Singapore’s food and beverage scene is the most diverse in Asia. Its local cuisine, called nyonya, a marriage of southern Chinese and native Malay with strong roots in Indonesia’s Padang, is varied, to begin with. Throw in foreign fare from expat chefs and contemporary Australian, Sri Lankan street food, and the range becomes even richer and more colorful.
This diversity is cause for celebration, and that’s exactly what the Singapore Food Festival (SFF) aims to do.
Now on its 27th installment, the annual gastronomic event hosted by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) showcases the best of the country’s delicacies and cultural heritage. It sets the stage not just for is cuisine, but also for its culinary talents.
Some time ago, they had a two-day outdoor food fair called Streat, a 50-cent fest where people could savor authentic 1930s dishes like Kerabu Bee Hoon from S$.050, a day celebrating all things curry, film showings, and even a beer and yoga activity.
Given the lockdown, this year’s lineup is different.
“SFF is a popular event and usually has a significant number of visitors. Due to the current pandemic, large-scale events are not permitted to resume yet,” says Ruby Liu, STB’s area director for Philippines. “Thus, we came up with the idea of holding the event virtually so that Singapore can continue to delight foodies around the world. The event can enable everyone to stay in touch with Singapore and our food from the comfort and safety of their own homes.”
The past few months have definitely been bleak for Singapore’s F&B industry, like everywhere else, and though challenging, they felt the need to push through with the celebration to rekindle interest in their food and establishments.
Neighborhood food joints
The 2020 Singapore Food Festival, ongoing until Aug. 30, is taking place online. Since staying home is still advised, Toh Thiam Wei and Olivia Chey I-Shing lead interested parties on a virtual food tour. There are two options—one takes guests around the Katong neighborhood, and the other to traditional eateries.
The former brings people to the Joo Chiat precinct, a lifestyle district with multiethnic influences. The tour lasts two hours and includes three dine-in and two grab-and-go stops.
Among the notable detours are Chip Guan Heng, which sells old-school hawker ice cream; Guan Hoe Soon, which is the oldest nyonya restaurant in Singapore; and Kway Guan Huat, where people queue for popiah and kueh pie tee.
The tour titled “Traditional Tastes” guides guests to Tanjong Pagar and Chinatown, both culturally rich districts that beautifully blend the old and new. Guests see historical landmarks among commercial buildings. The stops include Tan Hock Seng, an 89-year-old brand selling Hokkien pastries; Foong Kee, which serves a winning char siew and wonton mee combo; and Old Amoy Chendol for the beloved pandan jelly and red bean shaved ice dessert.
Class in session
Online master classes are being held.
Last weekend featured the preparation of the traditional ayam gulai by Jumrin Isrin, cod fish wok fried porridge by Elton Seah and Joy Chen, and ayam goreng chilli and udang masak lemak nanas by Violet Oon.
Celebrity chef Emmanuel Stroobant made laksa with mussels, while pastry chef Cheryl Koh baked mini eclairs and calamansi meringue tart.
Beverages were represented by a classic cocktail class taught by Colin Chia of Nutmeg & Clove bar, and a virtual tasting of Brewerkz’s Passion Gao Siew Dai, the SFF’s official beer.
The classes are interactive. Not only can the participants send their questions on Facebook, they can also cook with them by purchasing the food bundles available in SFF’s official website.
“Despite the challenging times, chefs have been creative in coming up with solutions to adjust to the situation,” says Liu. “One example is the food kits that chef Ming Tan created, so that foodies could enjoy his dishes while at home.”
In the class called “2Fast, 2Delicious—Hokks and Clay” held last Saturday night, Ming Tan of Slake, who was in a kitchen studio in Singapore, virtually worked with Margarita Fores who was in Bahay na Puti in Quezon City. Each did their own version of all-time favorite dishes hokkien mee and claypot rice at the same time.
Tan used his Damn Easy Hokkien Mee packet to do a clam, prawn and bacon number, while Fores had three types of noodles—bihon, canton and miki—cooked in a river prawn broth, then topped with crispy pork belly, squid and dried fish. It was served with a belachan and crab fat condiment.
Fores’ claypot rice interpretation came as vegetable rolls, with the rice, etag and chorizo wrapped in steamed broccoli tops. Tan went the traditional route and served his with goose liver sausage and presented it as a rice bowl.
Next weekend’s lineup includes Julien Royer of Odette, who will show viewers how to make the French classic Paris-Brest. Dave Pynt of Burnt Ends will present char siew smoked ribs and his sought after Milo Dinosaur doughnut. Malcolm Lee of Peranakan restaurant Candlenut will share his recipe for ayam buah keluak, and Jeremy Nguee will teach the making of kuehs like the red tortoise cake and ondeh-ondeh.Traveling might not be ideal for now, but with STB’s efforts, we still get to celebrate and taste the best food and beverage that Singapore has to offer. —CONTRIBUTED
The online masterclasses and food tours are free. Visit singaporefoodfestival.com. Special thanks to STB.
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