What's new at the 2017 Singapore Food Festival

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SINGAPORE: How does a stalwart food festival remain interesting after 24 years? It’s all about keeping things unexpected whilst staying true to tradition. And that means unusual pairings like local kuehs with cocktails, hawker fare with wine, food with contemporary dance for a unique interactive dining experience and Candlenut chef Malcolm Lee with Wild Rocket chef Willin Low for their first collaboration.

“Savour Singapore in Every Bite”- that’s what organisers of the next month’s Singapore Food Festival (SFF) are encouraging all local gourmands attending this year’s culinary event to do. This year’s theme pays tribute to all things Singaporean, aiming to not only celebrate heritage and flavours but also honour the people who work passionately to keep homegrown gastronomic traditions alive.

“Food is tied so closely to our identity of being Singaporean. One dish alone can tell stories of passions, struggles and of our heritage,” said director of Attractions, Dining and Retail at Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Ranita Sundramoorthy. “At this year’s SFF, for example, dishes won’t just feature local flavours, but also local ingredients. We are also excited about the various partner events that highlight Singapore’s culture and history, such as heritage food tours, talks and dining experiences.”

Goldleaf Restaurant’s famous Ngoh Hiang. It will be taking part in Singapore Restaurant Festival which is part of the Singapore Food Festival. (Photo: Natasha Razak)

This year’s festival offers up to 20 different epicurean experiences and events, including anchor event STREAT which features a curated medley of Singaporean food establishments and a pop-up restaurant. At the helm are chef Malcolm Lee of Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant Candlenut, and Wild Rocket’s Willin Low, who is widely recognised as one of the founders of Mod-Sin cuisine.

The pair will present contemporary interpretations of local classics, through a three-course Mod-Sin and modern Peranakan Tok Panjang menu. In addition, they will work together to select nine stalls, each helmed by young “hawkerpreneurs” and chefs with their own unique spin on quintessentially local dishes.

Participating vendors hail from familiar establishments including New Ubin Seafood, Peranakan Khek Whampoa Prawn Noodle, and the winning Singapore culinary team which clinched the gold medal at the 2016 Ika Hoga Culinary Olympics. There will also be first-time collaborations between popular zi-char stall Keng Eng Kee (KEK) and Good Chance Popiah as well as contemporary eateries such Taste Affair and The Masses.

Wild Rocket chef and founder of Mod-Sin cusine Willin Low (left) will be helming STREAT with Michelin-starred Candlenut chef Malcolm Lee to collaborate on a pop-up restaurant. (Photo: Natasha Razak)

Other noteworthy SFF events and unique pairings include The Hawker Wine Safari which will see artisanal New World wines from Australia and New Zealand paired with 2016 Bib Gourmand eats from stalls like Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee at Tiong Bahru Market and Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Hawker Centre.

There is also Project Plait: Inheritance – a food-meets-dance collaboration between Jiakpalang’s executive chef Nixon Low and dancer-choreographer Naomi Tan – which offers Singaporean’s first interactive dining experience that combines cuisine with contemporary dance.

And for those with a sweet tooth, Rainbow Lapis – a local company that specialises in local heritage desserts – will be collaborating with three other Singaporean companies for a kueh pairing workshop series.  From pairing sessions with specially concocted bespoke cocktails at Bar Stories (22nd July) to Kaldi’s Berry specialty coffee (Jul 23) and Tea Chapter’s brew (Jul 15), these hands-on workshops also focuses on teaching how to make the traditional kuehs itself.

The Rainbow cocktail inspired by the iconic rainbow lapis.  Available at Bar Stories as part of the Kueh Pairing Workshop series (Photo: Genevieve Loh)

For those seeking out more tipple, Singapore boutique bottled cocktail brand, Sunday Punch, will be concocting two new flavours. There is the East Side, which is a refreshing gin cocktail infused with laksa leaves in homage to the famous Katong Laksa and Kopi B, a local take on the classic cocktail the Boulevardier by incorporating Singapore’s distinct local coffee roast. Both cocktails will be available online exclusively during the SFF and served at STREAT 2017.

Finally, making its debut at the SFF will be the inaugural Singapore Tea Festival (Jul 22 to 23) which is organised and presented by local heritage tea retailer The 1872 Clipper Tea Co.  Highlights of the festival include a “Teapitiam”, a pop-up cafe offering a Burpple-curated medley of tea-inspired and tea-infused foods from Singapore companies like special edition Ugnuts by Bird Bird, gelato from Birds of Paradise and earl grey tea cakes by Inthebrickyard. There will also be a tea market showcasing new creations by local tea brands such as Hush Tea and Pin Tea.

Ugnuts or ugly donuts created by Bjorn Shen of Bird Bird, featuring The 1872 Clipper Tea Co.’s Blissful Berries and Jasmine Green Tea (Photo: Natasha Razak)

“Tea has always been intergral to our local culture,” said The 1872 Clipper Tea Co.’s general manager Micheas Chan. “The Singapore Tea Festival is the amalgamation of a growing tea movement of homegrown brands and craftsman who are proudly continuing tea’s local story and evolution.”

Singapore Food Festival 2017 runs from Jul 14 to 30.

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