Vintage Asia's Singaporean Food Festival features a rich overlap of street-style techniques and multi-cultural flavour palates
By now, you probably know that JW Marriott’s pan-Asian fusion diner Vintage Asia really knows how to ace a festive spread; their Pre-Puja fiesta is all about showcasing the diverse and multi-cultural food palates of the island nation of Singapore. As a seaport locale, with a steady historically recorded influx of settlers, Singaporean cuisine is a smorgasbord of varying regional influences, which often overlap to make the cuisine a street food haven. Be it their famous hawker centre-style noodles or the more refined Bak Kut Teh soup, the culinary culture in Singapore is a rich tapestry of interesting flavours and techniques.
Chef Alexsander Cheng of Vintage Asia tries to capture varying depths of flavours found in the country’s seasoned culinary sphere with the lavish Singaporean Food Festival, which will run till September 27. The menu for the food festival has a cosmopolitan take on authentic Singaporean delicacies; we found some surprising autumnal pairings and recipes we don’t usually find in the city. We started off with a Rojak Fruit medley, which is a tangy fruit salad, coated in soy and served with a palm sugar dressing; besides being a nifty appetizer, it also makes for the perfect ingredient pairing.
We were glad the menu wasn’t curated just to accommodate summery notes, but also some more complex ones like we found in the Crispy Salted Egg Yolk Chicken, which was quite intense and punchy. The same goes for the Deep Fried Shrimp Pancakes which were flat, crispy triangles stuffed with simple, buttery shrimp. We really recommend the Winter Melon Mushroom soup, ideally made with shiitake mushrooms; it is a traditional Chinese specialty, made popular in Singapore. Winter melon has a really mild taste which is why it goes so well with the earthy mushrooms.
For our first entree, we chose the Deep Fried Prawns made with a silky and savoury Singaporean sauce, and served with a pillowy, steamed Chinese bun. The Singaporean chilli prawn was big, succulent and meaty, with an incredibly gratifying taste, to say the least. It’s not as spicy as we were expecting, but very well sauteed in just the right spices. Do make it a point to taste the sauce as a standalone gravy, as it goes with literally everything.
We also had some Hot and Sour Fish Broth, and teamed it up with the incredibly popular Singaporean specialty Char Kway Teow. The latter is a stir-fried variety of flat rice noodles - consider it an improvement on the Pad Thai. The Char Kway Teow is the quintessential wok-tossed noodle strips we go looking for while in Singapore or Thailand. Vintage Asia’s version gives you a street-style authenticity; it’s slightly peppery and has an even focus on balancing out the saltiness.
We also had some Hainanese Chicken Rice, which is mellow, seasoned rice dish served with generous portions of poached chicken. It’s a bona fide Hawker Centre favourite and has retained its position as one of the mainstays of Singaporean cuisines, owing to its univerasally appealing flavour. The meat has a gentle, undemanding taste and can make it to any and every seasonal menu. We finished off our very interesting lunch with a dense and amazingly delicious crispy lotus flower cake, served with some mango puree, which made for a rich, sophisticated pastry alternative. Price for Two: Rs 2,500