Over the past few months, my darling wife S, who is also my business partner, and I have been working on a few rather exciting projects.
One of them is the creation and development of a new Modern Asian restaurant for a boutique hotel in Penang, Malaysia. We had the good fortune of being introduced to the directors of the new, rather swish G Hotel late last year. They asked us to help them come up with a fun F&B concept for a two room space on the hotel’s first floor. Because the two rooms were both quite large and connected by a long corridor, we proposed an interconnected two-restaurants-in-one idea. Once that was approved, and with the help of some friends, we then set about to actually open the restaurant. The restaurant is called Sesame + Soy. Soy, which is in the first room, is a pan-Asian bistro that serves casual but delicious comfort food. Some of the dishes on the menu are gado gado of green beans, lady’s fingers, and tempeh; green pea soup + vegetable tempura; slow cooked pork belly + spicy dried shrimp rice; barbecued coffee cocoa pork ribs + garlic fried rice; pan roasted red snapper and papaya salsa + herbed potatoes; and crispy pork spaghetti aglio olio. The desserts, which we call “Happy Endings”, include gula melaka crème brulee + coconut ice cream, and warm chocolate and nutella tart + banana fritters and vanilla ice cream. Soy soft-opened this past Monday and if any of you are already in or are going to be in Penang, please drop by. The prices are very reasonable; the space is pretty cool; and the food is good. Sesame, which is in the second room, will only open in August. It will be a slightly more high-end Modern Chinese restaurant offering tasting menus, plus a small menu of a la carte options.
A really fun project that S has been spearheading is the development of a new series of public programmes for the National Museum of Singapore. In an effort to reach out to new audiences as well as to reposition the museum as a cool place to hang out in, the National Museum has launched some interesting new initiatives. One of these is called Life & Living. The Food & Culture series of programmes that we have helped developed comes under this line-up of innovative lifestyle programmes and workshops.
There are 10 programmes in the inaugural Food & Culture series line-up, which launches next month (July 2007). Our goal was to create fun, interactive, educational but exciting programmes that appeal to as wide an audience base as possible. Of course, everyone has different tastes, so some programmes have been specifically developed with specific audiences in mind. But as a whole, we feel that the line-up is pretty diverse. And very appealing. I only hope you will agree with us.
Here’s a list of the programmes and the dates on which they are being held:
The mortar and pestle in Southeast Asian cuisine (5 Jul, 630pm)
This 90 minute course brings you through the history of the mortar and pestle in regional cuisines and also demonstrates how to make a couple yummy and versatile pastes using one. Snacks using these pastes will also be served.
The art of the high tea (29 Jul; 29 Sep; 3pm for both sessions)
Join us for a fun afternoon of food and drink. We will be serving a delectable spread of traditional English tea-time treats along with a selection of teas. A tea and etiquette expert will guide you through the art of tasting and appreciating tea, as well as discuss the history and culture of this indulgent, mid-afternoon meal.
Dinner and a movie night (5 Aug; 15 Dec; 5pm for both)
Pairing food with film marries two of Singaporeans’ biggest passions. Make a special night of it by catching a really cool, hunger-inducing food-centric flick at the National Museum’s Gallery Theatre before proceeding to indulge in a meal inspired by the dishes featured in the movie. The movies will be announced shortly.
Modern manners (23 Aug, 630pm)
This interactive talk focuses on the unfamiliar professional and social situations a young person is likely to encounter early in his or her career. By the end of this course, acquire the confidence to handle any social situation, whether it’s being stuck talking with your new boss’ wife at a dinner party, writing a resignation letter or even knowing how to dress for your first real job interviews.
Know your chocolate (15 Sep, 3pm)
Can you tell the difference between a good chocolate bar and a great one? Does having a higher percentage of cocoa in a chocolate bar necessarily translate into a superior taste experience? Is single estate chocolate merely a marketing ploy? Our chocolate expert traces the origins of our favourite deep, dark indulgences and teaches you how to tell the differences between different kinds of chocolates. As part of this sinfully rich course, of course, participants will be treated to a chocolate tasting.
Beyond the Singapore Sling: creating cocktails with local herbs and spices (11 Oct, 630pm)
Fancy yourself a bit of an amateur bartender? Tap on the experiences of an expert and learn how to personalise your homemade cocktails with local herbs and spices. We will introduce key local herbs and spices, and show you how you can incorporate some of them into creative cocktails.
Discovering local herbs and spices: a mortar and pestle master class (18 Oct, 630pm)
At this mortar and pestle master class, we will introduce herbs and spices that form the basic building blocks of innumerable Singaporean dishes, providing useful tips along the way on identifying and selecting fresh, high quality specimens and storing them. Then we will demonstrate how two versatile local spice/herb pastes are prepared using the mortar and pestle.
Classic cocktails (15 Nov, 630pm)
Do you know what goes into a Gimlet, a Gibson and a Sidecar? How about a Rusty Nail or a Harvey Wallbanger? Learn the histories of some of the world’s most famous cocktails. And of course, taste them.
Instant wine expert (29 Nov, 630pm)
This short course, led by a wine expert, will walk you through everything you need to know to appreciate and order wine confidently in any situation. As part of the course, you will get to taste several different kinds of wines from a variety of price ranges.
All wrapped up: Southeast Asian techniques of wrapping food with leaves (6 Dec, 630pm)
Southeast Asians have developed sophisticated techniques utilising leaves to wrap a host of traditional dishes. Learn how different leaves impart flavours and aromas to food and get tips on how specific leaves are prepared before they are used. Our instructor will talk about the history of this culinary technique, demonstrate classic wrapping techniques and show you how to prepare two leaf encased dishes.
The very first class, “the mortar and pestle in Southeast Asian cuisine”, which is being taught by super-foodie, cookbook author, photographer and newspaper columnist Christopher Tan, is next week. If interested, please click over to the National Museum’s website, click on the “What’s On” section, and register as soon as possible. Please note that there is a small fee for all of the above programmes (but we think it’s worth it). We hope to see you there.