These four traditional local ingredients have been modernised for contemporary palates; give the newfangled versions a whirl.
SALTED EGG This preserved food product is made by soaking duck egg in brine, then boiling or steaming it. The salted egg white is known for its sharp saltiness, and its yolk, its unctuous quality. Thanks to its umami taste, the salted egg yolk has been having a renaissance of late, with its creamy, molten form appearing within buns, baos and even croissants. Chef Jason Tan of Corner House was looking to create a macaron in a new savoury flavour when inspiration struck while tucking into a liu sha bao. Taking things further for a new bar snack is Luke Whearty, head bartender at Operation Dagger, who cures the yolk in salt and sugar for a couple of days so it becomes hard, then grates it very finely over charred asparagus for his signature Asparagus & Cured Egg Yolk snack.
The Egg at Operation Dagger (7 Ann Siang Hill, tel: 6438-4057, www.facebook.com/operationdagger)
A salted egg yolk liqueur – made by curing yolks for 24 hours with sugar, salt, rum, caramel and vanilla – is shaken with ice and strained into a custom-made egg-shaped ceramic cup. The cup is then placed in a bell jar partially Flled with smoked star anise and hay, and served.
Salted egg macarons at Corner House (EJH Corner House, Singapore Botanic Gardens, tel: 6469-1000, www.cornerhouse.com.sg)
Salted egg yolk is pan-fried with butter until golden brown and fragrant, then passed through a sieve to ensure a smooth paste. This is added to an emulsified white chocolate mixture, which is then chilled and made into the macaron fjlling.
Salted Egg Black Sesame Cake at Dapper Coffee (Level 2, 73 Amoy Street, tel: 9005-4790, www.dappercoffee.com)
This light and airy black sesame chifon cake boasts black sesame frosting topped with a drizzle of salted egg yolk custard and salted egg crumble.
GULA MELAKA Best known for its use in traditional local desserts, gula melaka is made from the sap of coconut palm, which gives it its distinctive robustness with hints of cocoa, coconut, caramel and even cinnamon. The layer of nuanced flavours on top of the sweetness is what chefs love most about it. Plus, it adds an unmistakeable Asian quality to whichever dish it is in. Lepark’s kitchen director Athejo Chia likes to use it as a barbecue sauce and in braised dishes, while Daniel Teo, ice-cream maker at Seriously Ice Cream, favours more unusual mash-ups, seeing it as a good counter-flavour to ingredients such as sea salt, star anise and Szechuan pepper.
Spicy Gula Melaka Pork Ribs at Lepark (Level 6 People’s Park Complex, tel: 6908-5809, www.lepark.co)
A local spin on the traditional honey-glazed pork ribs, the dish sees pork ribs marinated in herbs, then cooked in a mirepoix (a mix of onions, carrots and celery) for about three hours, after which they’re dipped in a gula-melaka-and-chillipadi sauce and then baked on high heat. They’re glazed again with the sauce before the dish is served.
Miso Gula Melaka ice cream at Seriously Ice Cream (Block 4, Everton Park, #01-44, tel: 9621-6889, www.facebook.com/seriouslyicecream)
Stemming from the idea of creating a sweet and savoury ice cream flavour, the Miso Gula Melaka sees both the palm sugar and miso mixed into a custard base, as well as folded in during the churning process in a gelato machine.
Kecap manis pork ribs with gula melaka mustard at Dusk by Slake (#01-22 Timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, tel: 8238-3163, www.timbreplus.sg/community/ dusk-by-slake)
Chef Jeremy Cheok drew inspiration from German sweet mustard to come up with the gula melaka version that comes with this dish. Its sweet molasses flavour enhances the toastiness of meats – in this instance, pork ribs slow-cooked in a local kecap manis marinade before being flame-grilled.
BUAH KELUAK This black nut is a notoriously difficult ingredient to work with. Firstly, its fresh fruit and seeds contain hydrogen cyanide, and are deadly poisonous if consumed without prior preparation and fermentation. Secondly, its distinct pungency and slight bitterness can be quite an acquired taste. Many diners know the ingredient through the Peranakan dish ayam buah keluak, where the nut is used to create a rich stew. “It is a very nostalgic flavour for me,” says chef Malcolm Lee of Candlenut Kitchen. “Every time we cook it, there’d be a fragrance of chocolate and coffee. That [inspired the use of ] buah keluak in a dessert.” Ryan Wee, chef-owner of Hambaobao, likens the nut to truffles, and indeed, it can be made into tapenades (a dish of finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil) or used as a finishing seasoning.
Laksa Pesto Linguini with King Prawns at Wild Rocket (Level 1 Hangout@ Mt Emily, 10A Upper Wilkie Road, tel: 6339-9448, www.wildrocket.com.sg)
Laska leaves replace the usual basil in chef Willin’s pesto sauce, which also features pine nuts, sunflower seeds, fresh chilli padi and olive oil. Served with pasta and prawns, the sauce is equally delightful as a spread on breads and canapes.
Coconut, Laksa Leaf Ice Cream, Pomelo & Green Chilli at Cheek by Jowl (21 Boon Tat Street, tel: 6221-1911, www.cheekbyjowl.com.sg)
Laksa leaves are infused in milk overnight, after which the milk is turned into ice cream. The other components of the dish: coconut semifreddo and a green chilli sauce made from stock thickened with sugar. The dish is dressed up with crushed peanuts, fresh pomelo and fried laksa leaves.
Laksa cocktail at Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall (Level 2 60 Boat Quay, tel: 6535-0838, www.facebook.com/ahsamcolddrinkstall)
Essentially the traditional laksa dish in the form of a cocktail, this drink sees a base vodka given a savoury boost with a dried shrimp (hae bee) fat wash before fresh lemongrass, chilli padi, fresh laksa leaf, simple sugar syrup, fresh lime juice and coconut cream are added, shaken, then served
LAKSA LEAF Wild Rocket chef Willin Low’s signature laksa pesto linguine is arguably the dish that proves it is definitely possible to reinvent the wheel when it comes to using traditional ingredients. “Laksa has a long list of ingredients, but the leaf stands out because in Singapore, it is almost exclusively used for laksa. I felt a Singaporeanstyle pesto would be the best way to showcase the herb in a pasta dish,” explains Willin.
Since then, the aromatic leaf has appeared in cocktails and most recently, as an ice cream flavour at Cheek by Jowl – its chef Rishi Naleendra loves it for its freshness, heat and aroma. Chef Willin also recommends using it in meaty broths together with holy basil to give the broth a burst of herby fragrance.
Balukoo Wanton at Black Nut (2 Emerald Hill Road, tel: 6738-8818, www.facebook.com/blacknutsg)
Here, the black nut is added to the stuffing mix of finely diced pork, prawns and water chestnuts flavoured with coriander, spring onions, five-spice powder, garlic and ginger, wrapped with wonton skins and deep-fried. The wontons go well with the eatery’s homemade sambal chilli dip.
Buah Keluak Ice Cream at Candlenut (#01-03 Dorsett Residences, 331 New Bridge Road, tel: 8121-4107, www.candlenut.com.sg)
This is made from buah keluak and Valrhona chocolate. To retain the saltiness and spicy elements of a traditional buah keluak dish, salted caramel and chilli chocolate crumble are added. The dessert is finished off with warm chocolate espuma (culinary foam).
Ayam Buah Keluak burger at Hambaobao (#04-49 Beauty World Centre, 144 Upper Bukit Timah Road, tel: 9667-5254, www.facebook.com/hambaobaosg)
The patty is made of minced chicken, rempah and buah keluak, and topped off with homemade sambal belachan and chap chye for a truly Singapore-flavoured burger.