For centuries, human beings have used the powers of good food to honour life’s many milestones. Found a new crush: eat some strawberry mochi. Got that dream job: whip up spicy garlic ramen. Celebrating your birthday week: cuddle up with warm soup dumplings. With many thanks to the ‘Korean Wave’ and the rising interest in Asian cultures, locals can now enjoy exotic flavours and dishes every day. Introducing Capetonian foodie, home cook and entrepreneur, Naslie Brock Khan from Halaal Asian Delights!
The GOTB team was invited to the Halaal Asian Delights home to sample some yummy savouries and enjoy a fun-filled conversation with the woman behind the magic.
Having always had a knack for cooking, Naslie reminisces times from her youth. Making simple microwave meals and toasted sandwiches for her younger siblings. ‘From a young age, I loved cooking. I picked up a few tricks from a childhood friend who worked with Asian chefs, but I just love food – Asian, Moroccan, Italian, any flavour – except pineapple on pizza!’. Naslie also finds guidance and inspiration from those close to her: ‘I saw a friend of mine advertise halaal dumplings on his page and I went *gasp* ‘I need to try this because you never ever find halaal dumplings!’ I gave them a try – I was in heaven. He has been mentoring me, guiding me along my journey ever since’.
Naslie is superhuman. Her powers? The ability to recreate restaurant foods from memory! ‘I will sit quietly and taste, and rinse, and taste. I love unearthing the complex flavours of a dish. And sometimes, it’s just a combination of the most simple ingredients! There’s nothing better than having homemade takeaway food – it’s hot off the press, freshly prepared, and you can decide what goes into your food’.
Our busy lives force us to seek convenient options to fuel our bodies. Artificial products may be cheaper and satiate a quick craving, but these foods are bad for our bodies and brains. This gives us all the more reason to support local, trustworthy food businesses!
With any venture, there is that ‘fear of the unknown’. Some succumb to it, but for Naslie it is a unique mixture of faith, family and food: ‘It’s true what they say: Allah pushes you in your direction. Coming out of a full-time job where I did sales executive work, flying from city to city and currently working in a retail environment, into selling my homemade creations. I would experiment with flavours and recipe-develop on my days off, inviting family and friends to taste test. They encouraged me to turn this passion into a business. Along the way, I have received great support from local radio stations, customers and Asian-food lovers!’. Things can get heated in the kitchen, so how does this passionate home cook deal with the pressure of it all? ‘There’s always pressure, no one can tell you there’s no pressure. Every time I go onto the radio and present something new that I made it’s always nerve wracking. You always fail and then you succeed – and that pushes me forward’. Naslie shares that one of her biggest coping mechanisms comes in the form of melodious music: ‘I love music. Especially The Rose, a Korean brand, and really old-school classics. That’s my cooking music’.
Let’s backtrack to that ‘fear of the unknown’, any entrepreneur works hard to avoid failure – but what do you do when things feel like they’re all too much? Istikhara and Tawakkal – because if it is not meant for you, it will not happen. I have a belief that everything good happens to me on a Friday, and whatever happens, even if I might not like it, something better is coming – it’s okay! The one thing about cooking is [that] if you feel sick or your emotions are in turmoil rather don’t cook – because your love is not in it and it will flop. There will always be people who want to spread hate or compare you to others, but my philosophy is; if you buy from me or you don’t, it’s all good!
Every artist has their own source of inspiration and Naslie’s is a bit on the mechanical side. ‘Driving in my car brings the best inspiration. There’s just something about the scenery or seeing the ocean that helps me think and create tasty treats to satisfy whatever cravings I have. I’ll come home, start from scratch, and make improvements as I go along (always making sure to jot everything down)’. Naslie adds that on her bucket-list of recipe ventures lie pasta in the wake, but also more Eastern cuisines and community ventures: I want to start with making my noodles from scratch, and then delving into ravioli and making other pasta. To taste proper, fresh pasta is the best! You cannot go wrong. Another skill I hope to master is wok-handling – I have learned a lot and I would love to offer Asian-cooking lessons to people in our community.
The conversation was flowing and filled with fun that we just had to have a quick-fire question: you’re stuck on a deserted island, and you have 4 Asian ingredients with you to survive (yes, there are coconuts on the island). Naslie said, ‘I’ll pack in tteok, gochujang (red chilli paste), spring onion, sesame seeds (furikake seasoning). I’m going to fish, and dry the coconut to make a type of coconut rice. Mix the gochujang with the sesame seeds to make a sauce and sprinkle some chopped spring onion on top for garnish’. Fortunately, we’re not on a deserted island, and Naslie shares some of her favourite freezer staples. ‘Wontons are a must, you can fry them up crispy or use it in soups too. Bao buns are incredibly versatile but if you’re not sure how to use them you can buy premade BBQ Bao buns available at Asian grocery stores. Kewpie mayo – yes can keep it in the freezer! I use it for rich cheese sauces or lush pasta dishes!
Visiting Halaal Asian Delights was a vibrant time similar to getting together with friends you hadn’t seen in a while. The table (and our bellies) were filled to the brim with sticky wings, Cape Malay-Asian fused recipes (her tikka chicken dumplings are to die for) and lots of love and laughter. We definitely had the best time and hope to be seeing more of Naslie and her creations soon.