Celebrating Local

By Priyanka Elhence

Famous for its foodie reputation, Singapore is increasingly attracting culinary stalwarts and Michelin-starred chefs to its shores with an increasing variety of quality home-grown produce and easy access to ingredients anywhere in the world.

Mandala Club made headlines in April when it announced a highly coveted three-month esidency by the number one restaurant on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – three- Michelin-starred Mirazur from Menton, France. But what made chef-owner Mauro Colagreco swap views of the French Riviera for the ground floor of Mandala Club as he took over Restaurant Kin and Clan Cafe?

No doubt Singapore holds a special place in Colagreco’s heart, as it was here in 2019 that Mirazur was declared the best restaurant in the world. His residency not only cements Singapore’s ongoing status as a global hub for gastronomy but proves Singapore’s competitive edge in being able to provide top quality local ingredients, as well as procuring premium products from any part of the world.

Led by head chef Luca Mattioli, Colagreco’s team of twelve senior team members are no longer strangers to local wet markets and food institutions such as Tekka Market, Sia Huat and Chinatown Market. “Colagreco loves Singapore particularly for its cultural richness and diversity of products, and has great memories of everything from gastronomic restaurants to street food establishments. Every visit has been a real source of inspiration for him and his cuisine. Singapore and Southeast Asia offer many culinary products that cannot be found in Europe, so we are looking forward to incorporating Singapore’s local ingredients into our dishes and developing our menus with local influences,” says Mattioli. 

“We believe in using every product in its entirety, respecting its soil, growth, and the product itself at its best, so that we can be in sync with nature. Similarly, in Singapore, sustainability is key. Rather than rely heavily on imported ingredients, our menus will incorporate local produce and items from iconic culinary institutions.” Indeed, locally sourced ingredients already make up 30 to 40 percent of the four residency menus – Roots, Leaves, Fruits and Flowers – and could increase further as the team better understands local ingredients more.

“For instance, we will be using herbs and vegetables from Edible Garden City as they share our vision of sustainability while tackling Singapore’s food security and waste management challenges.” The Millefeuille of Salad Leaves and Seaweed on the Leaves menu swaps Mirazur’s regular lamb confit with locally sourced suckling pig, which is then surrounded by layers of different leaves, such as Okinawa spinach from Edible Garden City and other local varieties, including curry leaves and wolfberry leaves.

“We are proud to support local businesses such as Kok Fah Technology Farm, a family-owned business that pioneered growing and selling vegetables in Singapore for the past 40 years; and indigenous ingredients such as snake fruit and eggplant from Bootle’s, a local online grocer dedicated to bringing sustainable, ethically sourced produce to more people at accessible prices,” says Mattioli.

Local artisanal dumpling maker One Kueh At A Time will also feature on the menu as part of Mirazur’s commitment to highlighting local produce. 

Another top find is honey from local bees, bottled by Singaporean beekeeper and conservationist Xavier Tan of Nutrinest. Mattioli explains, “His core work may be saving bees but he piqued our interest with the unique flavor of artisanal honey, produced in minimal quantities of just 20kg of honey each year. The unique sourish-tinged Trigona Berry mature honey, produced by local stingless Trigona bees, will feature in one of our tapas items, while the Wild Rainforest honey from local Apis Cerana bees will be in a Roots dessert course.”

The team has also sourced local organic crabs from Crab Lovers Farm, a complete life cycle farm preserving the natural habitat through careful adoption of farming innovations and producing delicately fleshed, highquality crustaceans that are 100 percent organic and non-GMO. Without needing to endure the lengthy transportation process, the crabs don’t suffer body mass loss or an excessive build-up of ammonia, making them fresher and meatier.

In addition, Mattioli will be sourcing hormone-free birds from Toh Thye San, one of Singapore’s leading names in chicken farming, and a Certified Humane farm that adopts responsible and ethical farming practices. He says, “We will be maximising the usage of these lovingly reared birds by extracting flavour through the carcass and feet and turning them into umami-rich sauces.” 

“We’re visiting the local markets every day for fresh produce and can develop a new dish on the spot with extraordinary ingredients, even if it is one hour before service. Our blind tasting menu allows us the freedom to use fresh, local products creatively. We will be incorporating more local ingredients into future menus, including pandan leaves, fresh peanuts, banana blossom, curry leaves and fresh local fish like grouper.”

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