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Make it arresting by stacking plates of varying sizes and colours. Rempah udang with a sprig of blue pea vine on Hermès Rallye 24 mini oval plate, $170

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CARRIE Chen

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Get sculptural with an assortment of kueh ambon and ang ku kueh on Hermès Rallye 24 platters, from $650.

BT_20161126_ADVERTORIAL-N_2616355.jpg
Get sculptural with an assortment of kueh ambon and ang ku kueh on Hermès Rallye 24 platters, from $650.

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Go modern with lollipop shapes for pulut seri kaya and kueh lapis. Mini oval plates, $170 each, tumblers, $160 each, vase, $870 (behind), all from the Hermès Rallye 24 collection.

Plate It Cool

Tea artist Carrie Chen demonstrates how contemporary plating adds a fresh twist to traditional nonya delicacies.
Nov 26, 2016 5:50 AM

Carrie Chen's quietly elegant teahouse in 98 Emerald Hill Road is the kind of house everyone wants. The tasteful Oriental interiors are the perfect backdrop for the vast array of Chinese and Japanese teas she retails under her brand, Tea Bone Zen Mind. Many a perfect afternoon can be spent in this Zen-like three-storey conservation shophouse while sampling a selection of cold and hot tea infusions - always beautifully presented with specially sourced snacks and her signature home-made tea eggs.

The ceramic artist spent years learning the art of making delicate tea pots and cups even as she earned her stripes as a foremost tea expert. "I studied tea in its various forms in Taiwan, Japan and China, with a focus on the tea ceremony. I've always been interested in how people did things in the past, and the idea of elevating them and placing them in this time period held a great appeal."

The house-proud can learn a thing or two about the art of afternoon tea from her distinctive talent in plating traditional snacks in a contemporary setting.

"Look at nonya kueh," she says. "People see it in a certain way but it's not the only way it can be presented. You can make it more contemporary in the way you plate it, the way you cut it as it affects the way it feels in your mouth."

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Simple, contemporary plate designs give kueh "a fresher, lighter look that's not starchy or heavy", she says. "You want to make it more fun, like a display of kueh ambon which looks like lace from afar. A very colourful plate lifts the kueh, so adding colour to it is important. Kueh is so often presented as traditional - nothing wrong but it can be more fun looking. The kueh lapis looks like a lollipop to me now, and that could be a nice introduction to Southeast Asian textures and tastes. It should not be oily-looking."

Don't be afraid to experiment, she advises. This plating principle can be extended to almost anything, from laksa to cocktails. The right tableware can freshen up almost anything."