Sunday, 31 August 2014

An Ode to the Unputdownable Hainanese Chicken Rice at K3's Singapore Street Food Fest

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

WHEN the JW Marriott became the first five-star hotel to open at the New Delhi Aerocity, we were wondering how it would make money, especially because it had opened with just half of its rooms, the other half awaiting clearance security clearance from the Delhi Police.
Fortunately for it, in a market where weddings are getting bigger by the minute, the hotel got some big banqueting assignments and its F&B team emerged with its reputation intact in this baptism
Hainanese Chicken Rice stood out among
the Singapore street food preparations on
 offer at K3, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity.
by fire. And it was able to buttress its reputation with the quality of the buffet at its all-day restaurant -- K3. Executive Chef Girish Krishnan achieved it with the help of his two stars -- the Italian Chef Daniele Trivero and the Malaysian Dilliwallah Thomas Wee (who, sadly, has left K3 to oversee the high sea kitchens of an offshore oil exploration company) -- and the front-of-the-house team led by the mild-mannered Tarun Bhatia with his ever-smiling dynamo, K3's Restaurant Manager Sarabjeet Singh Bhalla. Its only weak spot is its Indian kitchen, which is badly in need of a new direction.
K3's strength is the flexibility of its design, which enables it to organise specialised food festivals, like the one showcasing Singapore's street treats, which concludes today (Sunday, August 31). Some time back, K3 hosted a Bohri food promotion, which I missed because I wasn't in the city (and it got very good reviews too), so I made sure I didn't miss the Singapore street food festival. What drew me to it was the fact that it was being curated by John Chye of the Singapore Marriott Hotel and that the young chef is from Penang. You can't get two better good food destinations than Penang and Singapore, and Chef Chye's spread draws on the best of both worlds.
The Singapore spread is quite extensive, yet there wasn't one dish, from the popiah (fresh spring rolls) to the braised aubergine, that fell below my expectations. If you're a carnivore, you can make a meal out of the seafood laksa, braised duck with tofu skin in soy sauce, fish in spiced tamarind gravy and, my favourite, Hainanese Chicken Rice. You can judge the real worth of a Singaporean chef, in my view, by his or her ability to dish up the perfect Hainanese Chicken Rice. Chef Chye cleared my test with distinction.
His Hainanese Chicken Rice is a study in fine balance. The slivers of chicken, which are icy white because the whole chicken is dipped into icy water after it has been steeped in bone stock, are served with a helping of rice cooked in the same broth in which the chicken is steeped, pieces of cucumber dipped in chicken broth, and a hot dipping sauce made with minced chillies and garlic, topped up with soy. The dip breathes life into the slivers of silken chicken and rice cooked in broth tastes like something special. It take a bad chef to complicate this dish; an expert hand knows how much of human intervention is needed to let the ingredients and cooking methods speak for themselves.
The guardians of K3 must make the Hainanese Chicken Rice a lasting feature of their Sunday spread. That would be a befitting tribute to the talents of Chef Chye.

-- The Singapore Street Food Festival's Sunday Brunch is priced at Rs 2,500++ (without alcohol), Rs 3,000++ (with alcohol; no champagne) and Rs 4,200++ (with free-flowing champagne).