Thursday, 8 August 2013

Wine and Food Pairing at Coriander Leaf

“Hawker food is in danger of dying”, warns Chef Samia Ahad of Coriander Leaf Restaurant. “You probably won’t see it in 20 years time because the new generation is not willing to take it up.” Should that dire prediction prove true, we should all be thankful then that we are living in a time when nasi lemak, char kway teow and murtabak are plentiful and affordable. 

In conjunction with the Singapore Food Festival last month, the team at Coriander Leaf took several iconic Singapore dishes and paired them with wines supplied by local wine distributor Grand Vin. The catalyst for the dinner came from Coriander Leaf’s Director of Operations Sidi Fikri, who worked with Grand Vin’s Sales Manager Chester Koh to pair the wines. “We wanted something simple and not too elaborate,” said Chester about the rationale behind the pairing. 

The Coriander Leaf Restaurant, set in the heart of bustling Clarke Quay, offers pleasing views of the river and plenty of natural light. As attractive as the view is, diners would probably be more interested in the open kitchen where Chef Samia and her team efficiently put the finishing touches on each dish. This concept allows Chef Samia to mingle easily with the crowd, sharing her culinary experiences in New York, London and Singapore.

Chilli Crab, Singapore’s most famous version of the crustacean, was the first dish to be served, paired with a Schlossgut Diel Riesling Kabinett Goldloch 2011. Chef Samia commented that the secret to this dish was as simple as chilli and Maggi tomato ketchup (no brand substitutions please!). Succulent morsels of crab meat were washed down by the off-dry Riesling, which had enough character to stand up to the intense flavours of the dish. Sidi and Chester had wisely chosen a wine that was relatively low in alcohol at around 8.5%, as alcohol tends to fan the flames of spicy food.

It was Singapore’s national dish, Hainanese Chicken Rice, which showed brilliant inspiration with the wine pairing. Conventional wisdom would have suggested white wine to go with white meat, so we were rather intrigued to see it paired with a Château du Moulin-à-Vent Champ de Cour 2010 from Beaujolais. Sidi explained that the dish, while looking deceptively simple, actually consisted of many different components like chilli, dark soya sauce, coriander leaf, rice and steamed chicken. He recommended that we mix the chilli and dark soya sauce together with the rice and chicken before tasting it with the wine. True enough, the dark soya sauce lent a sweet depth to the flavours of the chicken rice that matched perfectly with the weight of the Beaujolais.

An equally delicious match was the Glutinous Black Rice Pudding with the Pio Cesare Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2011. Chef Samia toned down the sweetness of the pudding, allowing the grapey flavours of the wine to take centre stage and blend harmoniously with the coconut cream of the dessert. The perfect end to a memorable journey of food and wine discovery! I couldn’t help but feel that if it had been Chef Samia that had been pitted against local hawkers in the recent food challenge, instead of Gordon Ramsay, a stiffer competition might have ensued.

If you missed out on this dinner, fret not as Coriander Leaf will be organising unique wine experiences on a monthly basis. In August, look forward to a fusion of entertainment, food and wine with a themed showing of Wong Kar Wai’s masterpiece In The Mood For Love at The Screening Room, and an Aromatic Wine Dinner featuring exotic wines and dishes created to appeal to the sense of smell. Click here for more details!

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