According to WWF, Singapore consumes a whopping 120,000 tonnes of seafood every year. It’s a large number for a small island, but no surprise really. The ocean’s bounty is integral to our food culture, and our love for it is one wrapped up in our collective psyche. From crisp dainty ikan bilis paired with aromatic nasi lemak and fiery sambal, to spongy sea cucumber enriched by a leisurely braise in superior stock, we relish them all.
This issue, we celebrate seafood big and small, the well-loved and the familiar, alongside more esoteric varieties from the deep.
One seafood trend that has legs, as our contributor Annette Tan cleverly puts it, is the octopus. Probably the hottest cephalopod in the town, it is making its rounds on the city’s top tables right now, from Whitegrass to Pollen (p.34). For those with a taste for the exotic, we serve up four fine fish—giant grouper, puffer fish, empurau and sweet fish, otherwise known as ayu (p.38). Equally fascinating is the pungent, umami-laden, sun-dried specimens collectively known as dried seafood. In this part of the world, they rank proudly alongside their sea-fresh counterparts. In many instances, dried may well even be better (p.52).
Meanwhile, chef Ivan Brehm of Nouri shares five fish dishes inspired by diverse cultures around the world (p.44). Indeed, for the food lover, the world is your oyster—quite literally. Check out the variety of oysters available on the market and their unique flavours as shaped by their respective environments (p.60). Last but not least, wash them down with choice tipples (p.66).
The sole drawback in our obsession with creatures from the deep is that many of the popular seafood species consumed are unsustainable. Indeed, reports from environmental groups on the state of our oceans are dismal. The bluefin tuna so highly prized by sushi and sashimi lovers, for instance, is well on its way to commercial extinction due to overfishing. Even worse, the bycatch—fish or other marine species caught alongside—is tremendously high; sea turtles, sharks and other mammals get trapped in the fishing lines and gear used to catch tuna. Atlantic cod, Chilean seabass, giant grouper, red snapper… the list of overfished species is long and dreary. For future generations to enjoy the bounty of the sea as we have been privileged to, we must act to protect it. And to truly love our food, we must look beyond our plate.