Elevated Classics With A Modern Touch

By Kenneth Lee

Expect refreshing interpretations of Cantonese dishes, thanks to Si Chuan Dou Hua’s new executive Cantonese chef Hoo Chee Keong.

Chefs face a palpable, sometimes uneasy, tension when taking over the reins of a wellknown restaurant. There’s a need to reinvent and revivify what’s being offered – thereby making one’s mark on the annals of said restaurant’s legacy – whilst retaining flavours and ways of doing that ought to be retained.

Newly minted executive Cantonese chef Hoo Chee Keong at Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant’s UOB Plaza branch has done exactly that, and to rave reviews too, since his new menu was introduced in July.

The Malaysian-born alum of Majestic Restaurant and more recently, Mott 32, brings to bear a wealth of culinary knowledge, as well as an equally strong appreciation of seasonality and excellent produce to the restaurant’s unique brand of bone fide Sichuan nosh.

“There’s some pressure as Si Chuan Dou Hua is an established brand and has built up a strong following over the years,” the 38-year-old shares. “But as they say, pressure is a force for motivation.”

Traditional techniques with a contemporary slant remain the focus of Hoo’s new eats, though there is a key departure in how the food is served. In individual portions, elegantly plated, rather than the usual sharing plates we are used to.

Hoo comes into his own with an accessible six-course tasting menu (also available a la carte) that showcases the chef’s new dishes. “All that we do in the kitchen is about enhancing flavour,” he says. “Customers’ fond memories are derived from flavour, so that always comes first.”

He has a dish inspired by his own recollections of many a late-night bowl of fish head steamboat – Deep Fried Cod with Cordyceps Flower in Homemade Soybean Stock. However the stock’s whitish hue comes not from milk, but fish bones and cabbage, boiled for hours. It is fortified with homemade soybean, an homage to the restaurant’s signature beancurd dishes, along with a crisp bloom of deep-fried Pacific cod, cordyceps flowers and mushrooms.

There’s also Smoked Spare Rib with Lychee Wood Crumb, first blanched in oil to keep their shape before heading into the steamer for an hour in the steamer soaked in a soy-and-shaoxing marinade. They are crisped up with oil once more before getting a final hit of applewood-and-lychee smoke just prior to service – a further demonstration of the chef’s commitment to layering flavours for maximum oomph.

“Sichuan cuisine is experiencing a renaissance around the world, thanks to its robust spirit,” Hoo adds. “It’s really up to you to play with ingredients, cooking techniques and plating to tell a story.”

Chef Masterclass