Chinese New Year feasting hasn’t quite ended for many of us, so if you need some respite from braised trotters and dried oysters, you’re not alone. But going vegetarian needn’t be a temporary solution to over-indulgence.
As more fine dining restaurants deliver vegetarian degustation menus with a growing finesse, going meatless in the longer term is becoming an easier and tastier option.
“In recent years, we have seen a steady increase in requests for vegetarian or vegetable-centric options as guests become more health and sustainability- conscious,” says Leong Chee Yeng, Jade’s Chinese Executive Chef, who launched a sustainable, plant-based vegan “Taste The Future” menu late last year.
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“With plant-forward cuisine trending in the food scene, vegetable-focused dishes are definitely getting more attention from conscious diners,” says Andrew Walsh, chef-owner of Cure Restaurant & Butcher Boy Singapore. “Even those with conventional mindsets are also pleasantly surprised at how hearty and fulfilling plant-based dishes can be.”
Vegetables as equals
“I have always believed that vegetables should not be viewed as just an accompaniment but as equals to any protein on a plate,” says Julien Royer, who serves his signature vegetarian menus to 20 per cent of his clientele at the two Michelin-starred Odette.
Over at the one-starred Meta, chef-owner Sun Kim believes in creating “a strong vegetarian menu that guests can enjoy, rather than doing it as an afterthought”. He’s learned to treat vegetables like good meat, simply seasoning and charring them over charcoal to maximise their sweetness.
In turn, Chef Leong’s objective is to debunk the belief that vegetarian or vegetable-centric dishes are bland. “As a chef, my job is to showcase ingredients to their best effect. We use garlic in stir-fries to enhance the original taste of the vegetables. Preserved vegetables work to round off a vegetarian dish, while mushrooms add natural umami. At Jade, we use housemade spring onion, shallot and peanut oils to enhance flavours too.”
At Cure, no part of a plant goes wasted, with even the humble potato skin dehydrated to add texture to dishes. “We believe that all parts of the vegetable can be savoured and showcased in inventive ways, turning potential food waste into unconventional elements,” says Chef Walsh.
Where to eat
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This article was originally published in The Business Times.
Photos: BT/SPH, Odette, Jade, Cure, Alma by Juan Amador and Meta