A home cook and a restaurant chef share their family dishes, leaving us convinced that flavour is inextricably linked with memory
Every one of us has a favourite family recipe that has a backstory which we enjoy telling friends. Executive chef Manjunath Mural of Michelin-starred The Song of India and home cook Annette Tan share one special recipe each for National Day. Mural has tweaked his mother’s dessert recipe while Tan tells us why she has picked a teatime snack her mum used to make.
Food writer, restaurant reviewer and private dining host Tan has opened up her home to paying guests for private meals. She calls her business Fatfuku: fuku means good fortune in Chinese and to be fat in Japanese.
Tan serves meals inspired by her Peranakan heritage and Eurasian dishes she learnt from childhood friends.
For National Day, she has chosen to share her Scrambled Egg Sandwich recipe. “I think this dish represents the colonial influence that filtered down to my parents’ generation. How else would a Straits-born Chinese woman who never travelled out of Singapore come up with so Western a dish as a Bovril egg salad sandwich?”
Tan’s late mother was a fabulous cook and, like most Peranakan women in her day, would whip up a multicourse meal almost every night, with dishes such chap chye (stewed mixed vegetables) and babi assam (pork stewed in a tamarind gravy).
But what Tan finds most unique is her egg and Bovril sandwich, which mum called “scrambled eggs”.
This was the only scrambled eggs Tan knew as a child and she was shocked when, as a teenager, she ordered the dish and was served “a plate of strangely coa gulated yellow eggs”.
“This sandwich isn’t the prettiest of dishes, but it is one I cherish and love. Although it comprises just a few humble ingredients — sliced bread, eggs, butter, Bovril, salt and white pepper — it remains a treasure in my memory vault of my mother’s food.”
Scrambled Egg Sandwich
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Bovril
¼ tsp ground white pepper
a pinch of salt
8 slices white bread
1. Place the eggs in a saucepan and fill with enough water to immerse them completely. Bring the water to a slow boil and continue cooking for eight minutes.
2. In the meantime, fill a bowl with iced water.
3. When the eggs are cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer them immediately to the bowl of iced water (this will make it easier to shell them).
4. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, remove their shells and place them in a bowl. Add the butter, Bovril, pepper and salt and mash all the ingredients together using two forks. Taste and add salt or pepper if necessary.
5. Place four slices of bread on a work surface and spread an equal amount of the egg mixture over each slice. Top with the remaining slices of bread and serve.
The Song of India won a Michelin star in July 2016 and again in June this year, the first restaurant in Southeast Asia to do so. But executive chef Mural is not taking it easy. In fact, he is working even harder to uphold the standards and looking at different ways to present Indian cuisine.
Options asked if he could share a family recipe and he obliged with Moong Dal Saffron Dry Fruit Halwa. He says: “National Day is about celebration and my mother used to cook this dish for us whenever there was a reason to celebrate, on Diwali, birthdays and more.”
Well, he has tweaked his mother’s recipe a bit, making it less sweet and using lentils instead of carrots. Would she approve? Yes, he says with a smile. We tasted the dessert, which is almost like a pudding, with the lentils cooked to a creamy yet firm consistency. The sweetness is enhanced by the dried fruits and home-made rose ice cream.
Mural comes from a family of doctors but chose to do something different. He has not looked back since. “Indian cuisine has a depth of history, tradition, ingredients and techniques, yet it is still considered niche and [recipes are] often kept within family restaurants in many parts of the world. I have often asked myself why.
“My dream is to share my style in presenting Indian cuisine in a way that is relevant to diners across the world, and [I hope that] haute Indian cuisine will one day be as accepted as haute French dining is. Earning a Michelin star is just one way of working towards this dream.”
At The Song of India, you can savour Mural’s dishes, which are prepared according to traditional methods and blended with the flavours of Singapore. Examples are his Tandoorima rinated Salmon in Sambal, Fish with Lobster and Mango-spiced Caviar, and Spiced Chicken Roulade Stuffed with Baby Spinach in a Laksa-infused Sauce.
If all that is making your mouth water, try the Moong Dal Saffron Dry Fruit Halwa recipe and wow guests on National Day.
Moong Dal Saffron Dry Fruit Halwa (Lentil and dry fruit pudding)
500g yellow moong lentils
20g melon seeds
20g cashew nuts
a few strands of saffron
1. Soak lentils in two litres of water for four to five hours.
2. After soaking, strain the water.
3. Grind the lentils coarsely in a blender.
4. Place ghee in a non-stick pot and heat over medium heat.
5. Add the ground lentils and sauté until they are golden brown.
6. Add all the nuts and sauté on a low flame for two to three minutes.
7. Add the sugar and mix it well with the saffron and water.
8. Cook for another 12 to 15 minutes until the mixture is thick and stable.
9. Serve the pudding hot, garnished with nuts.
The Song of India
33 Scotts Road
Tel: 6836 0055
This article appeared in Issue 791 (Aug 7) of The Edge Singapore.