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Home Cook Q&A: This South African Expat On ‘Veganising’ Baked Goods And More In Singapore

(image: Tatyana Kildisheva)

“I’m known for going a bit overboard whenever guests come to visit or the other way around,” explains Stephanie Maas, who is this month’s featured participant from the International Cooking Club Singapore (ICCS). “If I show up without at least one baked good, my friends wonder if I’m okay.”

Stephanie’s particular specialty? “I especially love introducing everyone to the fascinating and very tasty world of plant-based food and baked goods. Many ask me for the recipes afterwards,” explains the South African expat who lived in The Netherlands before moving to SG almost 10 years ago.

(image: Brinda Govindarajan)

But, you don’t even need to be Stephanie’s friend to crib some of her recipes! Two are featured in ICCS’s The Red Dot Melting Pot Cookbook: her South African Three Bean Salad (shown at top) and South African Malva Pudding with Custard (shown below).

Stephanie has been involved in ICCS since early 2016. And – as a former graphic designer, before becoming a full-time mother – she eventually helped to design the group’s cookbook as well as attend photo shoots, edit photos and do occasional proofreading (scroll to bottom to read more about the inspiring read).

These days, Stephanie is in one ICCS baking group and “happily trying all [the ladies’] amazing bakes and then trying to ‘veganise’ them”. Last October, she and her daughter, Olivia-Jade, competed in The Finder Kids‘ Halloween-themed cooking contest exclusively for ICCS participants at Tanglin Mall. Their creative Red Velvet Zombie Brains Cake clinched 1st place in the Best Presentation category (see photo at bottom)!

The mum of two – Olivia-Jade, 3.5 years, and Liam, 1.5 years – plus one on the way, shares that her kiddos love to “help” her in the kitchen. “It is normally more time consuming and messier for me, but they enjoy it. My son is still learning, though, so he tends to just taste everything.”

Read on to find out how Stephanie got into cooking herself and where she likes to eat and shop around the Lion City…

image: Claudia Anzur

When did you first learn to cook?

“As a young girl. My mother mostly cooked from scratch and was always baking. I also remember going to the library and getting children’s cookbooks and following recipes by myself.”

Do you have any professional cooking experience or experience working in F&B?

“As a teenager, I worked as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant, and later as a graphic designer, I worked at a publishing house that specialised in cooking magazines. I also got into cake decorating and did a couple of courses. I then started selling cakes, but had to end that due to being too busy with my growing family.”

What are some of your favourite dishes to cook from your home country?

“I have changed my eating and cooking habits to mostly plant-based for the last 2.5 years, so no more meat dishes and no dairy and eggs. But, I have been able to ‘veganise’ quite a few dishes – for example, Dutch apple cake, South African koeksisters (traditional sticky braided donuts) and vetkoek (filled fried bread) with lentil curry instead of minced meat curry.”

How often do you make such dishes?

“Cooking dishes from South Africa or The Netherlands is only on occasion, as I usually cook very internationally for my family.”

Stephanie and her daughter, Olivia-Jade, with their 1st-place-winning cake in The Finder Kids‘ Halloween-themed cooking contest for ICCS participants this past October.

How has living in SG influenced your cooking?

“I’ve definitely ventured into Asian cooking more confidently, and feel that – since joining ICCS – my dishes are a lot more authentic, but with a plant-based twist now.”

Where do you buy good-quality, authentic ingredients in SG for when you cook at home?

  • German Market Place and African Market Place – “As usual, the items are a lot more expensive than back ‘home’.”
  • Phoon Huat – “For all of my baking needs.”
  • Scoop Wholefoods – “It’s a huge favourite, as so much is available there (think spices, grains, etc.). I’m trying to minimise plastic and waste as best I can.”

When you’re not cooking, what are your favourite places in SG to dine out?

“Being plant-based is quite tricky to eat out, so normally we just go to a few places as a family where we know the menu will suit. Not more adventurous restaurants, like my husband William and I used to as a couple before changing our diet.”


About International Cooking Club Singapore (ICCS)

International Cooking Club Singapore (ICCS) is a non-profit organisation consisting of approximately 300 participants from more than 95 countries divided into 26 cooking and baking groups. They rotate homes and teach one another culinary skills. ICCS created The Red Dot Melting Pot Cookbook, a top-ranked cookbook containing 223 authentic recipes from 97 countries. Follow ICCS on Instagram at @iccs_sg as well as its cookbook page @reddotmeltingpotcookbook for a regular dose of delicious recipes!


By Sara Lyle Bow, March 2020

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More on The Finder:

10 ESSENTIAL Cookbooks For Expat Home Cooks In Singapore

Top Restaurants In Singapore For Vegetarian And Vegan Food

5 Best VEGAN Eateries In Singapore For A Delicious AND Guilt-Free Meal

Home Cook Q&A: This Singaporean’s PASSION Is To Teach Others To LOVE Cooking, Too

Home Cook Q&A: How Living In Singapore Has Changed This Italian Expat’s Cooking And Eating… A LOT


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