Welcome to the very first episode of the up-sized, all-new Makan Kakis! And from our rolling panel of foodie friends & gourmet gurus, we kick things off with Shermay Lee, whose award-winning cookbooks feature recipes from her beloved Grandmother, the late Mrs Lee Chin Koon, who was the author of the famous Mrs Lee’s Cookbook, and was widely recognised as the doyenne of Peranakan cuisine in Singapore.
This week’s recommendation is one very close to Shermay’s heart, especially since it features a carefully curated menu of dishes for the Clifford Pier, created from recipes handed down through generations of her family and most recently, from her late grandmother to her. These are a combination of published and unpublished recipes (grandma’s handwritten notes and all), so it’s exciting to note that you’ll be tasting some very personal family recipes.
These dishes will take you back through years of Singapore’s culinary heritage and give you a taste of local comfort food you remember from the 50s – 80s and perhaps even earlier! Yes, it’s food nostalgia, remembering those yummy dishes Grandma used to cook for you, yet elevated and served in the gorgeously historical Clifford Pier, so it’s no coincidence this special menu launches just in time for our National Day weekend. So onwards, proud Singaporeans, to the deliciousness!
Lo Gai Yik * – a chicken wing and pork stew, but oh, so much more! This is an authentic rendition of that now-hard-to-find poor man’s food, which featured nose-to-tail cooking long before it became a trendy thing. Back then, it was making economical use of the entire animal, especially the cheap cuts others would discard and transforming them into something profoundly delicious. Brace your bellies and imagine chicken wings, fatless, gelatinous pig’s skin, pork belly, pig intestines, dried cuttlefish, tau pok and kangkong, braised for hours in an intense, complex sauce made from a careful balance of hoisin, tau cheo (fermented salty bean paste) & nam yee (red preserved tofu). In Shermay’s grandma’s handwritten notes, she included sea cucumber in the recipe and staying true to its roots, Shermay’s recipe for Clifford Pier also includes soft Korean sea cucumbers that add extra silkiness to the dish and just soak up all the flavours of the sauce. The result is a comforting taste of history – tender meat, a perfectly brown-pink (from the hoisin), salty-sweet, rich in umami gravy and on the palate, a rich, collagen-y mouthfeel. The Lo Gai Yik is served with hot rice, extra hoisin so you can adjust the sweetness to your taste and a chilli sauce that is spicy and tangy to cut through all that richness and balance things out.
Hainanese Kurobuta Pork Chop – a juicy, substantial, quality chop that is encrusted with bashed up soda biscuits (this household cracker was a war-time staple during the colonial era) for crunch, served with fried sliced potatoes with that smoky, “wok hei” flavour and a western-Hainanese soy-ginger gravy, along with onions and peas. It’s all about paying tribute to our Colonial culinary roots and the skilled Hainanese chefs who cooked with their hearts and souls, taking Western dishes and putting their own Asian spin on them.
Nonya Chicken Curry and Roti Jala – an authentic Nonya curry based on Shermay’s own secret blend of spices and based on her grandmother’s original Peranakan recipe. Truth be told, a Nonya curry should taste different from a Malay, Indian or even Chinese-style curry. Yes, it’s lemak, but its flavour is boosted by turmeric and coriander. Best of all, the rich curry is served not with the usual rice or bread, but with Roti Jala – a delicate, lacy, eggy pancake that’s an almost forgotten delicacy and virtually impossible to find, unless you still make it yourself at home. These are freshly-handcrafted with a traditional Roti Jala dispenser.
And these are other wonderful dishes worth trying, that didn’t make it on to our radio show simply because of time constraints:
Ayam Lodeh* – traditional mild, fragrant Malay coconut curry of chicken, long beans, carrots, cabbage, tofu (taukua) and rice cubes (lontong), served with prawn crackers (keropok udang)
Ayam Bali * – tantalising dish of chicken simmered in a hand-pounded rempah base that creates a perfect and deliberately coarse-textured chilli sauce with the sweet notes of Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis).
Tau You Bak (Kong Ba Bao) – tender, caramelised pork belly slices simmered in a garlicky soy gravy, served with pillowy-soft steamed bread buns (mantou) and a soft-boiled egg with unctuous yolk on the side.
Hainanese Steak – Wok-seared beef fillet in gravy of Worcestershire and soy sauces, served on hot white rice. This a great example of comfort food with that traditional Colonial-Hainanese, east-west flavour!
Colonial Bacon-Wrapped Roast Chicken – Bacon-wrapped chicken marinated with shallots, Chinese wine and soy sauce with potato balls (remember pomme noisettes from the ’80s?) and ginger chicken gravy.
*From unpublished hand-written recipes Shermay Lee inherited from her grandmother, Mrs Lee Chin Koon, which have for the first time ever, been recreated for this limited period.
These eight dishes by Shermay Lee, priced at $23++ each, will be available on top of the restaurant’s all-day dining menu, from 7 August to 7 September 2014.
The Clifford Pier
The Fullerton Bay Hotel
80 Collyer Quay
Open: 11.30am to 10.00pm daily
Reservations: (65) 6597 5266/ www.chope.com.sg