Facebook Groups & Food: Poh Ling Yeow On What Helps To Heal Migrant Isolation

Image courtesy of SBS
Adam Liaw and Poh Ling Yeow
Poh Ling Yeow has been open in the past about her struggles growing up as a second-generation migrant after moving to Australia from Malaysia at age nine.
The celebrity chef of MasterChef and Snackmasters fame says there are still moments when she feels "insecure" or a sense of "isolation", but food and bonding with others with similar lived experiences have helped forge a greater sense of self and belonging.
This very much forms the basis of Yeow's upcoming SBS show, Adam and Poh’s Malaysia in Australia. Co-starring fellow MasterChef fan favourite Adam Liaw, the show follows the pair as they travel around Australia to find inspiration for Malaysian dishes here on home soil.
Despite the program not even going to air yet, fans have already expressed plenty of excitement, particularly due to the prominent Malaysian Australian representation, which isn't often seen on screen.
A post shared on the Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits — an online community launched by Australian students with over 1.9 million members — has over 4,000 likes, with its caption reading, "Finally Malaysian representation on Australian TV."
The post includes a promo photo of Yeow and Liaw for their new program, prompting positive comments from many who have praised the show for having two Malaysian Australian people hosting a show.
"Two in one show!!" one person wrote, while another penned, "Omg the best masterchef alums in one show!!!"
For Yeow, hearing of this support from the wider Asian community in particular, is very touching, and she's proud to be representing them on TV.
"It makes me feel amazing," she told Refinery29 Australia when asked about the Facebook post. "I wish I had these kinds of role models when I was growing up.
"I know I talk quite candidly about how much I struggled with that growing up and still have returned to those places from time to time when I'm feeling insecure," she said.
"It's so important to have that. Just to have that as a reference, you know, when you're a kid and you're just feeling outside on the outer."
Image: Facebook/Subtle Asian Traits
Yeow said she felt right at home on Adam and Poh’s Malaysia in Australia as she created meals she's grown up with while still learning more about her heritage through the filming journey.
"I think I what I loved about it is I just felt so comfortable cooking those dishes," she said. "I think there is something to be said about just knowing that the dishes run through my DNA... I grew up with them."
The chef shot to fame back in 2009 when she finished as runner-up on MasterChef Australia's first season, before starring in the MasterChef Australia: Back To Win all-stars edition last year. These experiences helped bring her to where she is now: more connected to her culture.
"It's been a little bit of a trek getting there in terms of learning how to make everything because we moved here when I was nine," she explained.
"A lot of my slightly pre-MasterChef, and then during MasterChef and a little bit after MasterChef journey was really about reconnecting with the food of my culture because so much of that had been shed in an effort to integrate as a kid."
Filming this new show with Liaw took her appreciation for her culture to another level as she says, "It was really such a nice feeling of going through that process of cooking" Malaysian food, after having "lost the language" and having "pretty Aussie" values growing up here.
And what was it like working with Liaw, who famously won MasterChef back in 2010? "It was really nice to be able to do that with Adam, as someone who has had a pretty similar upbringing," she said.
"I think that second-generation migrant thing [on screen], it was nice to have that," Yeow continued. "You always feel alone when you're in it, you know when you're growing up, and you feel that isolation, and it's so nice to be able to feel that solidarity with someone else who's gone through that experience.
"You just immediately understand the language and the issues that we had growing up. It's always really nice to hear, even though the stories are sometimes a little bit sad."
There's not long to go now until Yeow and Liaw share some of their heartfelt stories with us all.
Adam and Poh’s Malaysia in Australia premieres on Thursday, October 7 at 8:30pm on SBS Food.

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