Bak kut teh meets ramen in fusion dish created for new Eric Khoo film
Director Eric Khoo engages food consultants for new fusion dish, which is now served at restaurant
From identifying a good plate of chicken rice by its chilli to the history of bak kut teh in Singapore, local celebrity food blogger Leslie Tay knows it all.
Named the "walking encyclopedia" of food by local director Eric Khoo, the medical doctor known for his blog ieatishootipost eagerly joined Khoo's latest movie Ramen Teh as its culinary consultant.
Opening here on March 29, the movie centres on young ramen chef Masato (Takumi Saitoh). He travels to Singapore after the death of his emotionally distant Japanese father to find out more about his late Singaporean mother (Jeanette Aw), who died when he was 10.
Masato manages to track down his maternal uncle (Mark Lee), who owns a bak kut teh restaurant, and he is inspired to combine bak kut teh with ramen to form a new fusion dish.
Dr Tay, 49, told The New Paper at the movie's media session last week: "This is my 12th year of blogging. Over the years, I did a lot of things that I can tick off my bucket list... But film was the last one, so I told myself it would be my dream to get involved in a food film, so I can showcase the wonders of Singapore's food to the world."
When Khoo shared with Dr Tay in 2015 his idea of combining his childhood favourites - ramen and bak kut teh - for Ramen Teh, both wondered if it would work.
After calling up Dr Tay's friend at The Eureka Cooking Lab to create a batch of bak kut teh soup and ramen noodles to be paired together, they realised it was a perfect match.
"That was what we did in the beginning, because if that did not work, then we do not have a Ramen Teh. Thankfully, it worked. We were all happy with the taste and went forward with filming," Dr Tay said.
Aw's character, who eats the fusion dish in the final scene, told TNP: "I hadheard (about the combination) so often (on set), it became the norm. It is nice to have the infusion of a local flavour, and I think it is going to work well here."
Lee also raved about how "wonderful" the dish was after trying it, adding: "For ramen, there is spicy soup, miso soup, but not every soup is suitable. Yet, with bak kut teh soup, it is perfect."
The fusion dish will be available from today until April 30 at Ramen Dining Keisuke Tokyo in Suntec City, as its founder-chef Keisuke Takeda was also a consultant on the film.
From the ingredients used to the preparation of dishes, Dr Tay advised the Ramen Teh team on the ways to differentiate good hawkers from the ordinary ones and on the rich cultural heritage behind many home-grown dishes.
His most memorable scene was where Lee had to teach Saitoh about bak kut teh.
"I taught them how to cook it, what garlic and pepper to add, which part of the pork bones to use for the soup. Cooking takes skill, it is an art.
"If you want good bak kut teh, you need the pork bones to cook the soup base and then the pork ribs for eating, which are different, before putting them together," Dr Tay said.
Just as how one should order wine rather than Coke at a French restaurant, Chinese tea such as bu zhi xiang, a blend of oolong tea, goes best with bak kut teh.
Dr Tay said: "One of the things we wanted to show, especially to the younger audience, is that bak kut teh is really about the 'bak kut' soup and the 'teh'. It is not 'bak kut lime juice', it is not 'bak kut coke' - it is bak kut teh, and there is a reason why the two are paired together."