The Great Singapore Sale is ending, but what do Singaporeans like to do after shopping? EAT! So just appropriately, the Singapore Food Festival (SFF) is starting. For 2010, SFF is zooming in on specialty dishes from the various Chinese dialect groups - the Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese, etc.
From 16 to 25 July, it's a power-packed line-up of feasting to be had. In case you are wondering, like I did, non-Chinese food is not forgotten. There will be promotions from participating eateries. But the main theme seeks to highlight not only how Chinese food is non-homogenous, but also how it has evolved locally, sometimes resulting in totally new dishes that one will not find in China.
This year we have the inimitable KF Seetoh imbuing his expertise and passion as the food festival's consultant. Seetoh has much to add in terms of what he calls the "third flavour" - that "fusion" if you will, of original Chinese food flavours brought in by early South Chinese immigrants with flavours and ingredients from other cultures they found in Singapore. Dishes that then evolved like sambal seafood, crispy cereal prawn and chili crab have become firm favourites.
I enjoyed most of all the cooking demo by Seetoh and Executive Chef Eric Teo of Mandarin Oriental Singapore, because they set each other off so well with endless laughs and jokes. The dish is sesame-ginger chicken, which Chef Teo loved as a child (his mother used to cook lots for women in confinement). See how he removed the skin of the chicken in one clean deft move! Now that is leet skillz! Seetoh also said he left out the best part (skin).
The finished product piping hot and fragrant. The sizzle and aroma permeated the whole ballroom during the demo.
The media conference also had small booths featuring signature dialect group dishes from participating restaurants. I apologise for the hastily taken photos. It was too crowded, and we all just wanted to eat!
Hainanese cuisine by Yeh Lai Siang Catering - Hainanese pork chop, and white steamed chicken with rice balls.
Hokkien cuisine by Gim Tin Group - Fried Thread Noodles (mee sua); some really fatty and well-braised Kong Bak Pau; and Deep-fried Spring Rolls.
Teochew cuisine by Chu Yi Kitchen - glutinous rice cakes, braised duck, braised peanuts and tofu.
Hakka cuisine by Kew Gardens: Soon Kueh, Abacus Seeds and Red Wine Ginger Chicken.
Chinatown's Moi Lum Restaurant offering Cantonese favourites like Braised Roast Pork with Yam, Braised Spareribs and Majestic Crispy Roast Chicken.
Official hotel Mandarin Oriental Singapore had a booth too, and this was where food bloggers TheHungryCow, Ladyironchef and I parked ourselves. Everything there was really good - Slow-cooked Beef Brisket with Radish, Onion and Ginger; superb Roast Pork Belly; Double-boiled Shark Cartilage Soup with Honshimeji Mushrooms, and (not shown above) the Sesame-Ginger Chicken that Chef Teo demonstrated earlier.
The Roast Pork is truly out of this world. I really wanted to know how they got the skin so evenly crisp, and the meat so tender and juicy. Soon there was a queue for this as people came back for more. We had third and fourth helpings. Seriously, we have to come back to Cherry Garden just for this a la carte.
So that was a preview of some of the food.
Here is a summary of the core and fringe events.
- Clarke Quay Food Street (16-24 July; 4pm to 11pm): 30 different restaurants will showcase different Chinese delicacies on Read Bridge. Free entry, payment for purchases via SFF souvenir card.
- Singapore Chinese Dialect Tingkat Cruise (16-25 July; 4pm to 10pm): Relax with a 45-minute cruise and a tingkat meal. You get to keep the tiffin carrier too. S$35 per person at Merlion Park.
- Singapore Chinese Dialect Street Snacks (16-25 July; 4pm to 11pm): Traditional street entertainment (wayang, hand and string puppet performances) along with snacks of yore will bring back nostalgic memories. Check them out at Clifford Square, Central's River Promenade and Merlion Park. Free admission.
- Singapore Chinese Dialect Heritage Feast (25 July; 5pm to 10pm): Finish off with a buffet of more than 108 dishes from the five major dialect groups, on Clarke Quay Read Bridge. Only S$38 for adults, S$22 for children under 12. Buy tickets online at www.singaporefoodfestival.com.sg
- Makansutra SFF Culinary Master Classes (17-25 July): Legendary chefs skilled in specific dialect group dishes have been singled out to give hands-on classes and demonstrations. At various locations, from S$55.
Photo of Heritage Feast, courtesy of SFF
- Sentosa Kitchen Party, Chinese Culinary Secrets with Chef Hiew, Cooking Class at Mandai Zoo, events at Kreta Ayer Square (Chinatown) and hawker centres, Central dining rewards, cooking demos, Largest Kueh Lapis sculpture, a post-card book with recipes, and dining privileges! There's even an iPhone Game called Grandma's Kitchen where you can unlock recipes like Bak Kut Teh or Hokkien Mee.
The Singapore Food Festival is organised jointly by Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) and Single Point of Contact (SPOC Solutions), and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). It's presented by Standard Chartered Bank.