Feast

An an­cient culi­nary skill is find­ing new favour with some of mod­ern gas­tron­omy’s best—we ex­plore the how and why of fermentation

T. Dining by Singapore Tatler - - Contents -

The an­cient art of fermentation finds new favour with some of mod­ern gas­tron­omy’s best—and the re­sults are breath­tak­ing

The idea of fermentation is as an­cient as Ne­olithic beer and as preva­lent to­day as kim­chi, cheese, sour­dough and pro­bi­otic dairy drinks. But the re­cent spot­light on fermentation in mod­ern gas­tron­omy has had the food world ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­i­ties it brings to the ta­ble, from in­ter­est­ing new pair­ings to the grow­ing promi­nence of acidic flavours.

“Fermentation is a great tech­nique,” says chef Ryan Clift of Tip­pling Club. “It’s noth­ing trendy, noth­ing new—it has been around for cen­turies, since the dawn of Christ. How­ever, a lot more chefs are us­ing it in their food now, as it brings out dif­fer­ent tex­tures and flavours of an in­gre­di­ent that cooking meth­ods can’t achieve.”

Of course, there are chefs such as Pollen’s Steve Allen, who are ad­e­quately fas­ci­nated with fermentation’s prac­ti­cal ad­van­tages. While un­doubt­edly in­spired to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent tech­niques and in­gre­di­ents, Allen mainly sees fermentation as a way of pre­serv­ing pro­duce, as well as re­duc­ing waste and cost. But like any good chef will tell you, it is, he af­firms, ul­ti­mately about flavour.

Mak­ing a dish look pretty is im­por­tant, adds Daniele Sperindio, the head chef at At­las, but he ex­pounds that the point of ex­per­i­ment­ing with fermentation is lever­ag­ing the com­plex­ity of the flavours it af­fords. That’s far from easy—one of the hard­est things about it is achiev­ing a de­pend­able prod­uct, which can be done by fig­ur­ing out the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment to fer­ment in a con­sis­tent way. Sperindio has even started mak­ing his own soya sauce, which will take about a year to com­plete.

He feels it’s worth the ef­fort, though. A new dish on his menu, for in­stance, boasts this unique sym­phony of zesty sen­si­bil­i­ties—from the yeasty sweet­ness of fer­mented red rice to the com­plex al­lure of beet­root pick­led in rasp­berry vine­gar.

There’s lac­tic fermentation, too, with the ad­di­tion of house-made ri­cotta. And if you’ve had some the bar­ley mixed with cab­bage that has been fer­mented in milk, you might agree that it tastes a lit­tle like potato leek soup— an­other in­trigu­ing as­pect of fermentation.

There’s a lot to digest. But the idea of fermentation find­ing re­newed in­ter­est with to­day’s top chefs is a good thing. It’s not a rev­o­lu­tion per se, but it’s trig­ger­ing con­sumers’ mem­o­ries in new ways, forc­ing them to think about their food a bit more— and about the flavours and aro­mat­ics they might have pre­vi­ously taken for granted.

THE RESTAU­RANT: RESTAU­RANT AN­DRÉ

THE CHEF: AN­DRÉ CHIANG

THE DISH: 17 LEGUMES DU MO­MENT

WITH CHARRED TORO VINAI­GRETTE

AND FER­MENTED BROTH

Part of a pas­sion project of chef An­dré, this vegetable dish spot­lights sea­sonal legumes sourced from his farm in Tainan, as well as from other ar­ti­sanal pro­duc­ers. These in­clude leeks, pur­ple cau­li­flower, sor­rel, daikon, green daikon, baby and black radish, red en­dive, rain­bow car­rot, fen­nel, red sea­weed, kale sprout and pick­led but­ter­nut, among oth­ers. The vegetable trim­mings are placed in a bag and left to steam and fer­ment at 50 de­grees Cel­sius for 48 hours. Here, the dish is show­cased along­side the restau­rant’s sig­na­ture “fer­mented jus” No. 8, which fea­tures chrysan­the­mum, wild honey and fleur de sel. While it’s a three-day process to in­fuse the flavours into the kom­bucha (fer­mented tea), the fer­mented jus takes two to three months to com­plete, de­pend­ing on how the fermentation process goes.

THE RESTAU­RANT: TIP­PLING CLUB

THE CHEF: RYAN CLIFT

THE DISH: SAL­SIFY TAGLIATELLE

As sal­sify is a del­i­cately flavoured vegetable, fer­ment­ing ac­cen­tu­ates its nat­u­ral flavours, which can be lost if it were boiled. It’s first peeled and added to lightly salted wa­ter, then cov­ered with a cloth so that it can breathe and al­lowed to sit like this in a pan for about a week and a half, de­pend­ing on the size of the sal­sify and the tem­per­a­ture of the restau­rant. This pro­duces a pli­able tex­ture and, when sliced thin, it al­most re­sem­bles a crunchy, al dente tagliatelle. This is served with a hen’s egg yolk cooked at 63 de­grees Cel­sius, jamón de bel­lota, sour­dough crumbs and a gar­nish of wild herbs.

THE RESTAU­RANT: FIREBAKE

THE CHEF: KONSTANTINO BLOKBERGEN

THE DISH: KUGELHOPF WITH FER­MENTED MILK ICE CREAM

White liq­uid sour­dough starter is used to make this rich baked cake, which also uses or­ganic white flour, un­salted but­ter, fresh milk and or­ganic sul­tanas. To finish, the kugelhopf is dipped in clar­i­fied but­ter and orange blos­som wa­ter be­fore sugar syrup is driz­zled on top. Ground al­monds and al­mond flakes are added be­fore it’s dusted with ic­ing sugar, caster sugar and sea salt.

For the ice cream the restau­rant pairs it with, kom­bucha scoby is added to fresh cream that’s left to fer­ment at room tem­per­a­ture for three days in a glass jar cov­ered with a cheese­cloth. This is used as the base for the ice cream. Ja­panese straw­ber­ries in sugar syrup, which are fer­mented in the chiller in a cov­ered con­tainer for at least two days, are served on the side.

THE RESTAU­RANT: AT­LAS

THE CHEF: DANIELE SPERINDIO

THE DISH: RI­COTTA AND RED RICE

This com­plex starter is a med­ley of art­fully fer­mented foods, with fer­mented red rice as the star. This is done by us­ing yeast, which pro­cesses the rice’s nat­u­ral sug­ars to cre­ate a mildly sweet, slightly al­co­holic flavour. It’s topped with lac­ticfer­mented ri­cotta and served along­side pa­per pil­lows, beet­root pick­led in rasp­berry vine­gar, fresh co­rian­der, and a bar­ley and cab­bage mix— the lat­ter is first fer­mented in milk.

THE RESTAU­RANT: NOURI

THE CHEF: IVAN BREHM

THE DISH: TO­MATO AND OAT

This warm dish con­sists of tomatil­los, cape goose­ber­ries and cherry toma­toes from Cameron high­lands—served both fresh and lac­tic­cul­tured. The fer­mented berries and toma­toes are sub­merged in a salt brine and left to fer­ment for two to three weeks. They’re paired with bur­rata from Puglia, an oat broth (a blend of rolled oats in a wa­ter in­fu­sion that’s left overnight and strained), oat flakes and basil oil. It’s gar­nished with petai leaf for a nat­u­ral gar­licky flavour pro­file. The brin­ing liq­uid that fer­mented the tomatil­los—which has a par­tic­u­lar flo­ral flavour note—is used to dress the dish.

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