Recently, four of our favourite chefs got together to cook. Steve Allen of Pollen, Bjorn Shen of Artichoke, Dannel Krishnan of The Supermarket Company and Shen Tan of Gastrogig. Allen, a native of East Sussex and once employed by Gordon Ramsay (David Beckham too), is the guy you go to for all things real and fine. Shen is the country’s poster boy for “dude food”; you know, all things hearty. Rough around the edges, but tasty. Krishnan is the young and shy chef known for his intricate, creative cuisine with a hint of local. And Tan is chef who gave up her job at Forbes to begin her foray into the F&B business. She’s best for pimping up simple hawker fare, including nasi lemak that is now sold at Revolution Cafe.   

I knew what I was getting into when I got them to do based something on chicken rice. It is the best example of Singaporean cuisine that’s simple, good ol’ comfort food. Even Anthony Bourdain is including it in the Bourdain Market that’s opening in New York City this year. A twist on a local favourite could ruffle some features, but if something tastes that good, surely it deserves credit. Know that a good cook can make anything taste good, as would a true drummer make music out of a stick and bucket. He can also take a dish, infuse things in small doses and trigger the taste profiles of the locals. 

The key is to do that without being obvious. You want them to eat, pause and think, “wait a minute, this tastes like something I know.”

Curious to recreate what they did? You can start with Allen’s, a salt-baked pandan chicken on buttery garlic rice, served with a broth made from roasted wings and cucumber oil. It is a delicious but incredibly elaborate recipe. Go, knock yourself out and see who you might impress.

This is part one of a series of chefs we profiled this month (February 2017). Get your copy today at all good bookstores or if you wish, subscribe.

Steve Allen’s Chicken Rice

What you will be making:

Salt-baked pandan chicken

Pickled chilli and ginger

Burnt cucumber

Cucumber, ginger and amaranth dressing

Grilled spring onion

Crispy chicken skin and garlic rice

Roast chicken and spring onion consommé

Salt Pastry

500g bread flour

300g fine salt

5 egg whites

150ml water

1 lemon, zested

  1. Mix dry and wet ingredients separately.
  2. Create a well in the dry ingredients and then pour the wet ingredients in and slowly incorporate to a dough.
  3. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes and leave to rest in chiller for 10 minutes.

Salt-baked pandan chicken

1 spring chicken (Corn-fed, preferably. Legs and wings removed.)

4 pandan leaves

50g ginger

1 egg

  1. Grate the ginger and rub the chicken with it.
  2. Wash the pandan leaves and then wrap them around the chicken.
  3. Roll out the salt dough, big enough to wrap around the whole bird.
  4. Cover the chicken with the salt dough, brush with the beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes at 220C.
  5. Remove chicken and leave for 3-4 minutes. Then crack the salt crust open and brush away the ginger and pandan.
  6. Place the chicken in an ice bath for 30 seconds.
  7. Remove the chicken and then peel off the skin.
  8. Pat the skin dry and shallow fry it until crispy.
  9. Take the breast off the chicken and slice thinly and serve.

Cucumber, ginger and amaranth dressing

50ml light soy sauce

50ml reduced chicken stock (from consommé)

100ml cucumber oil

25ml distilled vinegar

25g gula melaka

10g toasted amaranth seeds

10g finely chopped ginger

5g shredded coriander

  1. Boil the vinegar with the gula melaka.
  2. Whisk in the soy sauce, seeds, ginger and chicken stock.
  3. Slowly whisk in the cucumber oil.
  4. Add the coriander last minute before serving.

Burnt cucumber

1 Cucumber, peeled and cored.

100ml Pickling liquid (writer’s note: find out how to make your own here.)

  1. Cut the cucumber into small discs and then place in a vacuum chamber with the pickling liquid to infuse.
  2. Do this process 3 times and then pat dry.
  3. Sear the cucumber in a hot cast iron pan on one side until well seared.

 Crispy chicken skin and garlic rice

200g long grain rice

2 banana shallots

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

15g chopped ginger

75g chicken Fat

50g butter

400ml white chicken stock

½ tsp salt

1 tsp fried garlic slices

1 sprig of thyme, picked and chopped

Crispy chicken skin

Chicken meat from the legs

Coriander to finish

  1. Wash the rice and drain.
  2. Sauté the shallots, garlic and ginger in the chicken fat and butter. Season with the salt.
  3. Add the rice and sauté without giving it colour for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the chicken stock and cover with a lid.
  5. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until just cooked.
  6. To finish the rice, mix in the chopped crispy chicken skin, leg meat from the consommé and coriander.

Chicken consommé

Legs and wings from chicken

4 banana shallots

4 cloves garlic

3 sprigs thyme

1 tsp white peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds

500ml white chicken stock

6 egg whites

  1. In a pan with vegetable oil, roast the legs and wings from the chicken.
  2. Add the shallots, garlic, thyme, peppercorns, coriander seeds and caramelise.
  3. Add the chicken stock and slowly cook for half an hour.
  4. Remove the chicken legs and pick the meat off reserving for the rice.
  5. Place the skin and bones back in the stock and cook for another 30 minutes.
  6. Strain the stock and leave to cool to room temperature.
  7. Whisk the egg whites until broken down and then add to the stock.
  8. Bring to a simmer until the egg whites are like a cake.
  9. Strain the liquid through a cloth and finish with sliced spring onions, chopped ginger and coriander.
  10. Finally, serve everything on the bed of rice and serve it with the consommé on the side.

Photo credit: Daydream Photography

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