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CHINESE NEW YEAR feasting hasn’t quite ended for many of us, so if you need some respite from braised trotters and dried oysters, you’re not alone. But going vegetarian needn’t be a temporary solution to over-indulgence.
As more fine dining restaurants deliver vegetarian degustation menus with a growing finesse, going meatless in the longer term is becoming an easier and tastier option.
“In recent years, we have seen a steady increase in requests for vegetarian or vegetable-centric options as guests become more health and sustainability- conscious,” says Leong Chee Yeng, Jade’s Chinese Executive Chef, who launched a sustainable, plant-based vegan “Taste The Future” menu late last year.
“With plant-forward cuisine trending in the food scene, vegetable-focused dishes are definitely getting more attention from conscious diners,” says Andrew Walsh, chef-owner of Cure Restaurant & Butcher Boy Singapore. “Even those with conventional mindsets are also pleasantly surprised at how hearty and fulfilling plant-based dishes can be.”
VEGETABLES AS EQUALS
“I have always believed that vegetables should not be viewed as just an accompaniment but as equals to any protein on a plate,”
says Julien Royer, who serves his signature vegetarian menus to 20 per cent of his clientele at the two Michelin-starred Odette.
Over at the one-starred Meta, chef-owner Sun Kim believes in creating “a strong vegetarian menu that guests can enjoy, rather than doing it as an afterthought”. He’s learned to treat vegetables like good meat, simply seasoning and charring them over charcoal to maximise their sweetness.
In turn, Chef Leong’s objective is to debunk the belief that vegetarian or vegetable-centric dishes are bland. “As a chef, my job is to showcase ingredients to their best effect. We use garlic in stir-fries to enhance the original taste of the vegetables. Preserved vegetables work to round off a vegetarian dish, while mushrooms add natural umami. At Jade, we use housemade spring onion, shallot and peanut oils to enhance flavours too.”
At Cure, no part of a plant goes wasted, with even the humble potato skin dehydrated to add texture to dishes. “We believe that all parts of the vegetable can be savoured and showcased in inventive ways, turning potential food waste into unconventional elements,” says Chef Walsh.
Like its elegant modern French cuisine, Odette’s vegetarian degustation menu is as sophisticated as its omnivorous counterparts. The signature dish here is the Heirloom Beetroot Variation, featuring beetroot in many forms including salt-baked, meringue, jelly and sorbet accompanied by stracciatella ‘artigiana’ burrata, radish, honey popping candy, honeycomb and pomegranate. It’s all about enjoying the root’s natural earthy sweet flavour in myriad textures. If you’re not vegan, the rosemary smoked organic egg served with toasted buckwheat, creamy smoked potato, and yuzu tart are not to be missed. Multi-course vegetarian lunch (from S$128 per person for four courses) and 8-course dinner degustation menus are available.
1 St Andrew’s Road #01-04. Tel: 6385 0498
Jade’s 5-course “Taste The Future” menu (S$68 per person) features classic Chinese dishes re-imagined with no meat, eggs or dairy.
Highlights of the five-course menu include Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings, made with a filling of plant-based Omnipork; and Braised Vegan Meat (essentially Omnipork) with assorted vegetables in a sesame soy sauce.
Typically, braised pork rice calls for pork fat for fragrance and texture, but Chef Leong has replaced the animal fat with peach gum, which is nutritious and has good depth of flavour.
As with the popular meat version of this dish, chef also uses star anise, cinnamon sticks and premium soy sauce to ensure it tastes as good without the guilt.
The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square. Tel: 6877 8911
The menus change frequently according to the season. “Some ingredients are at their peak for a very short period, so our menus change every two months, sometimes every month,” says Chef Walsh. Currently on the menu is a grilled eggplant slowly cooked over binchotan until soft, then coated in Furikake seasoning mixture and served with an earthy mushroom dashi broth, but that could evolve the next day.
Cure’s five course plant-based menu (S$120 per person) is available for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
21 Keong Saik Road. Tel: 6221 2189
ALMA BY JUAN AMADOR
Vegetarian lunch menus at the one Michelin-starred Alma start from S$39 per person for three courses. Highlights include executive chef Haikal Johari’s Crapaudine Beetroot from the restaurant’s 6-Course Vegetarian Dinner Menu. This dainty beetroot dish is paired with celeriac and mustard ice cream. “These three ingredients go very well together. Both the beetroot and celeriac have earthy flavours, and we pair them with mustard ice cream to lift the taste profile with some acidity,”chef Haikal explains. Other dishes include Homemade Tofu with sautéed wild mushrooms and onion broth; and Risoni with seaweed, kale and celeriac.
Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road. Tel: 6735 9937
One vegetarian dish that always stays on the menu is Chef Sun Kim’s Zucchini Porridge, which sounds green but is completely delicious. Short grain rice from Korea is cooked in zucchini puree, and served with charred kailan and salted black bean oil. Another favourite is the chef’s carrot starter – a refreshing medley of carrots cooked with Mandarin orange juice, purple carrots infused with coffee beans, Korean pear marinated with lime, served with mint and carrot juice. Its vegetarian dinner menu is available from S$148 for five courses. Vegetarian lunch course is available upon request when you make your reservation.
1 Keong Saik Road. Tel: 6513 0898