34 year old Lg Han is the Chef-Owner of one of the most revolutionary restaurants in Singapore. His menu’s ingredients are almost entirely locally produced, and Han takes it one step further by regularly visiting the farms and interacting with the owners first hand.
One such local farm is the Nippon Koi Farm, run by the only farmer who has been able to raise the difficult Silver Perch in Singapore; Pay Bok Sing emphasises the use of clean water and allowing the fish to thrive in a chemical free environment. His approach to raising them reflects Chef Han’s: as essential as getting the produce locally is the sustainability of it. In an interview with CNA lifestyle, Chef Han says, “It’s not just about wanting to go local – it’s about having that drive to understand how ingredients are grown, and about having respect and social responsibility towards the environment, towards customers, and towards the food that you produce for them. That’s what it should be.” Though Singapore has gained a reputation for importing a large proportion of its produce, Han aims to promote regional flavours, environmental awareness, and create a truly Singaporean cuisine that encapsulates traditional childhood flavours.
In terms of the food, it was a real treat. The menu started off with a modern twist on local street food. Things like Oyster Omelette, Chinese Sausage Claypot Rice and Sambal Clams were each recreated in miniature sizes, capturing the flavour and texture of the street food experience in small bites. The main section of the menu came in six courses dominated with seafood – locally sourced of course. Again, all of these were based on local dishes but elevated into a fine dining version. For the “chicken” satay which came in 3 skewers, he was very brave and included one skewer of frog meat and one skewer of crocodile meat – only telling the diners at the end of the meal! By including such a variety, he points out that the crocodile meat is a by-product from the local leather industry so if we enjoy it as much as the chicken, why let it go to waste?! This is a good point but I am sure there were some upset customers as a result. (Chef Han admitted that he got a serious complaint once, but only once. Otherwise, people were very convinced by the point that he was trying to illustrate.) As expected, the two most well-known Singaporean dishes amongst foreigners, Chicken Rice and Chilli Crab, is also featured in Chef Han’s menu; these are two dishes you can find in any hawker market in Singapore.
For dessert, there were another four items featuring the classic Tofu dessert and Pasar Malam (which literally means night market). This is where the chef incorporates his childhood memories of sweets from the night market into the menu. From amuse bouche to petit-four, there wasn’t a bite that I didn’t enjoy. Every item was well executed with very balanced flavours. I was also quite surprised they were able to achieve that with a small team of 4 in the kitchen.
The best part of the experience wasn’t just the food, each course came with a card which not only describes the source of the local ingredient in detail, but also the background and origin of each of the Singaporean local dishes. The huge amount of research and knowledge gathered by the restaurant team is impressive. Chef Lg Han definitely redefined Singapore cuisine for me. What a delicious and enlightening dining experience.