Singapore Food Festival to bring taste of the Far East to the Middle East
Enjoy a taste of the Far East in the UAE next month when the Singapore Food Festival arrives at LuLu Hypermarkets across the country. Taking place from 20th February to 3rd March, the two-week festival will serve up a smorgasbord of Singapore taste sensations, cooking demonstrations as well as daily competitions.
At the Singapore Food Festival visitors can expect to widen their culinary horizons with Singapore’s fusion of Asian flavours. Famous for its cultural and culinary diversity – offering a mix of Chinese, Indian, Malay and British cuisines – Singapore flavours are as varied as they are unique.
More than 20 Singapore food and beverage companies will participate in the Singapore Food Festival, presenting a selection of authentic Singapore cuisine such as ready-to-cook sauces, oodles of noodles, traditional snacks and teas as well as signature dishes like Singapore Chilli Crab and Chicken Rice.
On hand to show just how easy it is to cook authentic Singapore cuisine at home will be celebrity Chef Violet Oon. A distinguished chef, trusted food consultant, researcher and author, Oon is considered the darling of Singapore’s food industry. Dubbed Singapore’s food ambassador, she regularly travels the globe promoting Singapore cuisine on the world stage.
Dishing out a delicious and modern menu, inspired by iconic Singaporean foods, Chef Oon’s Singapore Food Festival repertoire will include the famous Chilli Crab – arguably one of the country’s greatest culinary inventions. This special dish has a sensuous, sweet yet savoury gravy created with a base of chilli and tomato sauces. Other dishes include: Singapore Satay, spiced meat skewers served with a velvety peanut-based sauce; Laksa, smooth rice noodles in a spicy coconut broth; and Chicken Rice, succulent bites of chicken served on fragrant rice.
Visitors to the Singapore Food Festival will also have a chance to win a host of daily prizes. Up for grabs in the main prize draw are three pairs of two-night holidays to Singapore, inclusive of return flights and a stay at Resorts World Sentosa.
With fabulous food, traditional Singapore entertainment, interactive cooking demonstrations and amazing prizes, the Singapore Food Festival promises to be a fun day out for foodies and families. Mark the calendar as this is one culinary destination not to be missed.
The Singapore Food Festival takes place from 20th February to 3rd March at various LuLu Hypermarkets across the UAE.
Chef Violet Oon held a cooking demonstration for the media and food bloggers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and “Bring On the Chef In You”, was one of the privileged invitees.
In Abu Dhabi it was held in a quaint joint called “Partiperfect”, located behind Abu Dhabi Marina Mall. We joined Chef Violet Oon, as she taught us how to make ‘Singapore Satay” and “Chilli Crabs”.
Please read the interview that we conducted with Chef Violet.
Interview with Chef Violet Oon
1. We look forward to seeing you again at the forthcoming Singapore Food Festival that will be held from 20th February, 2013 at Lulu Supermarkets. Please can you explain briefly your role and involvement with the Festival.
I’m very excited about the upcoming Singapore Food Festival. My role during this two-week event is to introduce UAE consumers to the unique flavours of Singapore and show just how easy it is to prepare our cuisine at home using the authentic-tasting food products now stocked by LuLu Hypermarket.
Singapore is famous for its cultural and culinary diversity, offering a mix of Chinese, Indian, Malay and British food. I like to share stories of our modern history when I present Singapore’s food heritage. One ofthe “national dishes” I’ll be demonstrating is Singapore Chilli Crab. Considered a Singapore institution, this dish hasa sensuous, sweet yet savoury gravy created with a base of chili and tomato sauce. Other recipes include Laksa, smooth rice noodles in a spicy coconut broth;Singapore Satay, spiced meat skewers served with a velvety peanut-based sauce; and Chicken Rice, succulent bites of chicken served on fragrant rice.
I find food broadens our worlds in so many ways and I’m really looking forward to playing a part in this cultural exchange between the UAE and Singapore.
2. What did you like about Abu Dhabi during your visit here? How would you compare it to Singapore ?
I loved Abu Dhabi – it shares so many similarities with Singapore, with such a vibrant blend of nationalities in one place. This cultural diversity means people are really open to exploring new cuisines and this is really great for chefs. It gives us the opportunity to craft dishes fused with different flavours from around the world. This also means that there is a lot of potential for Singapore’s F&B companies exporting to this market, as consumers start incorporating our flavours and food products into their daily cooking as well.
I was also really impressed by how many top international restaurants are present in the emirate. Abu Dhabi is really becoming a gastronomic capital. Maybe one day I will bring my restaurant here so I can share the flavours of Singapore with the UAE more permanently!
3. Which is one Singapore delicacy that you would recommend that everyone tries?
I would recommend two delicacies in particular to foodies in the UAE – Singapore Chilli Crabs and Singapore Satay – both are delicious dishes to tuck into!
4. What is your favourite cuisine to cook? Why?
My favourite cuisine is Singapore and our country has evolved a showcase culinary tradition that embodies the texture and flavours that come from Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures in a unique Singapore style and this cuisine continues to fascinate me.
5. What do you feel are the most important characteristics for an upcoming chef?
People speak of passion but that is not enough – an upcoming chef must be able to have physical and mental stamina and not only want to learn, but to be humble enough to know that practice makes perfect.There is no short cut to being a great chef and you have to earn your chops, even if this means peeling many many potatoes to be the perfect potato peeler, for example. I have encountered many young aspiring chefs –andsome have come into my kitchen to work– who feel that they are ready to take on the serious cooking or that they are good enough to handle a station after just one week. It looks easy but it is not as skill is something that takes continuous practice. Developing a discerning palate also takes lots of practice.
6. Which famous chef do you admire most?
I most admire not the famous chefs but that grandmother in your kitchen that cooks that perfect traditional home style dish with all its nuances of colour, texture, flavour and with her obsession with knowing just which ingredient to purchase and from which vendor. This is the chef I admire most, and now that I am a grandmother myself, I do hope that I have become the sort of culinary grandmother that I admire. I never cease to be amazed whenever I visit a home for a meal, to discover the depth of culinary nuance that I encounter at my first bite into a well-cooked family favourite dish. I have loved the food that I have eaten in restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and am always looking out for Middle Eastern food as I so much enjoy the flavours and nuances but I am waiting to be invited to a home to encounter these flavours in their true setting.
7. Can you name 3 ingredients that you always need to have in your kitchen?
For my Singapore kitchen, definitely garlic, chillies and lemongrass.
8. What do you see as today’s most exciting food trend?
Today’s most exciting food trend comes from the fact that people are moving across countries and continents in a manner never seen before. Through travel comes experience of other cultures and other cuisines and many of our food trends to be found in restaurants and eateries reflect the chefs’ exposure to culinary styles and ingredients from other countries. Many of today’s exciting restaurants feature dishes that showcase experiences, ingredients and cooking styles from other cultures. Nowhere is this more evident than in Singapore and even our very traditional restaurants featuring traditional cuisines reflect this. The chefs are sticking to their original traditional dishes but each week or month, you can find new creations that have that “wow” factor. I never cease to be amazed by the creativity shown in every corner in Singapore when I go out to eat. The many cooking and eating shows on TV also influence the way we eat and cook. I am amazed by the breath and range of cooking and eating shows on TV for example.
Diners want their taste buds to be excited and enthused by something new and unusual making an impact. That “wow” factor is so important to the diner today. It is a real discovery time for people who cook and eat and this discovery comes down to the micro level – what type of vanilla to use for example, the discovery of aromatic leaves like kaffir and a Japanese ingredient like Kutzu. It is no more just potatoes and rice or parsley.
9. How important do you feel is the promotion side of the business to become a notable chef ?
I think that the promotion part comes last and first of all a notable chef has to do everything to make him or herself notable from the culinary point of view. In other words, to cook really really well. From my experience, the fame comes on its own. I have never in all my years of eating professionally and cooking at home and in my restaurant kitchens, consciously promoted myself but I have fed many people my food – including other chefs and my journalist friends. I am after all, first and foremost, a professional journalist, having started out as a reporter for a Singapore newspaper in 1971. Perhaps it is unfair for me to say that promotion is not so crucial as I come from within the media and started off by cooking for my media friends. But generally if a restaurant or a street corner snack vendor cooks very good food, there is that best promotion of all which is “word of mouth”. People will start talking and this is more valuable that just PR.
10. Can you share with as the recipe for “Sago Pudding” that you served us during the cooking demonstration ?
10 cups water
200g pearl sago, rinsed and drained
200g palm sugar (also known as gulamelaka), melted in 1/2 cup water over medium heat, strain
2 cups canned coconut milk
Soak the sago pearls in water for 30 minutes. Drain over a sieve. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Gradually stir in the sago so that it does not clump. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cook until the sago turns translucent, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Pour over a sieve, wash the pearls in cold running water till cold and drain again.
Pour into a bowl and add 1 cup coconut milk and half of the gulamelaka syrup. Stir well and add the sago into jelly moulds, and refrigerate overnight.
Unmould the puddings, and serve with the additional coconut milk and gulamelaka syrup separately for each person to pour over their serving.
11. What are your views on healthy eating, e.g. greens / organic food?
In Singapore our traditional cuisines which incorporate Malay, Chinese and Indian culinary traditions, all embody centuries old food for health precepts. From our Malay heritage comes the Jamu food tradition of herbs, from our Chinese heritage comes the yin-yang philosophy of balancing foods to achieve a perfect balance in our bodies and from our Indian heritage comes the Ayurvedic way of living where everything we eat has a benefit or response in our bodies. Our culinary traditionbelieves in preventative health care. Food plays a very important role in this. When we are sick, the first thing we do is alter our diet to introduce more vitamins, less heat or spice, or to rehydrate the body.
A balanced diet is really important to ensure the body gets the fuel it needs and traditional Singapore cuisine always takes this into consideration. Every spice we use has some sort of health advantage, be it ginger for aiding digestion, coriander to reduce cholesterol or chilli to speed up the metabolism.
12. Can you give us a message for our readers and food bloggers in UAE?
I really wish that readers and food bloggers in the UAE will really get to enjoy Singapore food, first via the Singapore Food Festival,and via purchasing the Singapore food ingredients that are going to be available at LuLu Hypermarkets. This is because Singapore, though small, is considered a food lovers’ paradise by top chefs and food critics around the world who have visited Singapore and fallen in love with our food in hawker centres and our great seafood restaurants. From breakfast to supper you can find many corners in Singapore that offer a delectable meal.