As a young boy growing up on a farm in Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia, Drew Nocente appreciated the lengths his family would go to ensure that nothing is wasted when cooking for his large family of six. Meals for this Italian brood were hearty and varied, where maximum use was made of the farm animals (pigs and cattle). Every part was eaten in some form; liver and kidneys went into pies, brains were pan-fried, and bones were simmered for broth.
Decades later, armed with a culinary certificate from TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and years working for various restaurants in and out of Australia including Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Bar and Grill, Nocente brought his own personal brand of conscious cooking and mindful eating into his own contemporary gastronomic restaurant, Salted & Hung, which opened in 2016 at Purvis Street.
Google “top 10 sustainable restaurants in Singapore” and we’re sure you’ll find Salted & Hung high on the list. At its heart is a zero-food waste philosophy of maximising ingredients to their fullest potential by using every single part without waste, including the creative use of unpopular forgotten parts such as the skin, bone, protein and innards. This concept not only received approving nods within the eco-community, but also won Salted & Hung its first award — Best New Restaurant — by the World Gourmet Summit in 2017.
In the beginning, Salted & Hung branded itself as a contemporary Australian restaurant specialising in nose-to-tail cooking — a practice where you use every part of an animal through in-house curing, smoking, pickling, fermenting and grilling. But import restrictions on bringing whole animals into Singapore (especially in pandemic times) meant full “nose-to-tail” could not be realised, so the savvy chef quickly pivoted and turned his ala carte menu into a premium tasting menu to showcase how smaller game can be fully utilised in one meal.
The farm-to-table concept is taken very seriously here. The team works with trusted vendors from Australia and elsewhere, with farmers who already have good farming practices in place such as local micro-herbs supplier Pocket Greens. Nocente also shows that cooking with older vintage beef cuts such as eight-year-old retired breeding cattle, can taste just as buttery and flavourful.
Pushing every ingredient to its maximum potential, not a single by-product goes to waste in this kitchen. All parts of an animal or vegetable are fully utilised — bones for stock and sauces; vegetable trimmings for broth, kombucha and flavourings. Even the skin and innards can go into making butter and seasonings.
This whole ecosystem, forged through memories of his childhood on a farm, forms the cornerstone of Nocente’s award-winning zero food waste dining concept.
Salted & Hung offers two tasting menus showcasing the chef’s clever manoeuvring of this season’s pick of ingredients — A Taste of Sustainability ($148++ for 7 courses) and The Art of Sustainability ($198++ for 10 courses) — where diners are presented with an illustrated mind map to show how each dish is inextricably linked to the next.
For instance, leftover sourdough bread trimmings are brewed for two weeks to create a Vegemite-like extract that is mixed with abalone liver and butter to season the Green Lip Abalone, one of the featured dishes in the menu. The tender abalone meat is served with a charcuterie broth made from unwanted charcuterie, while the abalone shell is used for plating or upcycled into cutlery holders and steak knife handles.
Green Lip Abalone
IPA Sourdough with whipped lard and wakame butter
Even pork makes an appearance, not in the way that you think, but as whipped lard made from pork fat trimmings which is served as an indulgent spread alongside regular butter for the sourdough bread. The pig’s head also shows up in canape form in a snack called Head Cheese, where the meat is brined, slow-cooked and turned into a soft rillette which is coated with sourdough batter and deep fried.
And, in case you’re wondering if any part of the menu is Australian, there’s the Kangaroo Sausage Roll — a delicious spring-roll of brick pastry filled with cured kangaroo and wagyu trimmings, diced and garnished with chives.
Another star on the menu is the trending fish of the moment — the turbot — which has been milked in countless different ways to create everything from a sauce to a broth and a batter. What goes behind creating the melt-in-your-mouth turbot dish is both complex and very time-consuming. After the fillet is aged in the chiller for five days, it’s rolled into shape and slow cooked till perfectly soft and served with a vin jaune sauce made from blended turbot liver. The skin and trimmings, including the guts, are fermented into a fishy garum used to season the vegetables, while the bones are hung and dried for a few more weeks to make an aromatic broth for the dashi tea that’s served on the side. Extending out of this one dish, the turbot skin and fins are further used to create collagen chips served with caviar.
Aged Turbot with Liver Vin Jaune
We must also highlight the succulent vintage sirloin from grass-fed cattle aged at least 60 months old — more than twice the age of regular cattle. Nocente ages the meat till super tender, then grills it over coconut husk charcoal and Japanese Binchotan to retain all its juicy beefy flavours. It’s served with 24-hour barbecued carrots confit in beef fat, dehydrated and rehydrated with beef stock, then lightly charred before serving.
Dry aged grass-fed vintage sirloin
Salted & Hung desserts are devilishly fun compared to the main courses as they show a lighter and more nostalgic side to Nocente. The apple-heavy dessert, El Toro Orchard, is an ode to his family’s apple orchard which grew three kinds of apples. In this version, he prepared various apple-y treats on a plate from apple pound cake to slow-cooked apple wedges in fermented apple juice, served with a side of clotted cream ice cream and apple kombucha on the side.
El Toro Orchard
For his petit fours, more of Nocente’s Aussie humour come to light with modernised treats from his childhood such as the Golden Yaytime Bon-bons (a nod to Golden Gaytime ice cream), to brown butter financiers called Fairy Bread, and traditional Anzac Biscuit — an old school snack found in every household down under.
The candy cart
To complement minimal waste cooking practices, the team at Salted & Hung do make a conscious effort to recycle, upcycle and upvalue wherever possible. Throughout the kitchen and restaurant, single-usage vessels are banned; so all containers are reusable, while cling wrap, garbage bags, disposable packages have been switched to biodegradable versions. In a collaboration with Pocket Greens, a compost bin has been installed in the kitchen to turn scraps into compost to fertilise plants at the farm.
Aside from repurposing seashells into tableware, Nocente is looking at collaborating with local artists and jewellers to upcycle other possible residual ingredients or convert them into animal feed. He sees his restaurant as a platform to push for mindfulness in the F&B industry. In the future, he plans to hold masterclasses and workshops to engage the local community on the ways sustainable practices have been creatively applied at Salted & Hung.
SALTED & HUNG
12 Purvis St, Singapore 188591
Contact: +65 6358-3130
Lunch: Thursday to Sunday | 12:00pm to 2:30pm
Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday | 6:00pm to 10:30pm