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A Dash of Szechwan

Chen Kentaro, Executive Chef of Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro—Singapore’s highest Michelin-rated Chinese restaurant, draws on three generations of culinary heritage to complete his first English cookbook, A Dash of Szechwan.

The collection of 50 recipes, some of them never before shared family secrets, features Chef Kentaro’s own take on family recipes and Shisen Hanten signatures. Also included are recipes originally developed by his grandfather, Chen Kenmin—lauded as the “Father of Szechwan cuisine” in Japan, and his father, Chen Kenichi—the renowned “Szechwan Sage” and longest-running Iron Chef Chinese. (For the uninformed, Iron Chef was, and still is, a popular cooking battle show with lots of theatrics in Japan, and is considered a pretty big deal to appear on it)

Recalling his inspiration for the cookbook, Chef Kentaro said,

“With A Dash of Szechwan, I hope to share my love of Szechwan cooking with a wider audience, and showcase that the flavours of the cuisine offer so much more than the piquancy it is more popularly known for. I am excited to have this opportunity of bringing my favourite recipes into everyone’s kitchen.”

In the book, Chef Kentaro takes readers on an easy-to-follow journey through the bold and versatile flavours of Szechwan cuisine. Stunning food photography fills the pages of the cookbook, and peppered throughout are useful tips and visual step-by-step guides on cooking and preparation techniques. He also adds personal background stories to the mouth-watering recipes, and dedicates a pictured glossary for easier reference of some of the more essential and commonly mistaken ingredients featured in the cookbook. He also includes recipes for stocks, sauces, and marinades that can be used for a great variety of dishes.

Book Launch Event at Shisen Hanten

After the official launch, we were treated to a selection of Chef Kentaro’s signatures that are also featured in the book, from light starters like the Foie Gras Chawanmushi with Crab Roe Soup, to hearty and homely favourites like the Dan Dan Noodle (旦旦面) Soup, Stir-fried Lobster with Chilli Sauce and their now-gonna-be-famous Chen Family’s Mapo Tofu (meat and vegetarian versions were both served, how you like it at home is totally up to you). In good Szechwan fashion, the cuisine had the perfect balance between the spice from the chilli and the savoury tastes of the other stars of the dish (read; umami). Of course it’s up to you to up the ante on the spice either at the restaurant or at home. So fear not ketchup boys and girls!

After the official book launch, the Chef ‘challenged’ us, the guests, to a cook-off a la Gordon Ramsay style. Our gusty volunteer, Bobby, put up a good showing as he was instructed back-facing Chef Kentaro to cook some stir-fried beef. Our judge even called it a tie! Maybe he was a secret Masterchef-level home cook, who knew?

At the end we received a personalised signed copy of Chef Kentaro’s book, together with some special gifts from Shisen Hanten and their partner, tea sellers Pryce Tea (more below). For more information on how to get your hands on limited editions of SIGNED COPIES of Chef Kentaro’s cookbook, visit the restaurant or contact them with the details at the end of this article.

Shisen Hanten by Chef Kentaro

Started in 1958, Akasaka Szechwan Restaurant aka Shisen Hanten which it is popularly known in Japan, was the brainchild of Chen Kentaro’s Grandfather Chen Kenmin which was then passed down to his Father Chen Kenichi. Regarded as Japan’s “Father of Szechwan Cuisine”, the eldest Chen envisioned the restaurant to “make Shisen Hanten customers truly appreciate Szechwan food through all the five senses.” Through Kentaro’s Father, Kenichi, the Shisen Hanten brand branched out across Japan, with 14 branches across 6 cities and now with it’s first debut outside the country in sunny Singapore, where it is Kentaro’s turn to continue their legacy and set the stage for global recognition of Japan’s best loved Szechwan Restaurant. Indeed it is already Singapore’s most decorated Michelin-rated Chinese restaurant (two-stars).

Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro celebrates the seven basic flavours of Szechwan cuisine: sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic and salty. Highlights not to be missed include Chen’s Mapo Doufu, Chen’s Original Spicy Noodle Soup, Stewed Fish Fillet in Spicy Szechwan Chilli Pepper, and Deep-fried Chicken in Spicy Szechwan Chilli Pepper. Also available on the menu is a delicious selection of authentic Cantonese classics. Situated at level 35 or Mandarin Orchard, you can be sure of a good view too!

Pryce Tea

A quick feature on what I feel was a good selection of tea by the restaurant’s partner Pryce Tea. Established by one of Singapore’s oldest tea companies, Lim Lam Thye, Pryce Tea seeks to demystify the age-old perception that Chinese teas are only enjoyed during elaborate tea ceremonies, to bring you wonderful epicurean blends that embody oriental finery with modern simplicity.

We were treated to a display of a small part of their big collection of teas, such as the Cocoon Night, with decaffeinated Oolong tea leaves and Australian Eucalyptus and French Lavender which promises a good end to a busy day, and their aptly-flavoured Peppy Day, which is blended with Szechuan Peppers to give it a good oomph to pep up your day. Check out their website here!

More Information

Shisen Hanten
Level 35 Orchard Wing
Mandarin Orchard Singapore
333 Orchard Road
Singapore 238867
Phone: 68316262 / 68316266
Email: shisenhanten.orchard@meritushotels.com
Facebook | Website

In Singapore, even as Singaporeans,  there’s a few things that grind our gears. The (sometimes overzealous) sun and heat, and never-ending crowds. Put both together and you got yourself a nightmare even the sandman can’t dust away. So one sweltering afternoon, as we were loitering around the Marina Bay Sands hotel and Gardens by the Bay while playing Pokemon Go (yes don’t judge, I want my pokedex ok), we wanted to find somewhere that we knew would be away from the throngs of visitors in the area.

26@Marina Bar & Bistro

26@Marina is a bar & bistro that took root (geddit) right at the far corner of Satay by the Bay; a good distance away from the tourist crowd in the Gardens. Being at the side means they’re shielded from the smoky satay and BBQ seafood fumes, and not to mention the hustle and bustle that comes with it. With ample seating, it’s great for one, or with your entire bike/e-scooter gang while you crack a cold one with the boys.

So anyway, after grabbing a pint of ice-cold beer to cool off the heat, I was introduced to one of their specialties the crispy pork belly (i.e. sio bak) salsa. While the pork has all the juicy goodness to match the crunch of the skin, the real hero of the dish IMO is actually the sambal chilli, which is V E R Y S P I C Y. PEDAS. 很辣. காரம். Do take it sparingly if you’re a ketchupboi/ketchupgal! By the way, the chilli (aptly named Woo-La-La! Sambal Belachan) is available for sale in bottles at the counter if you want… BUT BE WARNED.

Feeling really hungry, we went straight for the mains. A new creation of theirs at that time is a charcoal burger, served with a generous 180g beef patty, and a breaded portobello mushroom stuffed with cheddar cubes. That’s right, an entire portobello mushroom, not one of those uppity burger joint burgers that only have a few slices of mushrooms ‘for the flavour’. Dressed well in cheese and sauces, the beef is done properly (medium) and I can only complain that I don’t have mushroom left in my stomach after eating! There’s going to be more burger creations apart from this one, so be sure to check out their social media or their menu when you’re there! (Newly launched: Mushroom Swiss Burger & Double Cheeseburger, +$2 for truffle fries)

Despite being a casual diner in an al-fresco setting they take their food seriously. The U.S. pork chops that we ordered came along not overcooked (common gripe) and well-seasoned too!

26@Marina 26@Marina 26@Marina 26@Marina26@Marina 26@Marina26@Marina

Incoming Promotion!

In line with our 52nd National Day (SG52), 26@Marina will have a promotion from 3 August onwards! With any purchase of a gourmet burger (including the charcoal burger I ate, while stocks last) gets you a bottle of Tiger white (wheat beer)/black (dark lager) for just $5.20 (U.P. $8.50)! While stocks last!

Tiger Black White Promo 26@Marina

Verdict

hole-in-the-wall-ness:
It’s a bit far-flung from public transportation, but still rather accessible. We took an oBike here from MBS and it only took like 7-10 minutes? Also there’s free parking on weekdays for lunchtime (12-2pm)!

Price:
Standard bistro prices, about $20-30/person. Which isn’t bad considering it’s right next to Gardens, a major tourist attraction.

Quality:
Everything is freshly made, and by including an entire portobello mushroom that’s the same width of the burger patty, it shows they mean business!

Overall:
A nice change from the Satay (hence Satay by the Bay) and other overpriced local fare, you should come to this watering hole for a ice cold pint and that F-L-A-M-I-N-G HOT chilli!

More Information

26@Marina Bar & Bistro
18 Marina Gardens Drive
Satay by the Bay
Singapore 018953
Opening Hours: 11:30am to 11:30pm Daily
Reservations: 6702-0739
Facebook |Instagram


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So the Singapore Food Festival (SFF) is going on this month, and to join in the festivities, Mandarin Gallery teamed up with selected restaurants to present the Singapore Food Trail! We were invited to the official presentation of this event just last week, where familiar names such as Antoinette, Arteastiq, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, and The Providore have all created specials for you to enjoy from 14 July to 9 August 2017, leading up to Singapore’s 52nd National Day! I’ll go through each and every one of the dishes we got to taste that day, so sit tight!

The Providore

A homage to the cocktail that is often part of the repertoire of many bartenders’ across the globe, The Providore came up with the Singapore Sling Mocktail ($8.50++), so everyone can enjoy the refreshing and fruity notes of this Singapore classic! It was a really humid afternoon (like really surprising, huh?) so this was a good starting point to quench our thirst. We liked the pineapple crisp that gave that extra zest and crunch to the drink!

Antoinette

Fancy some sweets for high-tea? This quintessential Parisian pâtisserie and salon de thé combined the fragrance of Southeast Asia with French finesse, with the Orient ($9++; comes in a regular and mini size). This holy creation consists of a salted egg cremeux with lotus seed mousse, coconut cake, on a salted peanut sesame praline crispy. Think Liu Sha Bao (流沙包; salted egg yolk custard buns), but on delicate French confectionery. Heavenly!

Arteastiq

While better known for being a tea house and an art jamming studio (hence the portmanteau of art and tea), Arteastiq also has a generous brunch selection. For the food trail, they unveiled the Two-Way Lobster ($38++; totally unintended innuendo btw). It features (well) lobsters prepared in two very different styles; Lobster Thermidor (French) and otah-stuffed lobster shell (SIngaporean), served with barley risotto. The result is a burst of flavor (in fact, 2 bursts) which are both savory in their own rights, but are well-balanced with the other.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib

Last stop of the day! At this time we were already S-T-U-F-F-E-D. But who could say no to…

Chilli Crab Pasta($38++)! Lawry’s The Prime Rib is not only well-known for its steaks and roasts, also has a fresh seafood collection. With chilli crab ubiquitous to Singapore cuisine, from hawker centres to fine-dining restaurants, this steak house decided to have a go at it! On top of the chilli crab pasta, which is generously prepared with shreds of fresh crab, is yet another crab, albeit a soft shell one. But that’s not all, Lawry’s also came up with a refreshing Red Jubilee ($5.20++), a festive creation that calls for a celebration!

Psst. the chilli crab pasta will only be available for lunch in July, but will be available all day in August. Take note!

Win Some Good Food (Giveaway)!

Did I get your attention with all these wonderful dishes on the food trail? Now YOU can stand a chance to win dining vouchers worth $100 from each of the above restaurants, simply by following Mandarin Gallery on Instagram (@mandaringallery) and Facebook (facebook.com/mandaringallery), and leaving a comment (you need to tag 3 friends on Instagram) telling them which dish you would like to try the most and why! (See posts below). Good Luck!

More Information

Mandarin Gallery: Facebook | Instagram | Website

Antionette: Facebook | Website

Arteastiq: Facebook | Instagram | Website

Lawry’s The Prime Rib: Facebook | Instagram | Website

The Providore: Facebook | Instagram | Website


This post is brought to you by Mandarin Gallery presents Singapore Food Trail. Picture credits to Mandarin Gallery, the participating restaurants, and Kyla Tan (give her a follow @_kylatan too yea!).