Everyone can use some nostalgia in their lives. Themed ‘A Walk Down Memory Lane‘, this year’s Singapore Food Festival (SFF) by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will see some reminiscing and re-enactment of the best of the past two decades of the festival. First launched in 1994, the festival has always been one that celebrates and showcases the innovative spirit of the Singapore culinary scene, and this year is no different.
The 20th round of SFF will take place from 11 – 20 July 2014 at various locations; five, to be exact. The media preview round was held at Palawan Beach, Sentosa. And we were fortunate to get our first bites of the festival before the event begins.
(1) BBQ by the Beach, by Sentosa Leisure Group
Date: 11, 12, 18, 19 July 2014
Time: 6.30pm – 10.30pm
Location: Palawan Beach
Price: $79 – $99 for Adults, $29 – $39 for Child (aged 3 – 10) (click here for reservations)
I was personally most impressed with this first sand-dining concept in Singapore. Not only will the dinner affair be set on the beach, overlooking the sea with a beautiful scene of sunset, the tables and seats will also be uniquely sand-sculpted, completely safe to sit on to indulge on barbequed seafood and meats.
The barbequed foods will be grilled using the traditional Hawaiian underground barbeque pit, ‘Imu‘. Measuring 3 feet deep and 4 – 5 feet wide, with bricks stacked below, the apparatus is built to have heat trapped within, resulting in a consistent heating of foods.
Buffet dinner here includes a good variety of seafood and meat dishes including but not limited to Barbeque Sambal Chilli Stingray, Baked King Prawns, Grilled Beef Rump and Barbeque Whole Lamb. In addition, music and entertainment like fire twirling performances will be seen. I think it’ll be money well-spent for the experience and the perfectly grilled food (tried them all, have no qualms about it).
(2) ION Orchard Local Food Trail & South East Sliders
Date: 11 – 20 July 2014
Time: 11am & 10am – 10pm respectively
Location: ION Orchard & ION Orchard B3 respectively
Price: Free (pre-registration is needed) & $7 onwards respectively
The ION Orchard Local Food Trail starts at 11am every Monday – Friday. The trail requires interested parties to register, and is highly encouraged to do so quickly as each session is capped at only 10 adults. Registration can be done through www.ionorchard.com / by calling 6238 8228. Along the way, you can expect some sampling and demonstrations of iconic Singapore food, including Chilli Crab @ Food Opera, Kaya Toast @ Killiney Cafe, and Nyonya Kueh @ Bengawan Solo, amongst others.
ION Orchard will also play host to South East Sliders, a pop-up concept featuring a radical take on Beef Rendang and Chicken Debal, also known as Lim Peh Slider and The Big D Slider respectively. The former is cooked with 17 different herbs and spices for more than 7 hours, then later added with shredded and caramelised onions, pickles and lettuce. The mixture is then envleoped in a pastry pocket with Swiss cheese smeared. The latter comprises Chicken Debal, relish, lettuce, egg and smoked cheese.
Nyonya Mobile is my favourite ‘station’ of the SFF next to the BBQ by the Beach. Not only because of the sheer good food offered by this food event on wheels, it also showcases the richness and the you-thought-you-are-familiar-with Peranakan cuisine and heritage. The roving food truck will be dishing out opportunities to taste their food and experience interactive exhibits (Peranakan food and spices exhibition, traditional attire exhibition, wedding customs exhibition and language and heritage exhibition) and live cooking demonstrations.
I had its Beef Buah Keluak, essentially some wagyu beef ribs with thick, rich buah keluak gravy (buah keluak is a type of nut with a piquant liquid centre – very distinctive). Though some may disapprove of the usage of wagyu beef ribs in such an ‘overpowering’ gravy, I thought it was brilliantly done. Ribs were mad tender, when paired with the unmistakable buah keluak gravy, is a heavenly take of modern Peranakan dish.
I missed out on their Buah Keluak Ice Cream, which I regretted forgetting about it and hope to try it during the SFF period. It is made with a blend of buah keluak and 80% Valrhona chocolate on a bed of salted caramel, chocolate crumble and chilli specks, topped with warm milk chocolate foam. It was inspired by the smell of buah keluak itself. Chef thought the smell was, at some point, akin to that of chocolate, and thus the creation.
Date: 17 – 20 July 2014
Time: 6pm – 11pm (17 July); 12pm – 11pm (18 – 20 July)
Location: Little India (opposite Serangoon Plaza)
Price: $18 (All-day pass, inclusive of $10 Suvai dollars and access to masterclasses and hands-on classes). Free for children aged 12 and below.
Moving from Peranakan to Indian cuisine, the Indian Chefs and Culinary Association (ICCA) (Singapore) has organised a similar programme – an abundance of activities ranging from masterclasses, competitions (family cooking challenge on 20 July) and entertainment (live band performances and vegetable carving demonstrations), on top of the all so colourful and vibrant Indian cuisine, needless to say.
Grilled Roulade Prata was one of the two items I got to try at the preview. In an effort to produce healthy dishes in today’s society, the prata is rolled and grilled instead of the traditional manner of cooking in on a hotplate with oil. The end product, similarly crispy, is then stuffed to a brimming full of minced mutton. The dish is akin to mutton murtabak; not too bad.
The other item is the really intriguing Trio of Assorted Rice (Vegetarian). The variation includes lemon, yoghurt and sambal flavoured rice. While flavours were not scarily overpowering, it may come a little too exotic for me. But it surely was an interesting take for me to sample in small portions.
(5) Singapore Chinese Dialect Heritage Feast
Date: 11 – 20 July 2014
Time: 11am – 11pm
Location: Smith Street, Chinatown Food Street
Price: Free Admission (Pay for Purchases)
20 Chinese dialect dishes will be presented at the Chinatown Food Street, specially curated for SFF this year. As with other traditional dishes, they are rich not just in flavours but also in the stories behind their existence (informative boards will be put up to explain about their respective significance).
Rickshaw Noodles is named as such as its usual customers were rickshaw pullers. Rickshaw noodles is a simple, straightforward dish that if you like it, you like it; otherwise you don’t. It’s a bowl of stewed Hokkien yellow noodles in rich pork broth, with minced meat and vegetables, topped with fried garlic, shallots and anchovies. I am guessing that decades ago, well, things are much simpler, less sophisticated and less complicated.
Do you know that 纸包鸡 is termed Paper Baked Chicken in English? This Cantonese number allows the chicken to experience the best of two worlds – steaming and deep-frying. The wrapper retains the moist, flavour and aroma of the chicken while being cooked to a golden brown of tender meat.
If you haven’t got time for all, please, check out at least the BBQ by the Beach and Nyonya Mobile. Happy feasting at Singapore Food Festival 2014!
Photos by Kathleen.
This was a media session. Thank you Edelman Singapore & Singapore Tourism Board.