that starting a blog would be a good way to combine these two passions. Thankfully, my cooking skills did continue to get better over the years, and now, I’m so excited to be able to share these recipes with the world.
I loved Malaysian Satay ever since I was little. There are several versions of Satay here in Southeast Asia. The Malaysian version features spices like fresh lemongrass, turmeric, ground coriander seeds, cumin, and a touch of sugar for sweetness.
Another popular dish here is Nasi Lemak. Coconut rice is served with spicy sambal and an assortment of other ingredients like peanuts and fried anchovies. There are almost no boundaries on what foods should be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner here, so although Nasi Lemak is typically enjoyed for breakfast (even though it is spicy!), it really can be eaten at any time of the day.
I live in Penang which is a small island on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Penang is known for its street food and a must-try dish here is Char Koay Teow. Flat rice noodles are stir-fried in a flavorful soy sauce mixture with shrimp and bean sprouts over high heat in a really well-seasoned wok.
I usually serve a protein dish with a side of vegetables stir-fried with garlic, and of course, steamed rice. Sometimes, I would add crispy fried egg topped with soy sauce.
Due to my busy schedule, simplicity is key.
Soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch, ground white pepper, garlic, and ginger. These ingredients set a good foundation to make great Asian meals.
I have prepared a list of essential Asian pantry ingredients here in this blog post.
The wok is the central tool in Asian cooking so to create the perfect Asian dish, you will need to learn how to use your wok. Get comfortable with stir-frying and learn to control the heat from your burner. Also, learn how to season and maintain your wok.
Stir-frying is a super-fast cooking process so make it a habit to have all of your ingredients ready before you even turn on the burner to heat up your wok. Your hands will be too busy stir-frying and you won’t have time to measure the sauce ingredients. Having all the ingredients ready ahead of time makes stir-frying so quick and easy!
More recipes, more videos, and I’m working on overcoming my shyness in order to get in front of the camera more often for live videos, cooking demos, etc. My Mum and I have also been dreaming of writing a cookbook together.
I hope that Wok & Skillet will continue to grow and be a go-to resource for those looking for Asian recipes and that it will inspire more people to try Asian cooking.