Enjoy unique takes on heritage dishes by Singapore MasterChef finalists
CNA Lifestyle Experiences: It’s a smorgasbord for the senses at the Becoming Singapore heritage tour and lunch.
If you’re eager to learn about the culture and history that lies undiscovered in your own backyard, spend a day on the Becoming Singapore heritage trail.
Becoming Singapore is a new television series hosted by Eunice Olsen that delves into the history of Singapore and its people through Olsen’s own journey of discovery.
And for this edition of CNA Lifestyle Experiences, you and your friend can be a part of it, discovering the secrets of some of the locations that will be featured on the show, along with some of its knowledgeable guests.
The tour ends with a scrumptious buffet spread of heritage dishes with unique touches, specially created by MasterChef Singapore finalists.
In the meantime, here's a look at what you'll be getting.
FOLLOW THE TRAIL OF DISCOVERY
Start your day at Fort Canning, where Professor John Miksic will show you evidence that past settlements weren’t just trading villages – instead, complex and prosperous societies have existed in Singapore since the 14th century.
Then, at Raffles Place, fourth-generation chettiar Subbiah Lakshmanan, whose Indian ancestors formed the backbone of Singapore’s economy, will show you how the area has changed and evolved – not even one brick has remained the same since the 1970s.
Move on to Kampong Glam, where cultural historian Faris Joraimi will reveal how the area was once an intellectual and printing hub for Malays in Southeast Asia.
The next stop is the Siong Leng Musical Association, where Seow Ming Xian, like his mother and grandmother before him, aims to preserve, promote and develop Nanyin, an ancient Chinese music art form that can be traced back to the southern province of Fujian in China. Try your hand at the Nanyin and have tea in the quaint shophouse.
After that, proceed to lunch at The National Museum, where MasterChef Singapore finalists Shamsydar Ani, Sharon Gonzago and Genevieve “Gen” Lee will be waiting to share their heritage-inspired dishes.
WORK UP AN APPETITE
The meal starts off with Rojak Pie Tee, a refreshing twist on the familiar kueh pie tee. Instead of turnip, egg and spice, the delicate shells are filled with pineapple, parsnip, Asian pear, jackfruit and Japanese cucumber, drizzled with a rojak sauce that’s made with gula melaka. It’s a much lighter, appetite-stimulating take on the traditional Peranakan dish.
Then, feast your eyes on this show-stopper of a rice dish: Gonzago’s blue pea flower Nasi Ulam. She calls this work of art her “passion”, and it’s not hard to see why – it features eight different herbs grown in her own garden. These must be picked while they are very tender in order to achieve the right taste, she explained.
The dish is so labour intensive that it’s rarely found in restaurants, requiring a chiffonade of herbs sliced paper-thin. It’s cooked with fish flakes and kerisik or fried coconut paste, and stained a beautiful blue with butterfly pea flower. Eat the impossibly fragrant rice with hand-pounded sambal belacan and slivers of salted egg.
If you’re a fan of otah – and who isn’t? – prepare to surprise your taste buds with this version of Seafood Otah. Instead of a blended fish paste, the otah here consists of pieces of prawn, sea bass and squid wrapped up in banana leaf and steamed with spiced coconut egg custard. It’s soft, moist and flavourful, and the quality of the ingredients shines through.
Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek Rendang is a dish that’s near to Shamsydar’s heart: The recipe was prised out of her mother with no little effort. Each year at Hari Raya, she said, her sister would ask their mother how to make the dish, and each year, their mother would mention a new and different ingredient. She thinks she’s finally nailed it, using lime instead of assam and serving up fork-tender chunks of beef.
She recommends eating the rendang together with the dish of lightly grilled vegetables, served with her fresh chilli sambal.
The Soya Sauce Chicken Roulade is a twist on traditional chicken rice chicken and is presented by Lee, whose family runs a chicken rice eatery.
The slow-poached chicken is served in a soy sauce made with 12 different spices, a top-secret family recipe. She decided to make the chicken into a roulade, she said, because she’s noticed a preference for boneless chicken among diners these days. Accompanying the chicken are slices of crisp chicken skin, calamansi chilli and scallion oil.
Then there’s her Black Garlic XO Chargrilled Barramundi – fillets of fish topped with crisp, chewy crowns of premium XO sauce, black garlic and dried scallops.
It’s always said that one must save room for dessert, but in this case, we’ll say it twice.
Start with Shamsydar’s Ondeh Ondeh Cake Bars, which put many other renditions of ondeh ondeh cake to shame: These are light and fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness, and so easy to inhale. Her cake is made with freshly extracted pandan juice, frosted with tangy cream cheese, drizzled with gula melaka and topped with pretty pandan coconut milk tuile.
Save Lee’s Orh Nee Opera cake for last. The layers of pumpkin sponge and yam cream, topped with ube polvoron crumble, are harmonious backup singers for the fragrance of the fried shallots baked into the cake. It’s an intriguing dessert experiment that somehow actually works.
Finally, after you're fed and satisfied, watch the exclusive first episode premiere of Becoming Singapore with host Eunice Olsen.
Catch Becoming Singapore starting Jan 28 at 9pm on Channel NewsAsia.
TERMS & CONDITIONS