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?

SALT Magazine - - Lightly Salted - TEXT WEETS GOH PHO­TOS CHOO HAO XIN ART DI­REC­TION: BEN­JAMIN SOH VENUE: CANDLENUT

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?

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