Tonight, Khan Ong, Sarah Tiong, Ben Ungermann, Reynold Poernomo and Laura Sharrad battled it out for immunity from Sunday night’s MasterChef elimination.
The five of them created the best dishes in Wednesday night’s Mystery Box challenge, where judge Melissa Leong surprised the contestants with chicken feet, taro and cherries.
They were tasked with a quick Taste Test challenge. Each contestant had to name the 24 ingredients in a dish from the judge of their choice. When the meals were unveiled, Sarah and Khanh, who had banked on South-East Asian flavours in Melissa’s, were visibly disappointed. “You’re kidding!,” Sarah exclaimed.
Finding out they had a curry pie in front of them, the pair ended up with the highest scores. Trying to guess the ingredients in Andy Allen’s fish curry had Ben in last place (he thought it was chicken), while Reynold and Laura tied, Reynold at least figuring out the fish flavour, and Laura pinpointing more than half of the element’s in Jock’s pasta.
All five of them had to cook in round two, but with different allotted time periods, depending on their performance in the Taste Test. That had Khanh cooking with 75 minutes, while Ben had just 40.
While Ben and Laura scored honourable mentions for their Indonesian and pasta dishes, sixth place in season nine, Sarah, took out immunity with her lemongrass and coriander beef with spicy coconut sambal. It was described as “perfect” by the judges, who unanimously chose her. A surprised Sarah celebrated with an outburst of joy.
Read on for our interview with Sarah:
POPSUGAR Australia: What made you choose to taste test Melissa’s dish? Did your heart sink when you saw a pie?
Sarah: Given how interesting, challenging and unique Melissa’s Mystery Box was the day before, I really felt drawn to a creative and daring vibe from Melissa. I felt like as a well-travelled eater, she may have chosen a unique dish. When I saw a pie I was so confused because I was expecting some great Asian dish or something a bit more special! I was disappointed and taken aback by how ordinary it looked. However, knowing Melissa, I was sure it wasn’t just an ordinary pie.
PS: Tell us about the inspiration behind your lemongrass and coriander beef. Was 15 minutes enough time to plan?
Sarah: The flavour combination of lemongrass and coriander seed is powerful, aromatic and enticing to me. The flavour combination is totally up my alley; I’m all about elevating southeast Asian cuisine. Fifteen minutes was not enough time to plan, but I thrive in challenges that are more off-the-cuff, ‘wing it’ type situations. So to come up with something like the dish I made was quite fluid for me.
PS: Did you find it easy to turn the ingredients in Melissa’s pie into your own dish?
Sarah: The pie was filled with beef rendang, one of my all-time favourite curries! It’s one that I know well and even feature in my cookbook, Sweet, Savory, Spicy. My style of cooking and influence is from southeast Asia, so I was very comfortable with the ingredients I had to work with. The opportunity to work with the beautiful southeast Asian ingredients in this challenge was so exciting and I just felt like I was hitting my stride with my dish! The choice of spices and aromatics really worked in my favour.
PS: Were you nervous about being pitted against Khanh, who was working with the same flavours?
Sarah: Khanh definitely has a great sense of flavour and has created some beautiful southeast Asian inspired dishes before. It was a little daunting going up against him with the same ingredients, but I didn’t focus on that. I was just having way too much fun creating something unique with some of my favourite ingredients!
PS: You seemed thrilled to win immunity. How did it feel to be told your dish was perfect?
Sarah: I am absolutely thrilled! I felt extremely proud to have put my own spin on southeast Asian flavours and come up with a dish with a boldness and balance of flavours that matched my passion and excitement in cooking it! Absolutely stoked to hear the judges appreciate my food.
MasterChef Australia airs on Network 10, Sunday to Thursday. Join us at our Facebook group Pass the Popcorn to gab about all things reality TV.