World Chefs: Franco-Asian exotica on Singapore skyline

Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:50pm EDT
 
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By Daniel Magnowski

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - After launching fine dining restaurants in Taipei and Shanghai over the past half decade, Singapore's best known chef, Justin Quek, has come home.

With dishes like xiao long bao -- a delicate Chinese dumpling -- filled with truffle consomme and foie gras, the French-trained chef is hailed for his daring, artful blends of Asian and French ingredients and techniques.

Quek's new restaurant, "Sky on 57," which overlooks Singapore from the peak of a gleaming casino and hotel complex, is part of an influx of big-name chefs into the city-state as new money, proximity to Asia's growing economies, and slick tourist attractions draw businesses and visitors.

Among foreigners, Singapore is often referred to as "Asia-lite" or "Asia for beginners" -- where travelers can sample the fiery spices, aromatic broths and deep-flavored stews of the region without needing to endure the discomforts of Southeast Asia's sweaty jungles or its less accommodating cities.

Quek spoke to Reuters about Singapore's culinary heritage, and how he blends Asian and French cooking.

Q: Singapore is known as a food-obsessed city. What makes it so special here?

A: "We're very small, and in our history until recently we've been a so-called clean, obedient city, so all you can do is eat. The street food is great. South Chinese immigrants into Singapore -- Hakka, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hokkien -- they brought their culinary skills with them, and Singapore is surrounded by Malaysia and Indonesia -- that's where it started to fuse. When the first wave (of immigrants) couldn't get the ingredients they were used to, they improvised, started to eat chili, blending, improvising, until it becomes habit. It's Chinese mixing with Malay: in China they use oil, Malay cooking uses coconut milk."

Q: What are the thought processes behind your combinations?   Continued...

 
<p>A view of "Sky on 57" restaurant at the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino complex in Singapore in this undated publicity photo. Singaporean chef Justin Quek's new restaurant "Sky on 57," which overlooks Singapore from the peak of a gleaming casino and hotel complex, is part of an influx of big-name chefs into the city-state as new money, proximity to Asia's growing economies, and slick tourist attractions draw businesses and visitors. REUTERS/Handout</p>