Kitchen Tips

Meet Malaysian Cooking Master Karen Chan

Karen Chan is one of Melbourne’s most respected Malaysian cooks. Her thriving catering business, Baba’s Wife, produces authentic Malaysian kuih muih: colourful sweets made of rice flour, pandan, palm sugar, mung beans and sesame seeds.

Karen Chan

Some of Karen’s signature sweets include pineapple tarts with flaky pastry; blush-pink lapis kuih, a steamed layer cake of rice flour and tapioca; and traditional angku kuih, known as tortoise cakes, a specialty from Penang that’s popular during the Lunar New Year.

Baba’s Wife also crafts handmade savouries, such as chai kuih dumplings and spicy ku kuih with sambal dried prawns. But Karen isn’t just about satisfying sweet tooths and dumpling lovers. The home cook draws on the rich heritage of Malaysian cuisine to create curry pastes and sambals from scratch.

Baba's wife cakes

“I often hear the older folk saying, ‘In the old days we weren’t so lucky and had to tumbuk (pound) and tumis (fry), and we used to take hours of preparation to make that special bowl of laksa or hae mee’,” says Karen.

Baba's wife pineapple tarts

“That’s when I decided I’m just going to see what all the fuss was about and exactly how long it would take for me to tumbuk and tumis before I could chiak (eat). Well, needless to say, I have never looked back. Of course, I have never had to tumbuk, thanks to my toys. The tumis is quite therapeutically relaxing as I float in the aroma of the sauteeing belachan-based paste (visualise Pepé le Pew). So, thank you, old folks, for setting me the challenge to make my own.”

Baba's wife tortoise cakes

One of the things we love most about Karen (along with her snacks!) is her willingness to share her passion and knowledge with others. When Asian Inspirations launched our Culinary Hub in 2016, Karen was on hand to show Australia’s best food editors how to make Malaysian roti jala.


This year, Karen Chan brings her expertise in traditional Malaysian cuisine to a bigger stage as she joins the Asian Inspirations team for the Lunar New Year cooking demonstrations at Crown Melbourne.

On Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th of February, watch as Karen reveals the secret to making Malaysian white curry chicken and spicy sambal chicken. Once you’ve seen these recipes in action for yourself, you’ll be keen to try them out at home.

For more Lunar New Year inspiration, find out how to plan the perfect Lunar New Year banquet, or discover the symbolic foods of Chinese New Year. And don’t forget – enter our Cook, Snap & Win competition for your chance to win a trip for 4 to Thailand valued at up to $29,000!

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