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“MasterChef Australia” returns for its ninth season featuring more big name international guests with bright new talent and exciting challenges, making it another truly remarkable series.

Judges George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston from the previous series returned to share their own unique talents and insights with the newest bunch of contestants.

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In the new season, 25-year-old Malaysian-Australian Sarah Tiong is one of the 24 hopeful contestants vying for the coveted title.

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Born and raised in Sydney, Tiong who is a risk consultant got her culinary chops from her Malaysian mother who would routinely teach her the recipes and techniques from her own childhood in Sarawak, Malaysia.

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As Malaysia is known for their diverse and strong flavoured dishes, Tiong’s background definitely serves as an advantage for her in “MasterChef” Season 9.

We at TheHive.Asia, managed to get some time on the phone with her as she shares her knowledge on cuisines and experience on the show with us.

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What do you hope to achieve in this show?
I’m hoping to find a lot more self-belief and the answer to the question “is my passion the right path to my future?”

What motivated you to enter the competition in the first place?
I was motivated by the love and joy that I feel when I’m cooking. For me it’s a very fun thing to do. It started off as a hobby, but the more you immerse yourself in your hobby and passion, you’d find out that this is probably what you would want to do for the rest of your life.

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You grew up with your mother’s Malaysian cooking. So how much do you incorporate those in your cooking?
It plays a huge part in my cooking now. I’m always inspired by the dishes that my mom’s cooked and the dishes that I taste whenever I go back to Malaysia.

What is your favourite Malaysian traditional flavor?
A lot of sambal, Hokkien mee, chicken rice, and satay – my mom has a very wide palate, so anything and everything that she could think of she would cook. But most of them are dishes with strong Malaysian flavours.

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Have you already presented a Malaysian dish on to the show or will you be presenting one in the future episodes?
I can’t reveal what I’m going to do in the future episodes but I definitely hope that I have the opportunity to do so.

Does your Malaysian background give you an advantage in this competition?
It definitely did, because Malaysian cuisine is all about combining different flavours, cultures, and history of food. For me to have been exposed to that and be kind of a part of that is quite inspiring, it really gives me a creative edge, and I got a good understanding of flavours from that.

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Having experienced a variety of different culture, are you more prone to fusing different type of cuisines or do you prefer to stick to that one cuisine and appreciate it in the original form?
I definitely have an appreciation for many cuisines. My mom was always so brave when I grow up and she would cook from Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Malaysian, but for me, the comfort food is Malaysian food, and I’m not interested in producing food that is too much of a fusion because I’d love to respect the tradition and the history of the cuisine as it is.

How far do you think you can go in the competition and who is your biggest competition?
Honestly, I’m really hoping to get all the way to the final, but I definitely think that there are other good cooks. But I’m still going to try my best to get as far as I can. I think my biggest competition probably would have to be Diana, the other Malaysian. She’s a fantastic cook and we’re great friends.

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Since you’re an insulin-dependent diabetic, will that somehow affect your performance in the competition?
It does affect the way that I taste things. I don’t cook with a lot of sugar and I don’t eat a lot of desserts when I’m at home. But obviously I cannot let that limit me. So, in the competition, I am constantly aware of my blood sugar, I’m constantly testing and taking insulin, I am constantly aware of what I have to take. But I don’t let it control me, I control my condition. I do rely on my palate, I understand how sugar and fat react, and I understand the process of cooking, and I rely on that knowledge and feeling to get me through.

What do you had to give up to be on “MasterChef” Season 9?
Being on “MasterChef” means that I’m away from my family and friends, and I’m also taking a break from work. I was up for a promotion at work, but I have to put that on-hold to participate in “MasterChef”.

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How has the competition been treating you so far and do you think you have the chance to win it?
The competition has been a phenomenal experience, it’s been so positive. I really do think that I stand a chance at winning, I really hope I do. As long as I be positive and stay focus, I think I have a chance.

Do you have any fun cooking tips that you can share?
Absolutely! Try making icing on cake with olive oil and sugar instead of milk, cream and egg. Try cooking rice in a pressure cooker, it only takes seven minutes.

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(All images courtesy of Lifetime Asia)