TASTE OF TRADITION Method
Heritage foods are a crucial part of our vibrant culinary scene as they are representative of our culture and identities. Annabel Tan speaks to four chefs about their favourite traditional recipes and the importance of preserving them.
Executive pastry chef of Capella Singapore
It is often the simple pleasures in life that bring the most joy. For executive pastry chef of Capella Singapore, George Anachorlis, this holds true with a particular afternoon snack and ritual he grew up with in Greece.
“In Greek culture, people often gather for an afternoon coffee and we always accompany it with a piece of cake or cookies,” says the chef, who is from Thessaloniki, the second biggest Greek city after Athens. “I remember this Almond Olive Oil Cake being on the kitchen table’s cake stand since I was kid. It was our afternoon snack with a glass of milk for my sisters and myself, or with a cup of coffee for my parents.”
The recipe was handed over to his mother and aunt from his grandmother, and is prepared with simple ingredients that are commonly found in all Greek households, such as yoghurt, almonds and extra virgin olive oil. Since learning it, he has not tweaked the original recipe.
However, in addition to baking this cake to share with friends, the pastry chef has also used the recipe as a base to create new pastries like Lemon Blueberry Almond Olive Oil Cupcakes and Apricot Pistachio Pie. “It is always an interesting experiment to develop a cake with new products that still reflect your culture and, in the process, produce something beautiful. This will allow us to have our own contribution to tradition and create new recipes that can possibly be called ‘heritage recipes’ for our grandchildren,” he says.
“Food is a part of each country’s history and culture. Preserving heritage recipes is a safeguard to protect one’s culture and heritage. I believe it is our responsibility to preserve our roots and hand them over to next generation.”
CHEF GEORGE’S ALMOND OLIVE OIL CAKE Ingredients
12g orange zest 5g lemon zest
120g extra virgin olive oil 100g Greek yoghurt 250g ground almond 200g sugar
10g baking powder 10g vanilla extract
• Mix the eggs, orange and lemon zest, milk, olive oil, Greek yoghurt, ground almonds, sugar, flour, baking powder and vanilla extract in a large bowl until combined.
• Set aside to chill for 2 hours.
• Brush a 20cm cake mould or baking tray with olive oil and pour in the cake mixture.
• Sprinkle some roasted almond flakes on top and bake at 160°C for 45 mins.
Chef-founder of NAE:UM
The history of kimchi, the quintessential Korean side dish, dates back to over 3,000 years ago, when Koreans needed a way to preserve vegetables to survive the harsh winter. There are about 200 kimchi varieties today, and every family has their own recipe and way of making it.
For Korean chef Louis Han, founder of NAE:UM restaurant, a family favourite is Baek Kimchi (white kimchi), which he learnt to make from his grandmother. In the typical way of traditional Asian cooking, his grandmother never had a fixed recipe and did not like giving step-by-step instructions. “To her, the process is instinctive,” says Han. “Hence this recipe is my own reverse engineering, based on taste and observation of the ingredients she tosses in through her ‘gut feel’.”
He prepares large quantities of Baek Kimchi fortnightly at NAE:UM, for the signature somyeon (buckwheat noodles) dish, as well as with a rice course as part of the banchan (small side dishes). “I find the kimchi-making process calming – not sure if my kitchen team feels the same though!” he jokes. Han has also adjusted the measurements of ingredients in his recipe over time to accommodate the climate in Singapore.
“Preserving heritage recipes is very important because without our past we don’t have our present and future,” he adds. “For me and for every Korean, homemade kimchi and banchan remind us of the warmth of home and family. My childhood memories, like this kimchi, ferment over time and become happy nostalgia. Would it be a stretch to say that my family’s kimchi inspired me to create NAE:UM? Without that familial nostalgia, I would not have taken this path, I think.”
CHEF LOUIS’ BAEK KIMCHI Ingredients
1 napa cabbage
2 stalks of spring onion
20g fish sauce
120g sea salt
1 litre water
100g rice paste (made with 20g uncooked glutinous or white rice grains and 100g water cooked into a porridge then blended into a paste)
• Mix water and 100g sea salt to make salt water, in a ratio of 1:10.
• Cure the napa cabbage in salt water until tender (3 to 4 hours, depending on the size of cabbage used), then rinse and squeeze dry.
• Julienne the daikon.
• Cure the julienned daikon with the remaining sea salt for about 15 mins, then squeeze dry.
• Chop the spring onion into 6cm pieces.
• Blend the apple, onion, garlic and ginger together. Mix this blend with rice glue, fish sauce and sugar to make the marinade.
• Mix the daikon and spring onion into the marinade.
• Spread the mixture from the previous step into the layers of the napa cabbage. Leave it to ferment in room temperature for two days.
• Store the fermented cabbage in the refrigerator for one day before serving.