From Shore to Shore
“To me, the flavours of Sicily are all about comfort food,” explains chef Lino Sauro, on the afternoon before he is due to debut his four-course dinner menu at The Library in The Ritz-carlton, Kuala Lumpur. “I grew up in a family of farmers and I had seven siblings, so my earliest food memories are of my mother, who was always at the stove, cooking for all those hungry mouths.”
As one of a regular series of guest chefs who let their skills shine at The Library, he stepped away from his kitchen at Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare in Singapore recently to deliver his interpretations of classic southern Italian dishes to equally ravenous Malaysian gourmands.
Ever one for immersing himself in each country’s culinary heritage, Sauro took the opportunity to enjoy a little well-deserved downtime with his family, thanks to the “outstanding hospitality” of The Ritz-carlton, Kuala Lumpur. Working with The Library’s kitchen team was an equally memorable experience, a process he describes as, “absolutely cool”. He adds: “For some, it was their first time encountering Sicilian cuisine, but they were so helpful and collaborative.”
What sparked your interest in cooking? I initially wanted to be a chef in order to go travelling, but I ended up travelling so that I could cook! I’ve visited the Amazon River, Peru, Chile, China, Laos and Cambodia. I’ve spent the past 12 years in Singapore.
Do you enjoy going off the beaten track? I once trekked to the middle of the Amazon River to a village in Peru so that I could learn local cooking techniques. I like immersing myself in the culinary heritage of each country I’m exploring.
Which of your dishes proved most popular in Kuala Lumpur? The risone with charred citrus-glazed octopus, capsicum, sun-dried tomato aioli, chilli and pistachio pesto. I think Malaysian diners were intrigued by the risone’s texture because they ate the dish expecting it to be rice, but were surprised to find it was actually pasta.
How did you select wines to pair with your menu? I started off by looking at how peppery, sweet, warm or spicy each dish was, and then made my selection from the options that The Ritz-carlton, Kuala Lumpur offered me from their cellar. I opted for a chianti from Tuscany and southern Italian white wines that could be easily matched with seafood, as I wanted to ensure that the wine wouldn’t overwhelm the food, and vice-versa.
What do you think of our local food offerings? I ventured out to Soo Kee Mee and ordered as many dishes as I could feasibly fit onto the table. I prefer the street food here much more than I do in Singapore. It seems more honest, somehow.
What, to you, is a classic Sicilian dish? Pasta con le sarde – bucatini pasta with fresh sardines, anchovies, wild fennel, a little bit of saffron and among other things, a sprinkling of Sicilian lemon zest. It’s a 2,000-year-old recipe, so you can’t go wrong with it.
Award-winning executive guest chef Lino Sauro reveals the art of bringing the essential flavours of his Sicilian homeland to The Ritz-carlton, Kuala Lumpur.