In a collaborative effort with producers from Gunma Prefecture, these culinary maestros came together to share creative ways of working with a wide variety of produce in a virtual cooking demonstration

The fact that quality Japanese produce is readily available in Singapore is widely appreciated, while the diversity of ways to feature them in today's innovative culinary scene continues to grow. To boot, prefectures like Gunma produces quite a variety of popular fruit and vegetables, including some unique condiments. This is why organisations such as Jetro (The Japan External Trade Organization) have decided to work with some of the Singapore’s top chefs to help showcase this exceptional myriad of products.

Together with Takasaki City in Gunma Prefecture, its latest initiative—a two-hour virtual “live kitchen” demonstration to showcase new ways to work with the food and drink products of the region—was held just last week and featured chefs Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida alongside Meta’s Sun Kim, Cloudstreet’s Rishi Naleendra, Fernando Arévalo of Preludio and Sam Aisbett (previously of Whitegrass restaurant).

(Related: Phase 2 Dining in Singapore: How Restaurants That Opened in the Middle of a Pandemic Have Adapted)

The dishes presented were expectedly diverse, offering a taste of each chef’s creative approach as well. Hashida got the ball rolling with his three dishes that included a cocktail-appetiser made with tomato juice and rice malt from the region, as well as a dish starring nameko mushroom and bora karasumi (salted and dried mullet roe similar to bottarga) enhanced by the use of Makino Shuzo sake lees for an added boost of umami.

Surprised by the quality and sweetness of humble ingredients like tomatoes from Sanko Farm he had tried on a recent visit, Aisbett included a naturally sweet treat, paring the said tomatoes that were baked with Gunma yuzu, plum, daikon, jumbo pear and apples. “The tomatoes were like lollies,” he shared with a laugh. He also prepared a prettily plated serving of grouper sashimi with pickled radish and nashi pear.

A standout from Kim’s featured dishes was the “salad of flounder” that he chose to pair with red kabu (turnip), yuzu, naturally brewed soy sauce and umeboshi (pickled plums) from the region. It was a lovely complement to his main course of crispy kinmedai with burdock-nameko sauce that also featured local brown miso and wasabi leaves.

(Related: Kotuwa, A New Sri Lankan Restaurant by Rishi Naleendra of Cloudstreet and Cheek Bistro Is Now Open)

Despite the complexity these dishes displayed, the chefs kept their focus on allowing the ingredients to shine. Naleendra, in fact, started his presentation with a decidedly humble appetiser of grilled carrots dressed with a coconut miso. He followed this with a preparation of grilled beef paired with the same maitake mushrooms and served it with fermented apples for a unique twist and a hint of acidity.

(Related: 5 Plant-Based Dishes Offered at Restaurants in Singapore That Will Inspire You to Eat Clean)

Chef Arévalo also chose to start his showcase with an unfussy pairing of jumbo pear that he first marinated with balsamic vinegar and topped it with a little goat cheese before grilling it over binchotan.

He affirmed how he enjoys the challenge of working with new ingredients, and that he was particularly intrigued with the opportunity to work with the distinctively punchy flavours of fermented daikon from Gunma. In an ode to the humble root vegetable, he had decided to prepare a deceptively simple radish salad. He divided red and white Japanese daikon into three-quarter-inch slices that he first marinated in umeshu, grape musk and caramelised onion stock. He then slow-cooked the radish in the mixture for 12 hours. To serve, he paired it with bits of bacon and the said dried fermented daikon.

(Related: Why Every Sake Lover Should Be Excited About IWA’s Singapore Debut)

This is the first step in the organisation’s effort to showcase the produce from Gunma, which will be on sale at Takashimaya Singapore in January 2021.