You are here
A Merry Singaporean Christmas
WHILE most people see honey baked hams and stuffed turkeys as synonymous with Christmas dinners, Willin Low begs to differ.
"I never liked making a Christmas menu where everyone expected to see such westernised, particularly American ideals on the table, because that's just not my Christmas," says the chef-owner of Relish and Roketto Izakaya. "It wasn't something I grew up with, so it always felt kind of forced to do it".
Also known as the pioneer of the Mod-Sin cuisine movement in Singapore, Chef Low says that his family didn't have a tradition of celebrating Christmas when he was growing up, although he is Christian.
"I came from a Methodist church with a large Peranakan congregation who would prepare big spreads of fried chicken wings, curry, fried beehoon, ngoh hiang - that's my kind of Christmas."
Still, living in England also saw him pick up some western influences of sorts. For example, he would make ngoh hiang for Christmas but because he couldn't find beancurd skin, "I would buy an unsliced loaf of bread, freeze it and then slice it thinly to use as a 'skin' for the filling," he says. Deep-frying gave it a crispy crouton-like crunch, and he would use minced turkey in the filling. Now in Singapore, he uses traditional minced pork and prawn, but using tinned crab meat is also a tasty and hassle-free alternative.
He gets the tinned crab meat from FairPrice Finest, which retails gourmet ingredients that make this special Singaporean Christmas menu easy to prepare for the time-strapped home chef.
While Asian-inspired, he has incorporated some Christmassy elements, such as using fresh cranberries instead of assam to prepare his mullet cranberry sambal. Using Fish Farmer frozen mullet fillet (S$12.30 per pack) saves the hassle of cleaning and cutting fresh fish, and while he makes his sambal from scratch, one shortcut is to buy handmade sambal such as Nanyang sambal prawn chilli sauce (S$9.90 per bottle) and blend it with fresh cranberries. "Taste it and add some sugar to balance off the sourness, and fry it to cook the cranberries through."
Meanwhile, beef cheek rendang cottage pie is his take on Shepherd's pie, but renamed cottage because the original Shepherd's pie used lamb. Here, he layers the beef with buttery mashed potatoes using Yotsuba butter salted (S$6.80). And instead of turkey, which is not indigenous to Asia, he uses duck to prepare his Filipino-inspired adobo filling for kueh pie tee shells.
For the ngoh hiang, Harbor Seafood crabmeat (S$22) is a quick and tasty alternative to shrimp, and just needs a teaspoon of Lilo premium white bait powder (S$18 a bottle) to give it added oomph. "You can even do a fish version with minced fish and scallop powder," suggests chef Low.
After spending the last three Christmases in Niseko where he runs a restaurant, Chef Low will be in town this year, although he will be busy at Roketto for Christmas.
"But friends have asked me to join them if I have time, and they'll be asking me to prepare some ngoh hiang or kueh pie tee for them," he laughs.
The ingredients for the following recipes can be found in selected FairPrice Finest stores.
Adobo Duck Kueh Pie Tee
Duck leg 1kg
Black soy sauce 160ml
White vinegar 120ml
Garlic, peeled 60g
Small lime 3 pieces
Garlic, minced 1 tbsp
- Combine all ingredients in recipe A and stew until the duck leg meat is tender.
- Strain the sauce. Set the sauce aside.
- Remove & shred the meat from the duck leg.
- Heat the sauce pan and sauté minced garlic in oil (Recipe B) till browned.
- Add the duck meat, stir fry till well mixed.
- Add 2 tbsp of the sauce & simmer until the sauce is almost evaporated.
Fill kueh pie tee shells with the sautéd duck meat. Garnish with micro herbs or coriander.
Beef Cheek Rendang Cottage Pie
Beef cheek 300g
Ginger 1 tbsp minced
Medium onion diced
Dried red chillies, chopped
Garlic 4 cloves
Cinnamon powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Curry powder 1 tbsp
Lemongrass 2 stalks sliced
Coconut milk 1/2 can
Dark soy sauce 1 tbsp
- Brown the beef in a pot with some oil, set aside.
- In the same pot, reduce heat to medium, sauté ginger, onion, chilli, garlic until soft.
- Add cinnamon, turmeric and curry powder and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring well. Return beef to the pan.
- Add lemongrass, coconut milk, dark soy sauce and 2 cups water.
- Cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, until beef is soft.
Russet potatoes 500g
Whipping cream 75g
Yotsuba butter salted 12.5g
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm. Drain.
- In a small saucepan heat butter, milk and salt over low heat until butter is melted.
- Using a potato masher, slowly blend milk mixture into potatoes.
Grated Parmesan cheese
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
- Turn on the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
- Place Beef cheek first in a casserole, top with mashed potatoes.
- Sprinkle Parmesan and Mozzarella on top to cover.
- Bake for 15mins or until golden brown.
Mullet Cranberry Sambal
Fish Farmer frozen mullet - 2 fillets
Salt - to taste
- Heat the sauce pan and drizzle some oil.
- Slide the fish skin down first and pan fry till golden brown.
- Flip over on low heat (be careful not to over cook).
Dried Chili 50g
Belachan 20g (fried with oil first)
Dried Shrimp 50g
Vegetable Oil 110g
- Blend all ingredients together. Sauté until oil separates and mixture is fragrant.
- Shortcut: Saute blended cranberries with Nanyang sambal prawn chilli sauce and add sugar to taste.
- Fresh cranberries
- Roasted almonds
- Bombay red onion
- Shredded chilli
Place pan-fried fish on a plate and slather a generous amount of the sambal on top. Garnish with roasted almonds & fresh cranberries.
Ngoh Hiang Bread Fritters
Recipe A (Filling)
Minced pork 200g
Oyster sauce 20g
Five spice powder 10g
Shallot, minced 40g
Garlic, minced 20g
Black Pepper 2g
Water chestnut (small dice) 60g
Harbor Seafood crab meat 70g
Egg yolk 1
Lilo premium white bait powder 1 tsp
White sandwich loaf 1
Egg white 1
- Mix all ingredients in recipe A together.
- Remove the skin from the bread (Recipe B).
- Freeze the bread overnight. Slice thinly.
- Heat a pot of oil to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Spread the filling on a thin slice of bread.
- Roll up and seal the edge with egg wash.
- Deep fry until golden brown.