The Clifford Pier Introduces SG50 Menu by Cookbook Author Shermay Lee
We are passionate about our food and heritage. As the nation celebrates the golden jubilee, there is no better way to celebrate our 50th birthday than enjoying our heritage food! In celebration of the nation’s golden jubilee, local F&B personality Shermay Lee returns to The Clifford Pier in August to share her passion for Singapore’s culinary history with her ‘Singapore’s Culinary Grande Dames Menu’.
In many Peranakan family, a Nyonya (woman) must learn to cook otherwise your mother-in-law will look down upon you. Therefore, many Peranakan ladies have to toil in the kitchen all day and night. Being a 6th generation Peranakan with a strong culinary tradition, kitchen has been Shermay’s playground since young. During our food tasting session, Shermay shared with me that when her grandmother, Mrs Lee Chin Koon, gets busy in the kitchen making ang ku kueh, she would always give the five-year-old Shermay a “play dough”. For this SG menu, Shermay chose to pay tribute to these well-loved matriarchs because of their immense passion for preserving culinary traditions, and sharing the joys of Singaporean cooking.
Shermay has carefully curating a selection of dishes from three grande dames of Singaporean and Peranakan cooking – Mrs. Lee Chin Koon, Mrs. Leong Yee Soo and Mrs. Ellice Handy. The menu of eight dishes is based on recipes from each of these iconic women whose well-worn cookbooks have served as a guide to conquering the kitchen for many generations of Singaporeans. ‘
The items on the SG50 Menu are a mixture of Peranakan, Cantonese as well as Indian influenced dishes that would have been part of many Singaporean families’ home-cooked meals over the years. These familiar comfort dishes include Shermay’s grandmother’s (the late-Mrs. Lee Chin Koon) signature popiah served in traditional fashion where ingredients are presented on a platter ($26 for 2 persons).
You can make your own popiah using the delicate egg skins or rice skins to encase slow-cooked turnip, julienned cucumber, lap cheong, bits of hard-boiled egg, coriander leaves, crab meat and prawns with tim cheong (sweet sauce) and Shermay’s signature tangy Cilicuka. It’s unique to see egg skins because we usually have rice skins at popiah stalls. Shermay shared that the egg skins are what peranakan use to wrap popiah. It’s much smoother and thicker, which I enjoyed it more than the rice skins. The braised turnip has been cooked with pork belly, prawns, bean paste and simmered for about an hour, hence you get a darker hue and richer flavour. The leftover ingredients can be used to make kueh pie tee. Another dish from Mrs Lee is Babi Chin ($23) with White Rice & Nonya Achar, featuring tender pork shoulder braised in dark soya sauce with thick wedges of bamboo shoots.
As for Mrs. Leong Yee Soo, Shermay chose dishes from her cookbook, “The Best of Singapore Cooking”. Mrs. Leong’s signature Chicken Almond-Cashew Curry ($23) served with Nasi Kuning, Nonya Achar & Papadum features succulent chicken pieces marinated in turmeric and coconut milk then simmered in a finely blended paste of cashew nuts, almonds and candlenuts. The gravy has a thick consistency with strong coconut flavour to coat the chicken well. It is definitely not watered down or too spicy and go nices with nasi kuning.
We also had Mrs Leong’s Fish Curry ($23) which features a tangy and hearty spicy red curry cooked with tamarind, red and green chillies, coconut milk, grated coconut and tender lady’s fingers served with white rice. Equally toothsome is Mrs Leong’s Cantonese Beef Cheek Stew ($26) with Carrots, Turnip & Mushrooms, served with White Rice & Cilicuka. Shermay uses beef cheeks for this hearty stew and cooks it in a richly aromatic mix of cinnamon, star anise and peppercorns.
The heritage-rich SG50 menu also includes dishes by Mrs. Ellice Handy, former principal of Methodist Girls’ School, which is also Shermay’s alma mater. Very much the resourceful and altruistic woman, Mrs. Handy donated the proceeds of her cookbook “My Favourite Recipes”, to the school’s building fund.
We tried Mrs. Handy’s Fish Kedgeree with Three Condiments ($26, House-Made Tomato Chutney, Cilicuka & Nonya Achar), a rich dish whose culinary origins can be traced back to colonial India when women cooked this fried rice dish for breakfast. Flaked flesh of fried ikan kurau or thread fin is mixed with rice, hard-boiled kampung eggs and butter. The tomato chutney, served on the side, offers an appetizing and piquant contrast to the kedgeree. Honestly, it tastes so good when paired with Cilicuka chilli sauce.
Mrs. Handy’s Itek Sio ($26) or braised duck is a painstakingly-prepared classic Nonya dish usually served during special celebrations. The fork-tender duck thigh is cooked for two hours in a thick caramel-like sauce seasoned with cinnamon and brandy. The deeply spiced and woody flavoured dish is elevated with a serving of her delicious homemade sweet Pineapple-Apple Chutney. Slices of pineapple, apple, raisins and ginger are cooked in sugar and vinegar alongside a blend of spices and chili resulting in a fragrant, syrupy and jammy relish.
The dining experience is rounded off with a collection of Singapore Heritage Desserts ($13): Marie Biscuit Cake, Coconut Fruit & Nut Bar, Kaya Roll and Rose Bandung Macaron. The Marie Biscuit Cake is a buttery and eggy tea cake with a golden crust, but it was slightly dry during our dinner. The Coconut Fruit & Nut Bar is a Peranakan favourite of grated coconut, chopped walnuts and toasted almonds. The Rose Bandung Macaron on the other hand, is a petit four reinterpretation of the milky rose syrup drink. I, of course, prefer the traditional kaya roll.
There is no better way to celebrate its 50th birthday than by tracing its rich culinary heritage. Shermay Lee’s SG50 Menu is available from 1 to 31 August 2015 for lunch and dinner. The Fullerton Bay Hotel will also be retailing cookbooks written by the three ladies.
The Clifford Pier
Address: 80 Collyer Quay, The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore 049326
Tel: 6597 5266