Far from playing a supporting role, hard-to-find seasonal greens (and reds and purples) from around the world are leading the menus at some Singapore restaurants. Such veggies are no longer merely garnishes from the garden.
“When vegetables need to fight for their life, they develop a lot more character.”
- Keirin Buck, chef-owner of Le Bon Funk
Well-travelled gourmets have long swooned over the plumpest white and green asparagus in German farmers’ markets, or blue-striped potatoes in Peruvian mercados, but found it impossible to enjoy the same variety in Singapore.
Unlike premium-brand meats like Omi wagyu or San Daniele prosciutto, seasonal greens have been difficult to source and expensive to import. But things are changing. Chef Alain Passard led the charge when he removed meat from his three-Michelin-starred restaurant L’Arpege in Paris, and Netfl ix’s Chef’s Table series lovingly showcased chef and farm-to-table advocate Dan Barber’s farming revolution at his Blue Hill restaurants.
In Singapore, a coterie of talented, seasonally-sensitive chefs is not just using locally grown greens where possible, but is going to great lengths to bring in produce from around the world.
One of them is Keirin Buck, chef-owner of natural wine bar and kitchen Le Bon Funk. “Using ingredients grown in the proper climate and during their natural season will always produce a better product,” he says. This conviction is reflected in his restaurant’s au naturel philosophy, using ingredients at the peak of their freshness and employing the age-old technique of fermentation for flavor.
Buck, whose parents are organic farmers in Canada, draws up daily menus based on what’s truly seasonal. He has no qualms about taking items off if his favourite vegetables are not up to scratch on a particular day.
He also notes that outdoor soil-grown tomatoes (as opposed to indoor hydroponically grown ones) like the French pineapple tomato are extra-sweet and full of flavor from being battered by the wind, rain and hot sun. “When vegetables need to fight for their life, they develop a lot more character.” Plants commonly grown hydroponically may lack complex, deep flavors that are influenced by the elements. So the spotlight is moving to nature’s bounty – vegetables
TEXT JUNE LEE PHOTOGRAPHY VERONICA TAY, TAN WEI TE, DARREN CHANG ART DIRECTION SHAN