As a model, actress, television host, fashion designer, and businesswoman, Dynas Mokhtar has done it all. Critical accolades and box office records seem to come easy to the screen siren, who balances her 17-year career in the limelight with motherhood to two beautiful children (Khyra Khalyssa, seven, and Muhammad Haqaish, five).
However, the one role she is still getting to grips with is that of a cook. Dynas recently became the brand ambassador for the Love Wholesome campaign, which sees her partner Kenwood to promote healthier eating habits. Here, she shares with us her culinary journey, foodie discoveries, and the inspiration she takes from home.
I’m a big believer in clean living. I try to lead a lifestyle where you not only look good, but feel good too. Part of that is watching what you put into your body. Although some foods may be delicious, you wouldn’t know just how they impact your system. I make a conscious decision to read the labels of the groceries I buy, a practice that I pass on to my children.
I don’t blindly agree to anything. My recent Instagram posts are about documenting the changes I implemented in my life, and my attempts to educate followers in the process. Eating healthily, recycling, environmental conservation—these are the causes I’m passionate for, and my endorsements reflect them. So it is a privilege to be part of the Love Wholesome campaign to help people transform their diets for the better.
Malaysia is probably one of the top five countries in the world when it comes to eating out. We simply lack the time to cook at home, and I used to be guilty of this.
I’ve only picked up cooking around three years ago. The kids appreciate every new dish I add to my repertoire. It fills me with joy to see them relishing the meals I prepared from scratch, which drives me to continue learning.
I started with Italian cuisine. It took a lot of guesswork on my end and before I knew it, I had rustled up my own carbonara sauce. Now I’ve sworn off anything I couldn’t make myself.
I’m a traditionalist at heart. If sambal is on the menu, I turn to my mortar and pestle to do the job instead of the blender. It might be nostalgia talking, but I feel flavours hold better this way.
I never realised there was so much quality produce so close to home. I’ve always assumed only those imported were any good. The sources aren’t even where you expect them to be. My parents lived almost their entire lives in Shah Alam but had no idea they could get organic foods a few minutes’ drive away.
Longan hardly gets any love in the local food scene. It’s my favourite fruit, and I was fortunate to discover an orchard in Ulu Langat that grows the biggest and juiciest longans the likes of which you won’t believe! I’ve only ever bought them at the supermarket but this was the first time I had my taste of pickings fresh off the tree, and I fell in love all over again. I could place international stickers on them and no one would be the wiser.
Onions are a staple of my kitchen. Big, small, red, white, spring—I put them in everything.
I make an exception for ayam masak lemak cili padi (creamy bird’s eye chilli chicken). The dish and my mother-in-law are both natives of Negeri Sembilan, and the recipe she taught me does not call for onions. However, my mum is from Kedah and her version has them in spades. It’s tough to keep track when I bring mine over to either side of the family!
I think that parents should involve their children in the kitchen. It might be quicker and safer if the little ones are out of the way, but you’ll find that having them help out is a wonderful bonding experience. My daughter’s an eager learner, and I’m proud to see her cutting vegetables (even chillies and onions without tearing up!) and baking her grandmothers’ kueh.
My advice to beginners would be to just trust your instinct. Don’t stress yourselves on obtaining exact measurements or following recipes to the letter.
You need to be adventurous and you need to act fast. Whenever the inspiration strikes, you have to jot it down and set it at the top of your to-do list. No idea should be relegated to the backburner.