Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coming up with re-interpreted local dishes fit for APEC


Mr Teo, Ah Tan, Ah Lim and Ali were busy flipping through pieces of papers in their hands. On the white board, the words "Re-interpreted Local Favourites" was written. Mr Teo put down his stack of papers and looked up.

MR TEO: Gentlemen, shall we start? No worries about sounding ridiculous, just say out loud whatever that comes to your mind, and we can brainstorm from there. After all, we're not chefs.

All three men nodded in agreement and Mr Teo walked over to the whiteboard.

MR TEO: Okay, before we start, remember this. We want to offer local delicacies, but we don't want to look cheap. After all, those are world leaders. Plus we need to show these people that Singapore might be small, but we are rich and high class.
AH TAN: Shall we start with the starter? The chefs have suggested Rojak, but I'm rather hesitant with this choice as I know that prawn paste is not something that everybody appreciate, especially those ang mohs.
AH LIM: Hmm... maybe we should remove the prawn paste then? I know what! How about use chilli crab sauce instead? We can also add some Sri Lanka crab meat!
AH TAN: Er... Ah Lim, don't you think chilli crab sauce is kind of heavy for a starter?
AH LIM: Okay, so we forgo the sauce, just add the crab!
ALI: Why crab? I can never imagine crab and Rojak together...
AH LIM: But crab is one of the most expensive food that you can get at Clarke Quay!
MR TEO: But crab doesn't have the class.

The three men turned their head to look at Mr Teo.

MR TEO: Crab sounds too... how do I put it? Too unglam. Too rugged. I think lobster will be a better choice.
AH TAN, AH LIM (together): Oh yes! Lobster!
ALI: Lobster in a Rojak?
AH TAN: Yap, if we can have lobster salad, we can have lobster Rojak! And I suggest replacing those cucumber and tulip slices with watermelon cubes!
AH LIM, ALI (together): Watermelon?!?
AH TAN: Yes, watermelon! Firstly, it's a sweet and juicy fruit that can complement the taste of seafood, secondly it's a tropical fruit, and thirdly, it's in red and with the white lobster meat, it resembles our national colour!
MR TEO (grinning): Good idea, Tan!
AH LIM: Do we want to add some sauce to it? Like wasabi sauce?
MR TEO (shaking his finger): No, no, no... I've got a better idea. Caviar. Just a spoonful of caviar is enough to bring the whole dish up the luxury level.
AH TAN, AH LIM, ALI (together): Wow! Caviar!

Mr Teo paused a while staring at the whiteboard, then wrote "Poached lobster with watermelon and Japanese caviar".

AH LIM: And the other starter is Soto Ayam. I'll suggest changing the chicken to tiger prawns. Seafood more high class.
ALI: Er... Brudder, this is Soto Ayam and ayam means chicken you know? If we were to use tiger prawns, it'll become prawn noodles?
MR TEO: I agree with Ali. We want to change the cooking technique but retain the flavours. When you try the Soto Ayam and close your eyes, it should be exactly the flavour.
AH TAN: Maybe we could swap the chicken meat with turkey breast? Or pigeon meat? Turkeys, pigeons and chicks all belong to the same bird family, so we should be able to retain the ayam in Soto Ayam yeh?

Mr Teo rubbed his chin as he pore over what Ah Tan has just suggested.

MR TEO (shaking his head): No, Tan. I think I'll prefer the chicken to stay. Turkey sounds too... Christmas, and pigeons remind me of Hong Kong. I don't want these people to eat something here that reminds them of somewhere else.
AH LIM: So we retain the chicken but add tiger prawns?
ALI: Ah doi, you really like tiger prawns yeh?
AH LIM: Because tiger prawn is one of the most expensive food that you can get at Newton Circus!
AH TAN: I think I'll prefer scallop. Scallop is rather bland, so it will not change the taste of the soup. Plus scallop is expensive.
MR TEO: Fantastic! We should add scallop then!

Mr Teo wrote "Soto ayam with scallop mousse" on the whiteboard excitedly.

AH TAN: Sir, according to the menu, the suggested main course is braised beef short ribs. Isn't that Western food?
MR TEO: And your point?
AH TAN: There's nothing in this dish that signifies Singapore.
AH LIM: Yah, why not Bak Kut Teh or Chicken Rice instead?
MR TEO: No, guys. Though we want these visitors to have a taste of our local food, the main dish has to be Western. Only Western food is high class enough. You can't possibly serve these world leaders what the commoners eat at the hawker centers right?
AH TAN: Maybe we could add some five-spice sauce to the meat? At least make it more... exotic?
MR TEO (nodding): That's a good idea though.

On the whiteboard, Mr Teo wrote "Braised beef short ribs in five-spice sauce".

AH TAN: And last but not least, we've got Cheng Teng Jelly for dessert.
AH LIM: What's Cheng Teng jelly? It's either Cheng Teng or Grass Jelly. But Cheng Teng jelly? What are our top chefs thinking?
AH TAN: Ah Lim, this is fusion food! It's supposed to be cooked up with concoction of things that create confusion!
ALI: Just jelly? No coconut cream?
AH LIM: Yah, I agree with Ali! Like agar-agar, some coconut cream will make this whatever jelly more fragrant!
MR TEO: Coconut cream huh... hmm... but with a largely middle-aged crowd, we want the meals to be healthier, with less salt and sugar. Coconut cream is not very healthy right?
AH TAN: Panna cotta.

All heads turned to look at Ah Tan, puzzled by the words that he has just uttered.

AH TAN: We can add a panna cotta base to the jelly.
AH LIM: Er... Ah Tan, what is panna cotta? I only know Pina Colada.
AH TAN: Hahaha... Panna cotta is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar. Then this mixture is again mixed with gelatin, and let to cool till set.
ALI: Still milk what. Just that it has a fancy name.
MR TEO: But this fancy name sounds more high class! Okay, we shall have this then.

Finally, Mr Teo wrote "Cheng Teng jelly with a panna cotta base" on the whiteboard.



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