When I heard about the invitation to an AFC Studio event, I was stoked! The AFC Studio is a culinary haven where all gourmands, foodies and homemakers can call their second home. In particular avid fans of the Asian Food Channel like myself, who watch the channel religiously, daily! In fact, it serves as a studio for the filming of original AFC productions.
Since its opening in 2009, the AFC studio has hosted many AFC celebrity chefs and a number of other culinary talents from around the world. Check out the wall of fame!
Lychee Martini was served upon getting seated. You won’t have to ask for another glass, the staff were initiative without being intimidating!
Located conveniently at Orchard Central, the AFC studio is equipped with a modern and sophisticated kitchen; lined up in front are seats for the audience in close proximity, accompanied with side tables for cutleries and drinks. The studio features an extensive cookbook library, and for those hankering for retail therapy, they offer a wide range of original AFC merchandise and trendy cookware; great for gifts!
Accompanying Chef Yong is Majestic Restaurant’s in-house sommelier, who had the bedrock responsibility of ensuring that each dish was paired harmoniously with a glass of wine, as the right wine can accentuate the flavours of the dish.
The Masterclass series is a collaboration of DBS Indulge with the Asian Food Channel; boosting opportunities to luxuriate in signature creations and absorb culinary artistry from prestigious chefs. The Masterclass that I had attended was with Chef Yong Bing Ngen. He is an award-winning chef, helming both the Majestic Restaurant and Jing at One Fullerton. If you have patronised his restaurants, you would have found modern Chinese cuisine with a Western influence, one which uses strong Chinese cooking techniques and applying them with new ingredients and a more up-to-date presentation.
Chef Yong shared how his interest in cooking was sparked – It was mainly by watching Chefs displaying nifty knife skills. He is indeed an inspiration; one who had worked his way up to the Chef that he is today, and has gone on to become one of Singapore’s most innovative Chinese chefs.
I agree that one must have a strong foundation in the basics and understand the underlying techniques and flavours to churn out a delectable plate.
For this Masterclass, Chef Yong was to prepare 3 dishes- Chilled Sake Infused Crabmeat Salad, Pan Seared Foie Gras with Watermelon and Organic Greens, and Stewed Boston Lobster Noodles with Ginger and Spring Onion.
Chilled Sake Infused Crabmeat Salad
Serves 3 | Preparation and Cooking time: 30 minutes
– 1 Sri Lanka Crab
– 20g Fresh Bamboo Shoot, Shredded
– 20g Black Fungus, Shredded
– 10g Ginger, Shredded (chef prefers to use young ginger)
– 2 Chinese Parsley, cut into 2cm strips
– 50g Sake
– 50g Mirin
– 50g Soya Sauce
– 50g Sugar
– 35g White Vinegar
– 100g Whipping Cream (you can substitute this with milk)
– ½ teaspoon Sesame Oil
– Pinch of Salt
1) Boil the whole crab (room temperature) for 10 minutes. Remove from water and dool crab. (Note: You may steam the crab instead of boiling)
2) Remove flesh from the shell. Set aside for later.
3) Blanch the shredded bamboo shoot and black fungus in boiling water for 1 minute first. Remove and place into a bowl of water with ice cubes for 1 minute. Remove. (Note: soak black fungus for ½ hr before using)
4) Dry the shredded bamboo shoot and black fungus with a clean cloth and place into a mixing bowl. Add Chinese parsley, shredded ginger, a pinch of salt, half teaspoon of sesame oil and mix well. Set aside.
5) Prepare a clean martini glass. Place the salad at the bottom of the glass and topped with the crabmeat.
6) Mix all seasonings in a small bowl and ensure that you dissolve the sugar. (Tip: a whisk will speed up the process of dissolving the sugar)
7) Drizzle seasoning over crabmeat and salad. Ready to serve.
He also demonstrated how to kill a crab in the quickest and least painful manner.
An essential skill that all Chinese chefs must possess is superb knife skills. It is no doubt that Chef Yong is deft in his chopping and slicing.
His meticulous plating made for a beautiful presentation.
As he finished plating, tasting portions came out of the kitchen almost immediately. That’s great news, as we were all hungry from watching the demonstration, almost salivating.
Served in a fuss-free manner, you won’t need a crab cracker to enjoy the chunks of sweet fleshy crabmeat. The salad adds textures and crunch to the dish, and what I enjoyed most was the sauce that coats every morsel.
This dish certainly displays Chef’s significant trait of Chinese cuisine with a Western twist.
Pan Seared Foie Gras with Watermelon and Organic Greens
Serves 3 | Preparation and Cooking Time: 20 minutes
– Foie gras, 3 pieces of 40g each (Note: If Foie gras is bought frozen, defrost in chiller overnight)
– Watermelon, 3 round pieces of 2cm height, using cookie cutter (Tip: You may use cookie cutters of assorted shapes for a twist)
Seasoning for Foie Gras
– Ichimi Togarashi
– Potato Flour (You may substitute with corn flour, but plain wheat flour is not commonly used in Chinese cooking)
– 40g Garden Greens
– 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
– Pinch of Salt
– 1 tablespoon of Vegetable Cooking Oil
– Chef’s Secret Homemade Barbecue Sauce (Tip: Chinese mandarin is one of the secret ingredients in the BBQ Sauce)
1) First, place garden greens in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and olive oil, mix well and set aside.
2) Sprinkle a little Ichimi Togarashi on both sides of the foie gras then coat with potato flour.
3) Heat frying pan with a tablespoon of vegetable cooking oil over high fire. Place the foie gras onto pan and reduce to low fire. Pan-sear for 1 minute on each side. Remove when golden brown. (Note: Timings may vary, check for doneness before removing. Important: Don’t keep flipping and turning it, turn only when browned)
4) Decorate round plate with the homemade barbecue sauce.
5) Place garden greens in the centre of the plate. Then arrange the 3 pieces of watermelons. Place a piece of pan-seared foie gras on top of each watermelon. Ready to serve.
As Chef was searing the foie gras, the aroma perfumes the entire studio. All of us audience were getting so eager to sample the dish. The foie gras is seared to perfection; nicely browned and crisp on the outside and velvety smooth inside, melting on the tongue. It is nicely seasoned with a musky sensuality, and although it tastes beautiful on its own, Chef’s secret recipe BBQ sauce adds a new dimension to the dish.
The watermelon gives a refreshing lift to the dish but personally, I didn’t care much for it. I was probably too mesmerized by the delicious foie gras that everything else seemed redundant. It certainly adds points to the overall presentation though!
Stewed Boston Lobster Noodles with Ginger and Spring Onion
Serves 3 | Preparation and Cooking Time: 30 minutes
– Lobster, 1 whole about 700g
– E-fu noodles
– Ginger, 10 slices
– Spring Onion, 1 stalk, sliced
– Shallots, 1 no,, sliced
– 200ml Chicken Stock
– Oyster Sauce
– Soya Sauce
– White Pepper Powder
– Potato Flour
Chef Yong demonstrated the method of obtaining E-fu noodles from the raw wanton noodles, which is made up of flour, egg and alkaline. E-Fu noodles are actually a deep-fried version of fresh wanton noodles; they can be bought from supermarkets, pre-packed. Raw noodles were passed around for the audience to feel and touch.
He also shared the story of how E-fu noodles got its name; definitely not boring us out there with his comical interpretation!
1) Chop the lobster into half. Wash thoroughly.
2) Scald the e-fu noodles in hot water to soften
3) Dap potato flour on the meat of lobster and fry in high heat about 250 degree Celsius for about 40 seconds and remove. (Tip: Dapping potato flour will protect the meat from drying out)
4) Heat wok with oil and fry sliced ginger, spring onion and sliced shallots till fragrant.
5) Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.
6) Add lobster, cover and simmer for 1 minute.
7) Check if lobster is cooked. Remove lobster and keep some sauce inside.
8) Add noodles and oyster sauce, soya sauce and white pepper powder to the remaining sauce and do a quick fry till noodles has absorbed sauce. (Note: Dry noodles with a clean cloth before frying to prevent oil splatters)
9) Plate the noodles.
10) Heat pan and place lobster and sauce kept aside earlier into the pan and add in a little starch to thicken the sauce.
11) Remove and place the lobster on top of the noodles.
12) Garnish with spring onion. Ready to serve.
– Do not overcook the lobster otherwise meat will be too tough.
– Once you notice that the lobster flesh leaves a little gap from the shell, it means it’s cooked.
His demonstration made cooking look so easy! I’m a little sceptical about how I can achieve the same results in my kitchen without creating a huge mess, but I’m so inspired to cook up a storm after watching Chef Yong. One thing’s for sure, if you compromise on the fresh quality ingredients, don’t expect your food to taste as majestic as Majestic’s!
Questions were asked spontaneously during the demonstration, and one question about the usage of monosodium glutamate (MSG) popped up. He didn’t deny the usage of MSG as it is fairly common in Chinese cooking; although he didn’t add any MSG, he frankly informed us that a fraction of MSG is found in store-bought oyster sauce that was used that night.
For a sweet finale, 3 Asian desserts were available. The pomelo bits add a refreshing lift to the lovely mango dessert, but it wasn’t outstanding. I didn’t really fancy the wolfberry jelly either! The egg custard bun was probably my favourite; kept warm in a bamboo steamer, they were polished off quickly!
To end the evening, photo-taking and autograph-signing sessions with Chef Yong were gladly obliged.
Special thanks to DBS and the Asian Food Channel for the invitation.
About the Author
Melissa Koh is interior design trained, with a strong passion in photography and food. Her dream is to travel the globe, experiencing different cultures, food and art, documenting every moment on camera. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org