COME TO­GETHER

New-gen­er­a­tion mod-Sin col­lab­o­ra­tions show­case bound­less cre­ativ­ity in cel­e­brat­ing Sin­ga­pore's flavours

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS CHAR­LENE CHOW

New-gen­er­a­tion mod-Sin col­lab­o­ra­tions

Chef col­lab­o­ra­tions are com­mon­place these days. Some re­cent ex­am­ples: Ital­ian chef Um­berto Bom­bana of Hong Kong's three-Miche­lin starred 8½ Otto e Mezzo was in town for a four-hands gig with chef Kirk West­away of Jaan; and chef An­dré Chi­ang whipped up de­gus­ta­tion meals with Aus­tralian celebrity chef Dan Hunter from con­tem­po­rary, sea­sonal din­ing restaurant Brae.

But com­bustible syn­er­gies are not just the do­main of restaurant chefs. Younger hawk­er­preneurs do­ing mod-Sin cui­sine are get­ting into the act and serv­ing up some se­ri­ously ex­cit­ing nosh. Sin­ga­pore-style ramen noo­dles hawker Noo­dle Story, for in­stance, did a sup­per se­ries late last year with Mediter­ranean-cen­tric restaurant Moose­head Kitchen & Bar. Dishes like poached wan­ton and mush­room dashi, and Inka roasted Span­ish pork char siew were quickly slurped up and de­voured. Cor­ner Burger, a mod-Sin stall at Brun­ners cof­feeshop in Ka­tong, re­cently worked with Jago Cow­boy Hokkien Noo­dles, an­other stall within the cof­feeshop, to come up with Alaskan king crab noo­dle, an amped-up ver­sion of Hokkien mee. The burger stall has plans to do a col­lab­o­ra­tion soon with Fire­bake, a wood-fired bake­house and restaurant across the road.

There's even more room for ex­cit­ing dishes to be born when you bring to­gether nine pairs of restaurant-hawker chefs to cre­ate new street food-in­spired dishes. This was the sce­nario at the sec­ond edi­tion of the Sin­ga­pore Food Fes­ti­val Open Stoves at Tim­bre+ re­cently. Many of them were mod-Sin chefs who thrive on giv­ing a new spin to tra­di­tional Sin­ga­pore flavours. We take a closer look at three col­lab­o­ra­tive duos and the gems they con­jured up at Open Stoves.

WHO

Chef Chung Dem­ing of Kush, and chef Melvin Chew of Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck and Kway Chap

Chef Chung helms Kush at Tim­bre+, a mod­Sin in­spired char­coal grill skew­ers and rice bowls con­cept. He is also the founder of The Quar­ters, a mod-Sin diner at Eng­gor Street, serv­ing sig­na­ture dishes such as salted egg fries and sa­tay burg­ers. Chef Chew on the other hand took over his fam­ily’s braised duck stall in Chi­na­town Com­plex in 2014. He came up with a duck rice bento box fea­tur­ing braised duck, of­fal, kway chap and on­sen eggs.

THE DISH Crispy skin braised duck burger

Here, crispy-skinned braised duck is topped with Per­anakan achar and nes­tled be­tween two hand­made Ja­panese and Hokkien-in­spired rice pat­ties glazed with fiery sam­bal. It is a com­bi­na­tion of chef Chew’s fam­ily recipe for the braised duck and sam­bal, and chef Chung’s achar and rice patty recipes from The Quar­ters.

WHAT IS MOD-SIN TO YOU?

Says chef Chung, “Mod-Sin is about being big on flavour, true to our cultural in­flu­ences with a mod­ern touch, and bloody de­li­cious!" He fol­lows the prin­ci­ple of "keep­ing it hand­made, seek­ing Sin­ga­pore in­spi­ra­tion and in­gre­di­ents” in de­vel­op­ing his cui­sine.

For chef Chew, it is about adding touches to tra­di­tional cui­sine to cre­ate in­ter­est among the new gen­er­a­tion. He says, “We hope that go­ing a bit Ja­panese [with the bento con­cept] will bring in more young­sters, to let them re­mem­ber this ‘un­cle and aun­tie food’, braised duck and kway chap. It will be a for­got­ten food if we don't do some­thing to bring in new blood.”

FU­TURE PLANS

Chef Chung is work­ing on a char­coal-seared foie gras on home­made kaya, scram­bled egg on toast with smoked salt. He will also be pre­sent­ing dishes like char­grilled buah keluak chicken in his omakasec­om­mu­nal style din­ing op­tion, The Quar­ters Ex­pe­ri­ence. Mean­while, chef Chew plans to do a kway chap yak­i­tori and a don­buri duck rice.

Kush

#01-36, Tim­bre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Cres­cent. Tel: 6834 4174

The Quar­ters

#01-09, 16 Eng­gor Street. Tel: 6834 4174

Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck

#02-156 Chi­na­town Com­plex Food Cen­tre, Block 335, Smith Street. Tel: 9018 9052

WHO

Chef Wing Lam of The World is Flat by Tanuki Raw, and chef Gw­ern Khoo of A Noo­dle Story

The Hong Kong-born and California-raised Chef Wing Lam helms the kitchen at the World is Flat by Tanuki Raw, a pizza and sand­wich joint at Tim­bre+. A Noo­dle Story at Amoy Street Food Cen­tre was started by chef Gw­ern Khoo and part­ner Ben Tham, and serves Sin­ga­pore-style ramen, their ver­sion of wan­ton mee made up of sous vide char siew, thin egg noo­dles, crispy potato-wrapped prawn, on­sen egg and wan­ton. It had been awarded a Miche­lin bib gour­mand for the past two years.

THE DISH

Co­conut cream prawn cro­quette sand­wich with laksa cheese

The idea for this dish was born when chef Khoo sug­gested mak­ing laksa the main con­cept. From there, they cre­ated a brioche sand­wich, lever­ag­ing on The World Is Flat’s forte of mak­ing home­made bread. Prawn and co­conut, key in­gre­di­ents in a good laksa, were the natural ac­com­pa­ni­ments. Chef Wing elab­o­rates that to make the laksa cheese, they in­cor­po­rated laksa paste and sam­bal into a lighter-flavoured cheese and added tapi­oca starch to form a smooth sauce. He adds, “We wanted to bring in a lo­cal flavour or con­cept, and ap­ply The World Is Flat's phi­los­o­phy to it—of mak­ing some­thing sat­is­fy­ing, tasty, af­ford­able and over-the-top.”

WHAT IS MOD-SIN TO YOU?

Says chef Khoo, “For me, the term means tra­di­tional Sin­ga­pore flavours, usu­ally hawker flavours, rein­ter­preted cre­atively from the original. We can do this by chang­ing its form or by us­ing dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents.” For chef Wing, it is about tak­ing recog­nised lo­cal flavours to the next level, by in­tro­duc­ing non-lo­cal tech­niques and pair­ing other flavours to en­hance the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence.

FU­TURE PLANS

A Noo­dle Story plans to launch a new chicken dish that will soon be fea­tured as a mon­ster bowl op­tion. This col­lab­o­ra­tion has brought chef Wing's at­ten­tion back to a lo­cal fo­cus, and he is think­ing of new ideas along this line for up­com­ing menus.

The World is Flat by Tanuki Raw

#01-04 Tim­bre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Cres­cent.

A Noo­dle Story

#01-39, Maxwell 7 Maxwell Rd. Tel: 9027 6289

WHO

Chef Kelly Wong of Wong Kee Wan­ton Noo­dles & Roasted De­lights, and chef Ni­cholas Teo of Pluck

Chef Kelly Wong started Wong Kee Wan­ton Noo­dles hawker stall at Maxwell Food Cen­tre in 2013 and moved to Tim­bre+ when it opened last year. Orig­i­nally in bank­ing, she picked up culi­nary skills from her fa­ther Master Wong Wai Ke­ung, who has over 50 years of F&B ex­pe­ri­ence. Her stall is known for us­ing spinach and tomato noo­dles. Some of her sig­na­ture dishes in­clude beef brisket spinach noo­dles and tomato mee pok char siew. Mean­while, Ni­cholas Teo took over as head chef of mod-Sin restaurant Pluck on Club Street about a year ago. He is be­hind cre­ations like drunken chicken roulade and prawn paste pork belly and tom yum ce­real salmon.

THE DISH

Crispy spinach noo­dle in prawn bisque

Chef Wong wanted to show­case Wong Kee’s spe­cial­ity—noo­dles made by their own factory in Jo­hor Bahru. She de­cided to do a deep-fried ver­sion of their sig­na­ture spinach noo­dles to give it a crispy twist, and add fried dumplings as a gar­nish.

Chef Teo came up with the idea of pair­ing it with a rich creamy prawn bisque. Says chef Teo, “We just wanted to pay re­spects to old ideas; we didn’t want to stray too far and make the fi­nal prod­uct un­recog­nis­able. It was vi­tal that we ig­nite a sense of nostal­gia, but sur­prise cus­tomers with the flavours.”

WHAT IS MOD-SIN TO YOU?

For chef Wong, mod-Sin means “fu­sion with tra­di­tional lo­cal in­gre­di­ents as fo­cus". Chef Teo, on the other hand, thinks mod­ern Sin­ga­pore food is all about “cel­e­brat­ing a new wave of ex­tremely well-trav­elled and im­mensely cu­ri­ous Sin­ga­pore chefs, who are putting a 21st cen­tury stamp fa­mil­iar flavours”.

FU­TURE PLANS

Chef Wong is work­ing on new dishes, like noo­dles with chicken cut­let while chef Teo has just launched a new menu at Pluck that up­dates clas­sics such as drunken chicken, coffee ribs and sweet and sour chicken.

Wong Kee Wan­ton Noo­dles

#01-06 Tim­bre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Cres­cent. Tel: 9653 4819

Pluck

90 Club Street. Tel: 6225 8286

Col­umn pairs from left to right Chung Dem­ing of Kush and Melvin Chew of Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck; Gw­ern Khoo of A Noo­dle Story and Wing Lam of The World is Flat by Tanuki Raw; Kelly Wong of Wong Kee Wan­ton Noo­dles and Ni­cholas Teo of Pluck

Op­po­site page from top to bot­tom Crispy skin braised duck burger; Co­conut cream cro­quette sand­wich with laksa cheese; Crispy spinach noo­dle in prawn bisque

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