THE LUXE LOOT

Chefs’ picks of the most lux­u­ri­ous in­gre­di­ents

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS CHAR­LENE CHOW

Dear. Rare. Ex­clu­sive. Some or all of the rea­sons why it’s a lux­ury adding a piece, and some­times just a sliver, of a pre­cious in­gre­di­ent to a dish. An in­dul­gence? Chefs say it is a ne­ces­sity. They share with us some of their favourites here.

RED MUSH­ROOM

Red mush­rooms from China’s Wuyi Moun­tain in Fu­jian prov­ince are har­vested be­tween July and Au­gust af­ter the rainy sea­son. Ex­pe­ri­enced pick­ers make the ar­du­ous trek to reach spe­cific al­ti­tudes where this del­i­cate del­i­cacy blooms and withers within the day. The red mush­room shrinks back if there’s too much noise, so pick­ers have to take care to move stealth­ily. What’s more, the deed has to be done at three to four am in the morn­ing when the mush­rooms are still small buds with their caps un­opened. Ex­tracted care­fully this way with their mycelium in­tact, the red mush­room re­tains its full nu­tri­tional value and taste. Once picked, they are sun-dried and typ­i­cally used as dried mush­rooms.

In a sea­sonal pro­mo­tion up to 30 Novem­ber, Chef Li Wenwu, mas­ter chef of PUTIEN Kitch­ener Road will be us­ing these red mush­rooms ($348 per kg), to make sea­sonal dishes and bev­er­ages such as a very savoury red mush­room tea, dou­ble-boiled chicken soup with red mush­room, braised bean curd skin with red mush­room. The red mush­rooms are said be par­tic­u­larly good as a blood tonic, par­tic­u­lar for women.

ALBA WHITE TRUF­FLES

Blessed with a mes­meris­ing, earthy aroma, Alba white truf­fles, which also goes by the name tu­ber mag­na­tum, is mainly grown in Alba, Pied­mont Italy and are well-loved by chefs as a deca­dent fin­ish­ing touch to a dish. For­ag­ing sea­son be­tween Oc­to­ber to Novem­ber is capped by an In­ter­na­tional White Truf­fle Fair, where the prized com­mod­ity goes up for auc­tion to the high­est bid­ders. Last year, the av­er­age price was around 6000 eu­ros per kg and there was even a sale of 850g of white truf­fles for 75000 eu­ros.

Chef Lino Sauro of Gat­topardo in Sin­ga­pore and Olio Kens­ing­ton Street in Syd­ney gets his truf­fles from farm­ers and sup­pli­ers in Pied­mont such as La Morra and Tartufi Langhe, and some­times from East­ern Europe if the qual­ity and price are ex­cel­lent. The cur­rent batch he’s us­ing comes from Pied­mont at $5400 per kg. He says, “I use it pretty much for egg pasta and cheese ravi­oli or with white as­para­gus, nice wagyu grilled or braised, with scram­bled eggs or with cod fish, chanterelle mush­rooms and bot­targa dashi etc. But they’re al­ways freshly grated on top just be­fore con­sump­tion.”

SAF­FRON

The saf­fron spice comes from the stigma or pollen-ger­mi­nat­ing part of the pur­ple saf­fron cro­cus flower. Coun­tries such as Iran, In­dia and Spain pro­duce this prized spice. It is par­tic­u­larly la­bo­ri­ous to har­vest as the stig­mas, only three per flower, have to be re­moved del­i­cately by hand be­fore they are dried.

Rang Ma­hal sources their saf­fron mainly from Kash­mir in In­dia ($4 per g). Chef Milind So­vani says, “In Kash­mir, saf­fron is mostly clas­si­fied into two cat­e­gories called “mon­gra” (stigma alone) or “lac­cha” (stig­mas at­tached with parts of the style). He says Rang Ma­hal only uses the high­est grade of saf­fron, which in­cludes the stigma alone and likes the way it is very mild but adds a sub­tle, el­e­gant fra­grance and flavour to a dish. He uses saf­fron in dishes such as Kesri Murg, a Luc­knowi-styled saf­fron chicken curry from the lunch buf­fet, in var­i­ous desserts such as Gu­lab Jamun, Ras­malai & Jalebi, or in a saf­fron tea called kahwa served in the de­gus­ta­tion menu.

GIUSTI 100-YEAR-OLD BAL­SAMIC VINE­GAR

A prod­uct of Mo­dena, Italy, the 100-year-old Bal­samic vine­gar ‘Ris­erve’ ($700 a bot­tle) is the jewel in the crown of the Giusti Col­lec­tion, pro­duced in ex­tremely small quan­ti­ties per year, ex­tract­ing from se­lected casks dat­ing back to the 1700s. Founded in 1606, through the years, the Giusti mak­ers of topqual­ity bal­samic vine­gar have been be­stowed grand hon­ours such as the Patent of the King of Italy in 1929.

At Braci, chefs Beppe de Vito and Mirko Feb­brile use it in the dish hand dived scal­lop with con­fit yolk and 100-year-old Bal­samic, fea­tured in the restau­rant’s Gour­mand De­gus­ta­tion Menu and Christ­mas Eve Din­ner Menu.

CINCO JOTAS (5J) IBERICO HAM

Cinco Jotas (5J) from the town of Jabugo in Huelva Spain, has been pro­duc­ing top-qual­ity Ja­mon Iberico de Bel­lota for more than 100 years, us­ing free-range 100 per cent pure­bred Iberico pigs fed on acorns. 5J Iberico ham ($159 per kg) is one of head chef, Esquina, Car­los Mon­to­b­bio’s favourites.

He says, “I have been in­cor­po­rat­ing 5J Iberico ham in my cui­sine for the past two years at ESQUINA, priz­ing it for its per­fect con­sis­tency ev­ery time. I also ap­pre­ci­ate its nutty flavours, which is more pro­nounced than other Iberico ham be­cause of the diet of acorn that the pigs are fed with.” At Esquina, he serves sliced 5J Iberico ham in the Cata­lan dish Pan con To­mate. “This dish con­sists of slices of crys­tal bread with ripe tomato squeezed on top with a driz­zle of ex­tra olive vir­gin oil. It is also very im­por­tant that the Iberico ham is served at room tem­per­a­ture, and never cold straight from the fridge or else you might miss the de­li­cious nutty flavours of the ham.”

YONEZAWA BEEF

Yonezawa wagyu from Ya­m­a­gata is among the top­prized wagyu in Ja­pan, de­rived from young heifers fat­tened by rice straw grown in the fer­tile lands of the re­gion. Chef Kenji Ya­manaka uses Yonezawa A5 wagyu ($275 per kg) as he loves the tex­ture, taste and qual­ity of the beef, and its mar­bling which gives very good flavour.

At béni Sin­ga­pore, if there is a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, he would use the Yonezawa beef for con­sommes. Oth­er­wise, he typ­i­cally pan-sears the beef then roasts it in the oven, serv­ing it with a Madeira wine sauce, potato mash and sea­sonal veg­eta­bles. He would usu­ally pair this dish with full-bod­ied red wines, or Kaho and Royal Dar­jeel­ing cold brewed teas from Royal Blue Tea.

Top Braci’s Hand Dived Scal­lops, Con­fit Yolk and 100-year-old Bal­samic

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