Wayne Liew & Malcolm Lee
What better time to talk about the ever-changing local food scene, than on the cusp of our nation’s birthday?
You’ll find WAYNE LIEW masterfully manning the woks at Kee Eng Kee Seafood Alexandra. The third generation owner and chef of the wildly popular Kee Eng Kee zi char is not afraid of innovation, dishing out creations like Marmite pork burger and wok-fried spaghetti alongside classics like yue guang he (fried rice noodles served with a raw egg). LIEW: For us, I think we are always trying to create something that both our regulars and new customers will like. For the old dishes, we try to update them in terms of plating, or by changing some ingredients so we can appeal to both camps. I’ve also created some new dishes like the burgers and spaghetti that aren’t typical zi char dishes. We have to evolve to suit the new generation, but we have to pass down our history so people know where these dishes come from. The story behind them is very important. As the chef-owner of the one Michelin-starred Candlenut at Dempsey, MALCOLM LEE has put Nonya cuisine on the fine dining radar by offering refined, and updated versions of traditional dishes. By combining a Western culinary training with his Peranakan heritage, he presents dishes like beef short rib rendang, and buah keluak ice cream. LEE: I think the challenge for us is the same. When we do traditional dishes, customers always have the perception that they should be done a certain way. It’s very hard to change these dishes. But no matter what we do I think the essence of the dishes cannot change—which is, for me, having rice with curry for Peranakan food; it always still has to be family-style dining. Although you can change the ingredients—like using a different cut or quality of meat for rendang—to create new dishes that are a nice middle ground between traditional and modern.
How do you balance find a balance between cooking traditional, and creating new dishes?