The Peak Malaysia’s Epicurean Hall of Fame presents a tempting array of Michelin-starred delights, and one of our favourites is Candlenut! Making a name for itself as the first ever Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant in the world, Head Chef Malcolm Lee gives us a little insight into the restaurant’s contemporary approach to traditional Straits-Chinese cuisine.
On being listed in Singapore’s first-ever Michelin Guide.
I’m obviously delighted to receive such an accolade, but I’m also proud of the fact that Peranakan cuisine is being recognised and being the world’s first Peranakan restaurant to receive the coveted star. It’s finally dispelling the perception that local food is secondary to foreign cuisine, and people can appreciate the complexities found in the flavours and cooking techniques. This Michelin star tells us to be proud of our background and culture, and inspires us to share these flavours with the world.
On overcoming challenges and finding inspiration.
One of the main challenges I face when presenting Peranakan cuisine outside of a Peranakan home is managing customers’ perceptions and expectations. Most people’s palates are coloured by memories and the bar is set very high. To meet expectations without losing innovation, the dishes I make are produce driven and embrace tradition, yet constantly evolving to present family style cooking in a refined manner. All our rempah or spices are made from scratch using the recipes I learnt from the kitchen of my mother and grandmother. Inspiration comes by travelling and eating in as many places as I can. I look out for authentic local food and often chat with the chef just to get an insight into the culture. I find these talks especially inspiring because I get to see and learn how different cultures treat different ingredients, which I can then try to incorporate into my own cooking.
Exciting developments in the world of fine dining.
The current direction of re-exploring one’s roots and embracing one’s culture in fine dining is great! Fine dining is an experience that you give people and what better experience can you give other than your own? We’re starting to see a lot of chefs putting their roots on the plate – presenting something that is unique and personal. With this, we’re also seeing a great interest in Asian flavours from the rise of many excellent fine dining establishments and Singapore’s first Michelin Guide, of course!
Must-have kitchen tools
Pestle and mortar.
Cooking at home
I keep it simple at home, usually grilled salmon with broccoli and kale.
Find your true passion and motivation for cooking. I gave myself the best advice – awards do not matter as long as my restaurant is filled with happy staff and customers.
(Excerpt taken from The Peak Malaysia November 2016. All photos by Candlenut and A Better Definition.)