Originally posted on May 24, 2012
THE first time I heard about Chef Sam Leong was when I attended the 2006 World Gourmet Summit in Singapore upon the invitation of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Philippines, then headed by indefatigable Rocson Chang. Chef Sam Leong, a big name in Singapore, was one of the featured Master Chefs. The small media group from Manila wasn’t able to attend his dinner, as it was held outside of the four days that we were in the Lion City, but his name and his stature as a chef stuck with me. He was one of only a few Asian chefs featured in the gastronomic event, and I could imagine how good he must be to be lined up with some of the best chefs in the world.
Last year, I finally got to meet Singapore’s most celebrated chef, Sam Leong, not in Singapore but right here in Manila, when he had a Master Chef stint with Makati Shangri-La Hotel. I didn’t get to attend his cooking class, but I got to attend the first of his two-night dinners, and it was one of the best Chinese meals I’ve ever tasted in my life. That – considering that I’ve been in the food business for more than 10 years now, and I’ve been treated to quite a number of luxurious dinners all these years. His food is different. It’s unique in the sense that it’s Chinese, alright, but there’s a certain twist to it. He shows deep knowledge in the techniques used in Chinese cooking, and yet his food didn’t taste like ordinary Chinese food. He capitalizes on freshness and on the natural flavors of his ingredients, and he somehow has this ability to bring out the natural essence of the ingredients that he uses. His food is simple, uncomplicated, and yet divine.
So, when Makati Shangri-La Hotel’s super-efficient PR and communications team, led by Erica Sotto and Mica Siquijor, announced that Chef Sam Leong is back and he’s holding a Master Chef cooking class cum lunch May 24, 2012, I dropped everything and attended his class. At an hour when the whole nation was glued to their television sets watching the American Idol finale and waiting to see if our very own Jessica Sanchez would become the first Asian to be named American Idol (I still believe she’s the one who deserves to win!), only Chef Sam Leong could extricate me from in front of the television set and make me head for Makati early this morning.
No regrets. There was no dull moment, as Chef Sam Leong conducted his cooking class at the Shang Palace of Makati Shangri-La Hotel like a true pro, explaining procedures, proceeding with his demo in a very organized manner, telling stories animatedly as though he’s simply engaged in a conversation with friends, and sharing cooking tips that some chefs would rather keep to themselves. He made three dishes – Double Boiled Morel Mushrooms, Dried Conpoy and Chicken Consommé; Baked Honey Cod Fish; and Braised “E-fu” Noodles with Mushroom – which were also served for lunch. The recipe of the Braised “E-fu” Noodles with Mushroom, I will share with you, complete with tips and ingredient substitutes that Chef Sam Leong shared with the class.
BRAISED “E-FU” NOODLES WITH MUSHROOMS
1 pack E-fu noodles
12 pcs. straw mushrooms, canned or fresh, cut into halves
100 grams yellow chives or spring onion
1 tsp. dry sole fish powder or minced garlic
chicken stock or consommé
4 tsps. oyster sauce
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. sesame oil
dash of ground white pepper
dark soy sauce for color
spring onion for garnish
1. Poach noodles in a little water until soft. Pour out water.
2. Heat wok with a little oil, add dry sole fish powder or minced garlic, and sauté over medium heat until fragrant. Add straw mushrooms.
3. Pour in just enough chicken stock to make a batch of good braised noodles. Season with oyster sauce, 2 tsps. at a time, sugar (to balance the flavor), sesame oil and ground white pepper, before adding the poached noodles. Braise for about 5 minutes or until sauce becomes thick.
4. Add in a little dark soy sauce until desired color is achieved.
5. Add in yellow chives or spring onion. Mix well.
6. Just before plating, drizzle noodles with a little oil and stir to give the noodles an appetizing sheen.
7. Plate and serve.