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Darren Teoh doesn’t talk about his work in simple, snappy sound bites; in fact, he doesn’t talk much about it at all. It speaks for itself. In the kitchen at Dewakan , Darren sets the stage for imaginative, inventive servings of modern Malaysian cuisine; and at Dewakan ’s dinner tables, Bario rice porridge and Bidor duck breast become bona fide events. His building blocks are indigenous ingredients, such as kulim, ketumpang air, and bunga kantan, that lend his cuisine an unmistakable Malaysian terroir – so much rarer is the chef who can tango with familiar flavours, and with it, create something straight-up subversive.

Darren grew up, as a child, in a family of good cooks. His grandmother would sun-dry spices on rattan-weaved baskets, pack it up into old bottles, and bring it to an old flour mill along Ipoh Road in the city centre to be grinded down into a spice mix for curries. Nobody’s curries tasted the same. These memories contribute to how he defines cooking; his grandmothers’, mother’s, and aunts’ reverence for ingredients form the framework of what he believes food should be.

There are many paths to success, and Darren’s path is paved with ingredients, technique and tools. Darren is always going to know more about indigenous ingredients than his diners; he’s going to know more about charcuterie and the craft of curing duck ham than his peers; he’s going to know about the Temuan community in Pahang who tend to cocoa trees to be sold to the local chocolatier, from whom he sources chocolate.

As a result, Darren’s dishes are a reverential deep dive into the nuances of Malaysian cuisine and cultures, creating radical moments of reckoning that’s as fun to think about as it is to eat. His food contends beautifully with his heritage and his history, and his clarity of what came before – and what lies ahead is a coming of age for modern Malaysian cuisine. Perhaps we should judge a chef by his ability to cook Malaysia’s most famously lowbrow food, the Maggi instant noodles – Darren’s favourite dish to cook at home, which might label him a heretic in some circles. All of which is to say: Darren makes a great bowl of Maggi instant noodles.

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