Epicure

Barry Quek from Whey Mathew Leong from À L’aise

Singapore-born chef Barry Quek talks to epicure about his passion for local Singaporea­n flavours and how he flawlessly incorporat­es them into his mod-European Asian menu at Whey, his new restaurant in Hong Kong.

- BY PRIYANKA ELHENCE

The recently opened Whey on the upper ground floor of Hong Kong’s The Wellington in Central is the newest address for Singaporea­n chef Barry Quek. Here, he introduces diners to modern European cuisine reimagined with Asian nuances and Singaporea­n influences.

Quek has trained in some of the world’s most renowned restaurant­s including Michelin-starred Joël Robuchon and Les Amis in Singapore, In De Wulf in Belgium and Attica in Melbourne. He moved to London in 2015 to work as a sous chef at Portland and helped to open their sister restaurant, Clipstone. Quek then headed back to Hong Kong to open mod-European Beet, which shuttered last year.

A new perspectiv­e

Whey is now Quek’s latest venture, and the talented chef is now on a mission to seamlessly bring together his internatio­nal experience and Singaporea­n flavours of his childhood and upbringing. Diners can look forward to popular Lion City flavours such as bak kut teh, laksa and even durian on the young chef’s latest menu.

Whey embodies Quek’s cooking style where he elevates his dishes by using high-quality local ingredient­s and produce, and applying fermenting and pickling techniques he learnt overseas. With the belief that sustainabi­lity comes in small steps, Whey is committed to supporting local farms and businesses, a common thread throughout his career. As always, diners can expect a menu built around sustainabl­e sourcing and minimising food waste by harnessing the entirety of ingredient­s.

Interestin­gly, the restaurant’s name Whey also resonates with the motif of utilising every ingredient to its maximum potential. A byproduct of the cheese-making process that is often discarded, Quek transforms the usually dull whey into an essential seasoning that would otherwise be regarded as just waste.

Menu highlights include the freshly baked Whey’s Bread and Butter which showcases brioche made with buah keluak, and sourdough made with locally grown leaven. Another new creation interpreti­ng Singaporea­n flavours in an unconventi­onal way is his Seared Scallop that sits on a bed of fragrant tropical jackfruit emulsion and homemade prawn floss.

Quek’s latest rendition features New Territorie­s pork ribs, served with pork heart and fermented cabbage, and finished with homemade pepper jus and black garlic jam – inspired by the classic Singaporea­n pork rib bak kut teh pepper soup,

And how can anyone forget the quintessen­tial laksa? He adds a personal twist to the dish with his Flower Crab Konjac Rice, reinterpre­ting the spicy noodle soup into an

addictive rice dish made with fresh flower crab and konjac coated with rich curry laksa sauce. Sticking to his true Singaporea­n heritage, the menu ends on homemade Mao Shan Wang Durian Ice Cream, topped with a quenelle of Cristal caviar no less. Tell us about your life in Singapore and how you caught the cooking bug. Born and raised in Singapore, my first F&B role was actually a job at McDonald’s at age 14. I enrolled in culinary school after serving in the army to learn the fundamenta­ls of cooking. I was lucky to take a job as an apprentice at Joël Robuchon in Sentosa to learn about classic French cooking. I later went on to Les Amis in 2013 before moving to Belgium to work at In De Wulf for four months. Working alongside chef Kobe Desramault­s there was truly an eye-opening experience for me. I got to understand more about local and sustainabl­e farming, and picked up fermenting and pickling techniques which has heavily influenced my cooking today.

Why did you name your restaurant Whey?

Whey is where we introduce diners to modern European cuisine reimagined with Singaporea­n flavours, with a focus on local and seasonal ingredient­s. Whey itself is an ingredient that I like to use a lot. It is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and is often disposed of. We transform it into an ingredient to be used in dishes and cocktails. It also brings out the message that we encourage utilising every ingredient to minimise food waste.

What is your most memorable food memory from home?

What I love about Singaporea­n food is its rich and robust flavours, and its diverse range of ingredient­s and cooking methods derived from Singapore’s cultural background. The pandemic has made me homesick and that’s when I started learning more about Asian and Singaporea­n cooking. Bak chor mee is definitely my favourite dish back home and it’s not commonly found outside Singapore.

How well known are local Singaporea­n flavours overseas in your opinion?

From my observatio­n, satay, laksa and chicken rice are always the top-of-mind Singaporea­n food. But there’s actually so much more to explore. Being a multiracia­l country, Singaporea­n cuisine is as diverse as its culture. Pandan leaves, petai or stink beans, ginger flower, black nut, sambal and tropical fruits like jackfruit and soursop are some of the lesser-known Singaporea­n flavours that we have incorporat­ed in Whey’s menu.

Out of all your creations at Whey, which one is your favourite and why?

Buah keluak (black nut) brioche is one of my favourites as it’s a very original creation and the outcome works surprising­ly well. Buah keluak is a native nut from Singapore and Malaysia, and smells and tastes very earthy like cacao. Traditiona­lly it is used in stews, curries and meat dishes in Peranakan cuisine. At Whey, we use it for our bread course and incorporat­e it into brioche that comes with a dip in the shell of the nut.

Another personal favourite of mine is the Flower Crab Konjac Rice, made with handpicked flower crab, konjac, and finished off with thinly sliced garlic chips and laksa leaf oil. Instead of eating laksa with noodles, I prefer eating it with rice (despite konjac being a healthy option), as there’s something about the sauce coating every grain that makes it so satisfying.

It’s been a fun yet challengin­g process to merge delicate Western cooking styles with robust Singaporea­n flavours. We’ve been through months of experiment­ation and preparatio­n to come up with the final menu, which represents my culinary journey across Europe, Australia and Asia, with influence from my Singaporea­n roots.

What do you want your diners to think of when they think of Singapore?

Diverse flavours created with passion and dedication.

 ??  ?? Barry Quek
Barry Quek
 ??  ?? Whey’s Bread and Butter
Whey’s Bread and Butter
 ??  ?? Pork Rib “Bak Kut Teh”
Pork Rib “Bak Kut Teh”
 ??  ?? Flower Crab Konjac Rice
Flower Crab Konjac Rice
 ??  ?? Whey restaurant
Whey restaurant

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