Monday, March 19, 2012

Singapore Takeout stops over in Sydney

I've never really done a proper stopover with international travel (or does five hours in a Dubai airport hotel count?). I mean the type where you spend a day or two in a different country or city en route to your intended destination.

The Singapore Takeout mobile pop-up kitchen at Campbells Cove, The Rocks, Sydney
But the pop up kitchen of Singapore Takeout - an initiative of International Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board, and SPRING Singapore - certainly has done; stopping over in Sydney after its global tour to New York, Delhi, London, Paris, Moscow, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Dubai. I'm just a little jealous of the mobile, converted shipping container.

The Singapore Takeout setup in Campbells Cove
Last week, Singapore Takeout landed in The Rocks' Campbells Cove for three days, showcasing the fine and modern fare of the island nation to groups of media, industry, bloggers and a select group of winners from a Facebook competition. We started off with Tiger beers, T'Gallant 'Juliet' pinot noir and (yet another Marlborough) Matua Valley sauvignon blanc.

They also showed their latest Australia-specific tourism advertising campaign which tells Aussies to "Get lost, lah" in Singapore.

Singapore has to be the ultimate Asian melting pot for food, with its food identity more a combination of influences ranging from Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Indian. But in a way, it does have an identity, at least one that's more definitive than Australian cuisine.

Ignatius Chan of Iggy's in Singapore
In Sydney, Singapore Takeout was represented by Iggy's, one of Singapore's most revered fine dining restaurants which ranked 27th in The San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2011 and first in The Miele Guide 2011/2012 Asia’s Top 20 restaurant.

Humble owner and an accomplished sommelier (and good mate of Tetsuya Wakuda) Ignatius Chan and the team from his eponymous Iggy’s were on hand to chat about the dynamic Singaporean dining environment and teach us a thing or two about his local cuisine.

For the record, he's a huge fan of Australia's seasonal produce, much of which featured in the evening's dinner, and thinks we're pretty lucky when it comes to accessing such a gorgeous variety of ingredients.

Iggy's head chef Akmal Anuar
After introductions, Iggy's head chef Akmal Anuar took us through a brief video about otak otak, which tops my list of favourite Malaysian street food. He then talked us through what would be our amuse bouche for the night - the simple, traditional meal of nasi lemak.

But this was no banana leaf-wrapped affair - this was Iggy's modern take on tradition, which might irk some locals, but I thought was quite thrilling despite the finicky intricacies. To start, the otak otak fish mousse is snapper in a Thermomix, which ends up white as spices are not blended with it for the typical curry colours.

Next, there's a sauce of many, many spices - as if to add it back to the otak otak. Then, the rice is a combination of coconut rice, as per tradition, and deep fried white rice and wild rice, in addition to their version of ikan bilis with another not-anchovy tiny fish.

The finishing touch is a foam of a specific turmeric leaf that was 'brought' in from Singapore. Chan emphasises that the foam is not a trend-driven addition, but really just a way of making a very light addition of a strong flavour.

Nasi lemak - Iggy's style
And the end product is rather impressive. With perfect presentation in a double-walled glass, the spice fragrances are addictive and the textures even more so. The foam adds plenty to the multi-textured rices and tiny fried fish, while the otak otak is as smooth as any steamed custard or pudding, with only a light fishy flavour.

Satisfying as the flavours were, I really could have eaten at least another five of the small glasses of nasi lemak. This is definitely one modernised dish that will stick in my mind for a long time to come.

Iggy's variation of sushi
We moved on to yet another revolutionary approach on tradition, with Iggy's take on sushi. Looking a lot like normal nigiri sushi of tuna and kingfish, the surprise was the base which was not a ball of seasoned rice but rather, a meringue made of soy, which also eliminated the need for a dip in soy sauce.

Iggy's variation of sushi
There was a definite sweetness in the meringue, but of the savoury soy version, while the crunch of the meringue base contrasted sharply with the soft pieces of raw fish. I wonder what the Japanese would think!

Cold cappellini
Next was a cold cappellini dish inspired by the very Singaporean (and Malaysian) Chinese New Year dish of yu sheng. Increasingly popular in Hong Kong and parts of China, this is traditionally a dish of raw fish and vegetables that's tossed for prosperity during Chinese New Year feasting and celebrations.

Fish in the cold cappellini dish
Iggy's version of yu sheng featured ice cold cappellini, aided by ice chips that crunched in the mouth, seasoned with seasame oil, my now-favourite citrus fruit yuzu and horseradish jelly which was barely noticeable beneath the liberal helping of icy ponzu granita.

The slices of skin-on raw whiting were a little on the chewy side but manageable, especially with the fun pops of deep-fried quinoa seeds scattered atop.

Rangers Valley beef cheek featuring Bass Philip Pinot Noir
Unable to source wagyu beef cheeks for the night, our main by Iggy's was a Rangers Valley beef cheek from northern New South Wales. This was slow-cooked for 40 hours in Chan's favourite pinot noir (remember, the man knows a thing or two about wine) - Victorian Bass Phillip's Pinot Noir.

The beef cheek was gelatinously soft and fully infused with flavours of the pinot noir sauce. The simply cooked white radish, carrots and beans were all that were needed to accompany the rich beef cheek, while I thought the tiny white flower garnish was just adorable.

Kaya toast and teh tarik
There was a lot of excitement about dessert; another modern take on a popular snack and drink in Singapore and Malaysia. Kaya toast is a spread of coconut milk, egg and sugar flavoured with pandan leaf on toast that Chan recommends must have butter with it, while teh tarik is a sweet, milky tea served hot or cold and which is 'pulled' for a frothy top.

Iggy's dessert version was pretty spectacular, featuring a fluffy, spongey 'bread' doused generously with an eggy, coconut sauce. My favourite part was the teh tarik ice cream, which featured an out-of-this-world, very strong tea flavour. The crisp on top of the 'kaya toast' was also a tea-flavoured component that was a marvel beyond comprehension.

And as if feeding us with some of Singapore's most innovative food wasn't enough, we all left with two bags full of Singaporean snacks and treats, including a corn cereal drink, packet instant laksa, 3-in-1 coffee mix, ginger tea and a Tiger beer.

While I'm yet to visit or even stop over in Singapore, I know there will be plenty of eating to look forward to when I do.

Food, booze and shoes attended the Singapore Takeout dinner as a guest of the Singapore Tourism Board, with thanks to Frank PR. Check out Singapore Eats on Facebook for everything you need to know about food in Singapore.

11 comments:

chocolatesuze said...

the soy meringue in the sushi was freaking awesome!

john@heneedsfood said...

Pity I couldn't make it to this dinner, I would have loved to try that nasi lemak!

MissPiggy said...

Great to finally meet you! I loved the sushi too...so creative, and tasty too.

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

This looks like it was an amazing event. All the food looks great. that nasi lemak looks very interesting.

Ben said...

Yum. Looks good.

Had the sushi at the SGP restaurant too, was really nice. Weird sensation too, how it sort of sticks to your teeth.

Beef sounds good too, the Bass Philip is my favourite PN too!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

Makes me want to go to Singapore so badly! Such a great event to promote their tourism, it's definitely working!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I wish they had a pop up restaurant set up for a month or two so that readers could try these items too! Well I'm sure they can if they fly to Singapore but I don't know how many would do that :)

tania@mykitchenstories said...

What an incredible experience. It has been years since I was in Singapore but I would love to go back. The food looks utterly delicious

Dee@foodinhand said...

OMG you guys got to go! I saw this promoted on Time Out but only 20 plebs can win a lottery ticket to take part :*(

Jealous.

Christina @ The Hungry Australian said...

Hi Tina, it was lovely to see you again at Singapore Takeout.

Nice write up and great photos - how hard was it editing that nasty purple light out?! :P

I also wish I could go on a trip like the shipping container taking in all those fabulous cities ;)

Tina said...

Hi suze - Such a unique taste and concept, isn't it!

Hi John - I'm not sure the nasi lemak purists loved it but I sure did!

Hi Miss Piggy - A pleasure meeting you too.

Hi Tina - They put so much effort into the three day pop-up; it was indeed special!

Hi Ben - Ha, I thought I was the only one with the sticking-to-back-teeth problem :D

Hi Vivian - The organisers will be sure glad to hear that!

Hi Lorraine - I think they might have been completely overwhelmed if they stayed much longer. A teaser it was...

Hi Tania - All the more special beside the Harbour Bridge ;)

Hi Dee - Singapore isn't too far away...! Yes, I felt very lucky (I'd entered the comp before I was invited!!)

Hi Christina - Some of that purple light remained, as you can tell ;)

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