Revealing his mastery of cooking in a char costume
We provide a glimpse into our prolonged dialogue with Chef Wayne Liu, the inventive power behind Keng Eng Kee Seafood, a roving stall acknowledged within the Michelin Information since 2016, showcasing the distinctive state of avenue meals at KEK. This culinary haven not solely upholds the traditions of Zi Char, but additionally superbly celebrates Singapore’s wealthy culinary heritage.
Chef Wayne Liu started his culinary journey from humble beginnings, initially taking over the function of kitchen assistant in 2004, the bottom rung within the kitchen hierarchy. His tasks included fundamental kitchen practices, together with sustaining cleanliness and group. Over the course of 4 years, he progressed to managing kitchen provides and helping the pinnacle chef, together with managing stock and carefully monitoring cooking methods. This apprenticeship course of allowed him to know the “what”, “how” and “why” of the world of Chinese language delicacies. Away from the kitchen, Wayne’s ardour for culinary exploration led him to delve into cookbooks, fostering a want to innovate and elevate his present menu, marking an vital turning level in his profession.
This is a sneak peek into our in-depth dialog with Chef Wayne Liu, the culinary expertise behind Singapore’s Michelin-awarded hawker stall, Keng Eng Kee Seafood.
Are you able to inform us in regards to the journey from hawker stall to a full-fledged restaurant making Zi-Char delicacies and the cultural influences that formed you into KEK Seafood? How has your menu developed from its origins as a roving stall in 1975 to its present choices, and what has prompted these adjustments in response to evolving tastes and culinary tendencies?
It began with a small hawker stall within the former Havelock Roadhawker Heart in Singapore. Opened by our maternal grandparents, the legacy and keenness has been handed right down to our era. We began from scratch, as apprentices do within the kitchen. We have been cleansing the kitchen and bogs, studying the best way to consider. Our dad and mom did not need us to run an organization, they wished us to worth its property and worth our workers.
Our expectations have been modest – simply to maintain the household enterprise rising. Whereas some dishes have survived the take a look at of time, a lot has modified. Through the years, we have been capable of innovate our menu and develop dishes because of the town’s various group and evolving culinary practices. For instance, our grandparents and oldsters had their very own distinctive dishes. These dishes have developed not solely due to completely different elements available on the market, but additionally due to the change in diners’ tastes. In my grandparents’ time, they most well-liked sturdy flavours, and the dishes have been oily, whereas in my father’s time, they most well-liked lighter, lighter flavours. Right this moment, diners need various and complicated flavors.
Zi-Char Kitchen is a cross-cultural culinary hotspot. How do you stability the authenticity of Singaporean flavors with trendy culinary tendencies? Are you able to spotlight among the uniquely Singaporean Indian flavors and dishes you’ve got developed at KEK Seafood?
Derived from the native Hokkien dialect – cooking (煮) and frying (炒), zi char is a distinctly Singaporean eating time period used to explain home-cooked Chinese language food-inspired dishes meant for sharing. The communal eating expertise isn’t solely a typical cultural consider South Asia, but additionally offers a chance for nations to bond over a shared love of meals. Furthermore, we at KEK take our culinary hyperlinks to the next degree by sourcing from neighboring nations. Because the time of my grandparents, we have now been importing provides: shrimp come from Vietnam whereas crab arrives from India. We have borrowed so much from our mates from all around the nation to create what we name Singaporean delicacies.
In actual fact, ze char and Singaporean meals typically replicate a end result of various cultures. Singapore is a younger nation however relating to meals, we’re various and embrace completely different communities which have settled in Singapore. It isn’t simply Chinese language fare. There’s Singapore Chinese language, with Malaysian elements, Indian flavors and even Western flavours.
Over time, we have additionally elevated the spiciness of our chili crab. Our household model is considerably candy, bitter and spicy, however we have now added some spices to satisfy the altering tastes of residents, expats and vacationers in Singapore. Throughout our go to to India, the gang at Magazine Road Kitchen loved crispy fish pores and skin with some spicy and crunchy flavours. Moreover, the family-style group dinner expertise resonated with attendees.
Innovation performs an vital function in Asian cooking methods. How do you incorporate innovation into your dishes whereas staying true to the roots of Singaporean delicacies? Singapore has turn into a middle of gastronomic excellence. How has the native meals scene influenced and impressed the number of culinary creations at KEK Seafood?
Singapore is a meals paradise the place individuals like to eat, are impressed by the meals they eat, and be taught and share treasured recipes with their households and mates. With a variety of culinary delights spanning avenue meals stalls, Michelin-starred eating places and revolutionary delicacies, the town celebrates range in each dish. This dedication to culinary innovation regularly excites the palate and evokes us so as to add uncommon objects to our menu.
Over time, we have now maintained our dedication to basic recipes and cooking strategies whereas embracing new elements to satisfy the evolving tastes of each Singaporeans and vacationers. Our latest addition to the menu is Espresso Pork Ribs, a departure from the standard cooking choices. We have been excited to include espresso into our dish, combining conventional seasoning methods with trendy, revolutionary sauces.
Being a 3rd era co-owner, how have your loved ones’s culinary traditions contributed to the restaurant’s choices and recognition? In your culinary journey, have there been any particular elements or methods that you’ve got discovered to be uniquely Singaporean and integral to your dishes?
We’re a household run enterprise run by its third era. The four-member workforce brings a sure whiff of Liu household heritage to each dish. In actual fact, our menu attracts ongoing inspiration from our household’s culinary and cultural lineage. Dishes embody clay pot pork liver, a recipe from the siblings’ grandmother. We’ll even be serving Moonlight Enjoyable, a wok-fried rice noodle dish with uncooked eggs on high, which is our father’s specialty, and mingzu rolls, a treasured recipe ready by our mom, through which tau fu poke (tofu puffs) are crammed with salted egg yolk, prawns, pork and mushrooms. And parsley.
Being acknowledged by the Michelin Information is a good achievement. What does this imply for you and your workforce, and the way has it affected your strategy to consuming?
KEK made it to the Michelin Information in 2016 and has maintained its place ever since. Nonetheless, we do not let the accolades get the higher of us. All of the eating places in Singapore have been excited in regards to the arrival of Michelin. We have been a avenue meals restaurant, so our expectations have been low. Clearly we now know that good meals is all the time appreciated. Nonetheless, we caught to our standard routine; That labored for us.
KEK Seafood’s signature dish, Chili Crab, gained international fame by Netflix’s “Road Meals.” Are you able to share the story behind this well-known dish and its cultural significance?
Our signature dish – Chili Crab, alike, our menu is a mirrored image of our childhood. The three-layer dish represents how comparable Asian cultures are: it represents a number of layers of complexity. Nonetheless, ultimately, while you put it in your mouth, the flavours.
Are you able to share some ideas on the way forward for Singaporean delicacies, and the way KEK Seafood is contributing to its evolution whereas sustaining custom?
Whereas Singapore’s hawker tradition has been thriving, it’s dealing with a problem as few next-generation house owners wish to take the household enterprise ahead. Lengthy working hours discourage new entrants from becoming a member of the trade. However there are additionally a couple of like us who share our ardour. New generations can contribute past expertise, and might carry new concepts to enterprise administration – that is one thing to stay up for.
KEK is an distinctive avenue meals institution that achieved Michelin Information recognition in 2016 and has maintained this esteemed standing. This restaurant celebrates the custom of Zi Char in Singapore. Every dish, together with the well-known Chilli Crab, made well-known on Netflix’s ‘Road Meals’, showcases the wealthy cultural and geographical heritage inherent in Singaporean delicacies.