After quitting nursing to open a restaurant, Nancy Lam first came to public attention as Channel 5’s flamboyant launch chef. Her direct style soon made her and her husband Ben the most famous couple to hit the kitchen since Fanny and Johnny Craddock.
When was your last holiday?
I just got back from spending 16 days in Geneva. We went to rest – not to deposit money. I did try to deposit all my coppers but the Swiss told me they were too brown so I had to bring them back. You do not need to rest in life. Living in the city is too hectic and fast.
Are you still rude to customers?
Yes – we just have a good laugh really and they love it. It’s my home and I can do what I want but not in front of children. If there are children there, we don’t do such things – the same if people have straight faces. We know the ones we can have a laugh with and we just have a nice time.
Why does my Chinese never taste like the takeaway variety?
You have to make sure that everything is the right size. Cut the meat quite thinly – don’t buy the stuff that’s already in chunks. The vegetables shouldn’t be cut into big chunks that you can’t fit into your mouth because they don’t stir well. You know how a cauliflower has florets? Cut the big florets into four and leave the small ones – that’s a fantastic guideline for how big all the veg should be.
It’s the sauce I have trouble with…
Always use wine and oyster sauce or fish sauce. If you are a vegetarian use soya sauce – it’s heaven
What are your ten condiments for stir-fry?
Its a bit too early for me to remember them all but make sure your wok is hot and your fire high and mighty. Cut the vegetables as I have said. Always cut the meat against the grain, keep the sauce by your side and the wine not in your throat but in the dish….Is that enough? It must be.
So, is it all stir-fry at home?
No, I cook the odd roast – or at least Ben does. I also do stews and spaghetti. But I spice my bolognese without tomato and it ends up being oriental-style. Spaghetti is a noodle after all – it just has a different name.
What’s your motto?
Be truthful to yourself when you are in the kitchen. Once you enjoy cooking, you will love the taste of it. It should make your mouth water and make you feel sexy.
Is sex in the kitchen important?
Yes, of course. If two people are in the kitchen together, it’s always important to kiss and cuddle. When I’m in our little kitchen with Ben we are always bum to bum – it may be annoying sometimes if someone treads on your foot but if you love them you get over it.
Then what about Marco Pierre White saying a woman has to become a man in the kitchen to compete?
In the olden days – when people cooked for the emperors in the Orient – there were no women in the kitchens. It was always men who cooked as they were the only ones who could carry the heavy woks and pans – the women had to be breeders. These days, you can just get a man to carry the pans for you.
How do you stop spectacles steaming up in the kitchen?
You can’t – there’s no way to do it other than to try to face the pans across you and keep your distance. They only steam up when you get too close.
Who is the best TV chef?
There are so many of them it’s not fair to tell you one name rather than another. If I really like one of them – it has to be Keith Floyd. I know I don’t drink and he does but we both have a laugh and try to be inspirational.
Did you have a strict upbringing?
Very much so. My father would never let us lie in and sleep. He would always get us up early and tell us what to do. My grandmother was just as bad – she believed women should learn. If we did something wrong, she would make us peel the onions and you know how hot they can be.
Why did you leave nursing?
We had three children and simply couldn’t afford to live on those wages.
Away from the wok, how do you relax?
I paint – I do a lot of watercolours but I can’t paint if I’m sad, I have to get rid of the sadness first. If I had no business, I’d spend half the time painting and the other in my garden. I have a roof garden where I do a lot of thinking and praying. I’m not a religious woman, though – my church and my own temple is my body.