Foodies’ Fondest Holiday Feasts

by Susanah Cheok

If you’re stumped for what to whip up or bring to a home-for-the-holiday feast, take a leaf out of what 2 chefs, one restaurateur and a gourmand evangelist are wishing for during the upcoming festivities.

Holiday feasting occupies a large part of my childhood memories, partly because the menus were always massive. The most memorable ones were cooked by and eaten with my late parents, along with 2 generations of other relatives and close family friends, at our family home.

Besides the de rigueur turkey and ham, my mum was also fond of injecting local flavours in the form of her famous mee siam, DIY poh piah and kueh pie tee, also curry chicken eaten with toasted French loaf and sometimes prata – yes, prata for Christmas; you can’t get more local than that. But mind you, these were just sides, nibbled on all night, while we waited for barbecued meat and seafood to be ready and served.

You see, my foodie parents were also big fans of the barbecue, and every Christmas dinner, our entire garden and patio would be turned into an outdoor smoke house of sorts, with my dad and brother happily sweating over make-shift grills, serving up perfectly marinated minute steaks, skewered chicken wings, tiger prawns, whole squids and chilli-doused sting ray wrapped in foil envelopes.

For dessert, Mummy would always present her hard-to-resist piece de resistance: kueh ko sui, a delicious Peranakan dessert made with tapioca, gula Melaka, and eaten with grated coconut, which of course, everyone found hard to resist.

My festive food memories are truly eclectic. But what are gourmands thinking of when it comes to making, eating or bringing? Their out-of-the-box cravings will certainly surprise you.

Willin Low, founder/chef/owner of Relish (by day) and Roketto Izakaya (by night), both at Frasers Tower. Willin also opened and runs Roketto in Niseko, a seasonal restaurant, where he is currently based.

Willin: “This season, I’m craving for nasi padang – specifically beef rendang, chicken korma, begedil, sambal ikan bilis and squid in ink sauce. I have never been a fan of western Christmassy dishes and prefer a spicy local meal over turkey and roast beef. This season, I’m in Niseko, which makes it even harder for me to have nasi padang.”

Fiona and Fulvio Manini, owners of Casa Manini, an emerging neighbourhood Italian restaurant in quaint Serangoon Gardens. Fiona runs front of house and Fulvio heads up the kitchen as the Heavy Metal Chef.

Fiona: “We both always crave our mamas’ cooking and the holiday season is no exception. Being married to an Italian and running an Italian restaurant, I tend to crave local food. I’m dreaming of my mum’s lemak (sayur lodeh) and her potatoes, pork and star anise stew. Hearty, spicy and comforting, especially after a busy, hard day of serving.”

Fulvio: “Definitely Mama’s cooking. Her salmon and pasta dish, which she likes to surprise us with when she visits us. And her home-made jam. I love cooking with my mum, but I love her cooking more than mine!”

Veronica Phua, Brand Evangelist at Burpple, the e-place to discover good food and great deals in the best restaurants in Singapore.

Veronica: “This year, I seem to be drawn to festive goodies from Italy. In particular, it’s the Panettone I’m infatuated with. I was gifted one by La Rustichella, baked in the traditional style, with dried fruit that was lovely. However, the Panettone that truly astounded me was from Acetaia Leonardi, the Italian company renowned for their balsamic vinegar from Modena. I was bowled over by how the rich tang of the aged black vinegar complemented the dried fruit buried in the fluffy cake.

“Executive Chef Angelo Ciccone of the Regent Hotel also presented me with a Pandoro recently. A classic Christmas cake of Verona, Italy, the star-shaped (when viewed from above) bake is super light and fluffy. Since it does not contain any dried fruit, I ate it the way Chef Angelo recommended – spread with a little pistachio paste. That was scrumptious.”


Images courtesy of featured personalities, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.


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