When was the last time you had Chef Shen Tan’s food? Perhaps it was at Revolution Coffee, where her signature nasi lemak is served for under $10, or at one of her pop-up events? Or maybe it was now-defunct Ujong at Raffles Hotel or her first restaurant Wok & Barrel on Duxton Hill. Well, if you’re a fan of her brand of modern Singaporean (usually abbreviated as mod Sin) cuisine, the latest place she has been unleashing her creativity is her new private kitchen in Singapore called Ownself Make Chef.
“Ownself make” is the literal English translation of the Chinese phase “自己做“, which means doing (something) on one’s own and a deliberate reference to Shen’s penchant for making many components and ingredients in her cooking by herself.
Housed in a three-room HDB flat in Commonwealth (that does actually belong to her), the living room and dining room seats up to twelve and can also function as a show kitchen for cooking demos with enough space for a camera crew (smart). Any food lover who enjoys cooking at home will go green with envy at her bevy of premium kitchen appliances – who knew Samsung made such great refrigerators? The star, though, is definitely the monster of a gas oven by Bertazzoni – and in bright yellow, no less. We hear there’s more to come from the Italian sixth-generation family-owned manufacturer (a built in electric oven and 6-top) as well as a Kadeka wine chiller.
Food-wise, expect some serious boundary pushing. The first dinner hosted by Shen was aPORKalypse VI last month, a meal centered around the glorious pig. Her fans will remember her fondness for lard and indeed, there was plenty of it amidst the new and rather profound flavour profiles we managed to savour. One of the highlights was the savoury kueh tutu paired with a delicious pork curry cooked with kampot green peppercorns from Cambodia. The twice cooked kurobuta pork ribs that were marinated in durian tempoyak (fermented durian usually used in Malay cooking) was my favourite – surprising for someone that doesn’t like the fruit and a score for the chef – alongside emerald noodles tossed in laksa leaf & basil pesto and lard.
Though Ownself Make Chef is free BYOB, Shen paired this aPORKalypse dinner with beers from Hong Kong craft breweries Young Master Brewery and Heroes Beer Co. The Cha Chaan Teng Gose – a sour beer inspired by the salted lime and 7-Up drink found in Hong Kong eateries – was refreshing between bites of the bacon peanut and garlic min jiang kueh (Chinese pancake) while the Hygge Bros IPA went really well with the durian tempoyak pork ribs.
If you’re wondering, her next aPORKalypse dinner on 27 January 2018 has already sold out, but keep an eye out for the next seven-course meal focused on her next fowl choice – duck. The menu of What The Duck! will include the likes of duck consommé with three types of ravioli (duck, prawn and buah keluak), soy braised duck pie with chestnuts, and a dessert of duck kidney bak kwa with salted egg yolk ice cream and drizzled with a sauce of caramelized dark soy, five spice, and Gula Melaka butterscotch!
Top image: Pork rendang with scallion pancakes