Traditional dishes lost and found
MOVE aside, Mod Sin. We round up six "lost" Peranakan, Cantonese and Hainanese dishes being revived this month.
LO KAI YIK
Once considered "poor man's food", this traditional Cantonese dish of chicken wings braised in fermented red bean curd sauce gets a luxe Nonya remake in Shermay Lee's hands, with sea cucumbers - whose addition was scribbled in the dish's previously unpublished recipe by her grandmother, Mrs Lee Chin Koon - and tau cheo, or fermented soya beans.
The melange of chicken wings, pig's skin and intestines, pork belly and dried cuttlefish is swaddled in an umami-rich sauce that blends hoisin sauce with tau cheo and nam yee, or red preserved tofu, and braised for hours until it achieves a palatable, melt-in-the-mouth softness. A coif of blanched kangkong atop adds some crunch.
Interestingly, Ms Lee notes that her grandmother's original recipe included chicken hearts, but they were omitted for the restaurant remake for the sake of the faint-hearted.
A carnivore-pleasing take on sayur lodeh, or vegetable in coconut gravy, Mrs Lee's ayam lodeh works additional chicken meat and lontong (compressed rice cubes) into a luscious coconut milk and rempah-based stew of carrots, long beans, cabbage and tofu. Other versions might include tempeh, or fermented soya bean patties, and local potatoes.
Indonesian by origin, this chicken dish is all about the balance of the heat from freshly cut local chillies and the sweetness of the Indonesian kecap manis sauce, says Ms Lee.
In the version cooked by her grandmother, the chicken is simmered in a hand-pounded rempah that yields a coarsely textured gravy. Less potent than its fiery red colour would suggest, the dish is a complex yet subtle meld of sweet and spicy notes.
The lo kai yik, ayam lodeh and ayam bali ($23 each) are based on three unpublished recipes from Mrs Lee Chin Koon and recreated for the first time by granddaughter Shermay Lee of Shermay's Cooking School for a limited period between Aug 7 and Sept 7 at The Clifford Pier, 80 Collyer Quay.
To make a reservation, call 6597-5266 or e-mail email@example.com
STIR-FRIED BEEF WITH PINEAPPLE
You may be more familiar with Hainanese chicken rice and pork chop, but we bet you didn't know that the immigrants from tropical Hainan island whip up a pretty mean stir-fried beef with pineapple too.
The beef slices' dark-red sticky coating makes the dish resemble the classic Cantonese-style sweet-and-sour pork favourite, but for a few flecks of diced red chilli sprinkled atop. So what you get is a curious fusion of tangy, sweet and hot flavours all at once.
The pineapple chunks are fried till they are caramelised softly, and the beef slices are dusted in cornflour before being stir-fried so they don't taste as gelatinous as the stir-fried beef iterations you typically get at a zhi char stall.
Made traditionally for weddings and to commemorate babies' first-month celebrations, these Hainanese cakes comprise a fragrant filling of shredded coconut fried with ground peanuts and gula melaka encased in a glutinous flour shell.
The dumplings are wrapped and steamed in a banana-leaf wrap until they have just the right amount of chew, and are best eaten hot.
The dish is believed to have fallen out of favour with home cooks because of its laborious preparation process, says Wang Siew Ling, marketing communications manager of Parkroyal on Beach Road.
Both the stir-fried beef with pineapple and yi bua are available at Plaza Brasserie as Parkroyal on Beach Road's Flavours of Old Singapore promotion from Aug 1 to 31.
The dinner buffet runs from 6pm to 10.30pm daily and costs $60++ per adult and $36++ per child.
For reservations, call 6505-5710 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
KELEDEK MASAK LEMAK
The grand dame of Singaporean cooking, Violet Oon, has set her eye on reviving lost dishes in her latest menu update, and she's introduced the keledek masak lemak, or sweet-potato leaves cooked in rich gravy.
Once a staple on traditional Peranakan and Malay dinner tables, the dish is often overlooked in restaurants because the leaves are generally considered a cheap vegetable for those on a budget.
Ms Oon cooks her version in a Nonya rempah of candlenuts, chillies, shallots and belacan, followed by coconut milk to lightly braise the leaves. It's not a classy dish, but rather something you would find as part of a home-cooked meal.
"I would call this a village dish, not a special festival dish to be served on the Nonya Tok Panjang table. But it is these peasant, village, home-cooked dishes that I find totally fascinating, as they invoke a lifestyle of the past," says Ms Oon.
$10; from Violet Oon's Kitchen, 881 Bukit Timah Road. Call 6468-5430.
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