February 17, 2014

Singapore Peranakan Food Festival at Swissotel, Kolkata

Singapore thy name is an intrinsic part of my life as it is my birth place. And one could guess when the invitation to the Singapore Peranakan Festival by the Swissotel called the KFB (Kolkata Food Bloggers) to join, my joy knew no bound. That sumptuous taste of the food of my birth city still smacks my lips. And from the core of my heart I so much want to taste the real taste of joy what I miss badly. Though with an excited heart of a little girl I headed towards to sample the food, I had no clue about Peranakan but of Singapore. A little search on net gave a vague idea but what we learnt and got shared at the fest was different which came direct from the maestros who flew from Singapore. Archita and I reached on time and promptly we were joined by the two guest chefs - Chef Abdul Halim bin Ahmed and Chef Jasper Kok
From Left to Right: Chef Abdul Halim bin Ahmed, Chef Jasper & Food Blogger Archita Chanda Ray
We started all our queries with Chef Abdul Halim bin Ahmed, the senior Chef and he with a smiling face passionately kept on answering all our questions. What we learnt about the Peranakan cuisine is that the cuisine mainly evolved by the influences of Chinese, Malay, Indonesia and the inter-marriage in between them.  It is locally famous as "MAMA cuisine" (Malay + Chinese). Chef Jasper shared that it was very hard to differentiate the taste between the Singaporean cuisine and Peranakan cuisine, only  those, who always dealt with the food could distinguish the taste. The special characteristic of the Peranakan cuisine  is, it offers milder taste than of the Chinese and Singaporean cuisines as very less spices are used in this cuisine. And that we found just after we started tasting the food. For Peranakan Cuisine the main spice paste that they use is made out of Shallot, Garlic, Chilly, Lemon grass and Blue Ginger. We got very confused with the Blue Ginger, then Chef Mahesh revealed it was nothing but Galangal. The usage of Coriander and Turmeric Powder is very common which leads the taste quite similar to the Indian Cuisine. 
From Left to right: Ayam Lemak, Ayam Percik, Beef Rendang, Laksa add ons and the Soup & Ayam Buah Keluak
Every cuisine has its own story and Prenakan is also no exception. We moved with the tasting session and the munching and chomping kept on beating the music of appreciation where the Chefs kept on discussing about their creations of the night and the stories behind the Cuisine.  The Fest at Swissotle went for 6 days and every night the buffet menu was different. The menu got decided upon the likeness of the people in Kolkata where our friendly Chef Mahesh helped them to understand the taste buds of Kolkata people. We attended the fest on the last day and that really helped us to know about the true essence of the success of the Fest.  The Singapore Peranakan Food Festival was a real success where the varieties and the vast ranges of dishes got offered throughout the 6 days. People really appreciated the dishes were Chilli Crab (We missed it as it was not on the menu that day), Beef Rendang and Babi Pongteh. I don't eat beef so can't say about it but yes why people liked Babi Pongteh I can vouch for that. Three different types of Chicken preparations were served that night and each one of them were unique in taste. I found the dishes much similar to our south Indian curries and upon asking it Chef Jasper said yes as he told earlier Peranakan was more of a mixed cuisine where one would get similarity with chinese, malay, Indian and Indonesian cuisines.
Prawn Oatmeal
Prawn Oatmeal made us all surprised. The dish is new to us. And it looks very modern too. Chef Jasper told us that this is not a Peranakan Cuisine but a Chinese one which is not very old in the world of cuisine. It is kind of a bit fusion that they now offer in an attire of modernization. White oats just got sauteed with a dash of salt and white pepper  and then added it with the fired Prawns. The taste is very balmy but exotic. A must say signature dish from the chefs' side.
Babi Pongteh
The stunner of the night and also the most tasted dish I should confess was the Babi Pongteh. It was a Pork preparation cooked in a very mild bean sauce and almost with the minimum spices. The pork was succulent and juicy just melted in mouth on each bite. I was not able help myself to go for two serving. It is exactly the best example of what Peranakan Cuisine is famous for. The taste with a very milder base and usages of less spices. 
From Left to Right:  Veg Nasi Goreng, Broccoli & Cauliflower, Nyonya Chap Chye & Fried Bee Hoon
Each and every dish are so mild in taste that one would feel like help himself/herself with multiple servings. Whether it is the  fried Bee Hoon ( Singaporean Noodles) or the Nasi Goreng or the lined up veg dishes all will give one the divine taste that an authentic cuisine offers. There is no addition of the store bought spices or the addition of too much sauces. 

Soto Ayam , the soup which taste very much like an Indian Chicken Stew.
Bubur Cha Cha & A H Bo Leng
Two of the traditional sweets of Peranakan Cuisine were served on the counter along with an array of dessert collection from all over the world. I am not a very traditional sweet lover but more of a chocoholic whom the pastries lured more. But I literally enjoyed the story behind the dessert A H Bo Leng.  Though A H Bo Leng doesn't come under the Peranakan cuisine, it is more of a Chinese dessert. In Chinese it means "Happy together again with family". Small round balls were made out of  glutinous rice flour and then boiled in the sugar syrup.  The story that Chef Jasper shared was, every year on 22nd December , every household in Singapore would prepare this dessert and will to eat depending on the number of the age of the person. He also added that another name of the dessert is Tang Yuan.

From the core of my heart I would like to thank Swissotel for offering Kolkata the real and authentic taste of the world cuisine with an addition of a healthier version to it. It was always a great experience to meet the experienced and the learned Chefs in person. A place where any one of any age can enjoy the food, where the Chefs personally take care of their customers and salute their taste buds. Last but not least heartiest thanks to Team Swiss  and Chef  Abdul Halim bin Ahmed & Chef Jasper for giving us this opportunity to witness the authentic world cuisine and congratulations on the great success of the Singapore Peranakan Food Festival.

To view more pictures of the fest visit HERE.
Read what Archita of My Food My Life experienced HERE.

[Disclaimer: This is an Invited Review and solely based on the author's honest experience . No monetary benefit is included]

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