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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Asian Ministers Try Blini

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — If Asia's top diplomats can cook up solutions to regional disputes at a major conference this week, Russian chef Sergei Lipin hopes his blini with caviar will have helped.

Lipin, who has cooked for former U.S. President George Bush and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whipped up a smorgasbord of Russian dishes late Wednesday for delegates at a key regional security conference that ends Friday. "Good food has the ability to bring people together," Lipin said. "I am only a chef, but if my cuisine can help the ministers put their differences aside and discuss how to unite, then I will be very happy."

Myanmar's foreign minister, Nyan Win, was among dignitaries who chatted and snacked on finger food at the opening of the food festival to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ASEAN-Russian Dialogue meetings. Delicacies included thin blini topped with caviar, pelmini stuffed with minced beef and pirozhki filled with cabbage and hard-boiled chopped eggs. Non-Muslim delegates drank vodka and kvas, while Muslims sipped fruit beverages.

Lipin, a chef with the Russian Foreign Ministry who flew from Moscow for the three-day food festival, said the secret behind Russian food was meticulous preparation. "It's not like Chinese food, which you can cook very fast," Lipin said, speaking through a translator. "Compared to other cuisine, there's a lot of thinking and planning in the ingredients and the method."

"I'm not an expert on Russian cuisine, but what I've tasted and liked is caviar," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said in a speech.

Syed Hamid said food could bridge cultural and geographic divisions, adding that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations hopes to stage its own food festival in Moscow.

ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong, however, had little time to sample the food, as reporters besieged him with questions about the meeting.

Asked later whether he was a fan of Russian food, Ong, a Singaporean, quipped, "I like rice."