Makansutra: Fatty Weng still an icon for local zi char food culture
It raises the brow and excites the taste buds of famed Sri Lankan chef Publis Silva
What happens when two makan icons from different lands, who have never met, get together?
One is a household name in zi char that harks back to the Albert Street hawker days last century (that's how legendary these folks are).
And the other was in town recently to lead his team for a Sri Lanka food festival at a local hotel.
I had a chance to film and dine with chef Dr Publis Silva, who has numerous Sri Lankan national awards under his belt, including the Deshabandu award - one of the highest honours in Sri Lanka.
I wanted his take on our food culture and to learn something about Sri Lankan cuisine at the same time.
So we tore into the old-school zi char family favourites that Fatty Weng stood for.
First was the all-time no-brainer, Sambal Kangkong ($6), with amazing crunchy doneness rolled about in their own sambal.
I swore I detected grains of crispy lard buried in the sambal.
Chef Silva loved it and thought it was very boldly flavoured for a vegetable dish.
The Black Bean Fish ($12) drew another positive response.
He said he had never had fish done this way and was not familiar with fermented black beans, but he and his colleagues cleaned up the whole platter.
At this stage, he reminded me that Sri Lanka's "sambol" is very different from our sambal as they don't use belacan in their version, and it has lime in it.
When the Salted Egg Yolk Prawn ($18) arrived, they were curious and immediately devoured it.
Again, they've never had any salted egg yolk dish done in this manner and Chef Silva lifted his brow on the first bite.
Of course, they marvelled at our beloved national seafood dish of Chilli Crab (seasonal price) and noted just how different it is from the famed Sri Lanka Curry Crab.
Fatty Weng does it in a more spicy, heartland-style - rich, thick and dense - and you mop it up with fried mantou bread.
Chef Silva and his team coaxed every morsel of flesh out of that crustacean. After all, they are food experts from where the crabs came from.
Then came something they liked a lot - the Yam Ring ($16). The crispy yet soft mashed yam ring was laden with greens and seafood. The cashew nuts, capsicums, mushrooms, carrots, onions and shrimps were like another dish set over the fried yam ring.
Chef Silva said: "In Sri Lanka, we cook and eat balanced meals and use very little oil. It is all about the herbs and natural spices. These dishes today are very flavourful and nice, but very oily."
I sort of agree with him as we are all about flavours and textures.
But I'll take him to a Teochew muay spread next time - all steamed, boiled, braised and uber-healthy - then hear what he has to say about our range of makan offerings here.
#01-78, 273 Bukit Batok East Avenue 4
Opens 11am to 2.30pm and 5pm to 11.30pm (weekdays); 11am to 11.30pm (weekends and public holidays)