We speak to pizza maker Feng Chen about all things dough
Feng Chen is a pizza maker based in Bangkok and is the brains behind Instagram account @leopardcrust. Having worked around the world from Melbourne to Bangkok and Tokyo, she combines classic Italian practices with unique ingredients from various food cultures to craft her own specialty pizza combinations. Her weird and wonderful varieties range from steak and eggs pizza to Thai sausage pizza.
During a visit to Kuala Lumpur in the beginning of 2023, she shares five lesser known facts about the beloved comfort food.
It's all in the dough
Toppings may get all the glory on a pizza menu, but every pizza maker knows that the dough makes or breaks a pizza. Even if you are the kind of pizza eater that leaves the crust, the pizza base is a flavour multiplier for the toppings sitting above. A flavoursome base makes your favourite toppings even more irresistible!
Pizza is not junk food
Traditionally, pizza is handmade to order without artificial ingredients or preservatives. In fact, pizza dough has only four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Artisanal pizza takes more time and effort than their commercial cousins, but the final product is healthier, tastier, and won't leave you feeling heavy.
See also: A food lover's guide to Bangkok
You get what you pay for
Ever wondered why you pay more for artisanal pizza? In addition to the physical labour required to make the dough from scratch and the cost of powering a special pizza oven, the price difference is caused by the cost of quality ingredients, especially the cheese. High quality cheese and tomato sauce do not require additives or flavour enhancers to taste luscious.
In fact, tomato sauce made using the most sought-after tomatoes in the pizza world, DOP San Marzano tomatoes, typically have nothing else, except a bit of salt, added to the sauce to avoid masking the balanced, natural flavours of this special tomato.
Look beneath the surface
Next time you have pizza, take a peek underneath! A pale and doughy underside indicates that the pizza could have been cooked longer or at a higher temperature on the base. A perfectly baked pizza should be caramelised beneath. The flavour payoff is akin to the difference between untoasted and toasted bread.
High risk, high reward
Authentic Neapolitan pizza bakes in just 60 to 90 seconds at oven temperatures of up to 480°C. With unwavering concentration, pizza chefs watch each pizza in the oven like a hawk as every second matters at the end of the bake.
Despite the higher risk of failure, baking pizza at such a high heat creates a soft, fluffy crust with a golden-brown outer layer. These fine details define Neapolitan pizza-making as an art form which is gaining recognition across the world. As a matter of fact, the art of Neapolitan pizza makers is listed as a Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage!