[Sponsored] Avid foodies know that ‘tis the season of spring menus. Restaurants across the island have rolled out all-new limited edition dishes to coincide with the season that comes after winter and before summer.
But what does that even mean in a place where it’s sultry all year round? The short answer is: whatever the chefs want it to mean.
“In today’s globalized world, when we have access to a bounty of ingredients all year round, menus are more heavily influenced by a chef’s culinary direction,” explains Benjamin Tan, chef at Dempsey Hill’s atmospheric Modern European restaurant The White Rabbit.
Chef Benjamin Tan of The White Rabbit
Reason to be Creative
For Tan, seasonal menus are a chance to rotate dishes out of his regular menu, and to please regulars who may want to be surprised. “For our latest selection of specials, I was inspired by the overall theme of springtime as opposed to specific seasonal ingredients.”
There’s plenty of inspiration in The White Rabbit menu. The theme of springtime abundance is evident in dishes like the grilled Fremantle octopus leg, which resembles a colorful garden, with edible flowers, salad greens and fresh herbs. The classic sauteed foie gras gets a slightly unusual treatment, swapping out the apple or cherry compote with a yuzu reduction and picked nashi pear.
But that’s not to say it’s all about creativity and nothing about availability. Almost all of Singapore’s produce is imported and this is especially true in its high-end restaurants, whose trusted suppliers scour the ends of the earth—where seasons do exist—to bring exciting, fresh and seasonal ingredients for chefs to play with.
Tan says he is always influenced by “the amazing quality seasonal ingredients that [his] suppliers bring in.”
He’s talking about highlight dishes such as the slow-cooked lamb rump, made using season-specific ingredients such as Australian spring lamb and roasted vine tomatoes from the Netherlands, alongside braised puy lentils from France. The beloved springtime Italian truffle also finds its way into the seasonal menu at The White Rabbit, appearing in a rich potato terrine served alongside a pan-seared Kuhlbarra Barramundi.
Grilled Octopus at The White Rabbit
Keeping Things Fresh
The other side of the creativity coin is logistics, and Singapore’s food suppliers go to great lengths to make sure the fresh, seasonal ingredients they source from around the world stay that way when they get to the city’s best kitchens.
Desmond Lee from FreshDirect, which works with Chef Tan, stresses the importance of temperature. “We work with reliable suppliers and farmers who can maintain proper cold chain during transport—this is very critical especially if produce is highly perishable.”
Even when the produce arrives in Singapore, the delicate work of maintaining freshness isn’t done. A spokesperson from Culina, which flies in foreign produce three times a week, explains that they will also “clear airport customs once the produce arrives in Singapore and deliver these products to our customers the same day.”
All in all, Singapore’s spring menus come down to a partnership between the city’s quality suppliers and the creativity of its chefs—the products of which are enjoyed by diners for weeks to come.
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