I ate a lot of delicious street food when I was in Singapore last June but one of my most memorable experiences was the amazing lunch we had at 2am:lab. Chef Janice Wong wowed us with her molecular gastronomy using familiar Singaporean flavors.
2am:lab is a sanctuary created for chefs and artists to create, experiment and discover the undiscovered. A school not just of thought but technique and practise as well, it is all the product of local dessert chef Janice Wong’s innate passion for all things gastronomic. With the goal of pushing the boundaries of Singapore’s food culture, creating new techniques, textures and flavours for present and future generations, 2am:lab is certainly the place where your senses will be pleasantly treated. source
It was my first time to see the Thermomix live in action. Thermomix is an all-in-one kitchen machine. It’s a food processor that weighs, blends , grinds, kneads, steams and cooks.
Chef Janice welcomed us with some appetizers. They look like kropek (shrimp cracker) and it had the same crunch but it was made with tapioca flour. The mild flavor of the tapioca puffs was the perfect vessel for the strong drops of sate sauce and crunchy, spicy rendang flavored chicken strips. I was quietly eating and enjoying puff after puff while pondering what other surprises our meal will bring.
2 plates of filled with blue colored substances were on our table. I didn’t dare try them until Chef Janice told us what they were. Imagine my shock when I tasted sweet, sour and spicy flavors. Tom yam flavors were turned into a solid mixture and then crushed into a fine sugar. The sugar was then used to make cotton candy.
What? Tom Yum cotton candy? Yes you read it right. A childhood treat transformed into a shock of fluffy sweet and spicy confection.
It was surreal having a gel like substance melting on your tongue that tasted like coconut, curry and lemongrass.
Here’s a video I shot on how the laksa paper was made.
The next treat was a semi-soft ball of creamy kaya goodness. I love Singapore’s version of coconut jam flavored with pandan and this kaya pop was intensely flavored. No need for toast and butter.
Finally I got to see how the cute spoons were used.
Gula melaka or palm sugar is a popular ingredient in Asian desserts. Here it was used to flavor this smooth and creamy dessert made with coconut cream and fresh pandan essence. The flavor was intense just like everything else I’ve tried so far. Chef showed us how she made the pandan essence by grinding fresh pandan leaves with water in the Vitamix until it pureed and then strained. The liquid was then used and transformed into this delightful mixture.
Our tastes buds were teased more than enough. It was finally time for the main course.
Bubur chacha is a popular Singaporean dessert similar to our own ginataan. Chef Janice drew inspiration and created this cold salad made with green mango–coconut cream, banana flower, chestnut, aloe vera, enoki, wheat grass and sago. First I tried the grassy ice crystals then sour flavors and earthy mushroom. The whole dish was too exotic for me and admitedlly it was the single dish I didn’t enjoy.
Laksa is one of my favorite Singaporean dishes but it’s usually too rich and laden with hidden fat. This version was very light but there was no scrimping on flavor. Only thick rice noodles and some bean sprouts were the other components.
It was my first time to try quail and there was a strong taste that even the delicious laksa paste and laksa sauce couldn’t mask. I didn’t finish the quail but I simply loved the tomato garlic puree which was sweet and tangy and laksa leaf dumpling. I wanted to ask for seconds and thirds.
Our meal ended with a plate of kaya textures including pistachio cake, coconut meringue, kaya yogurt, kaya ice cream and pistachio crisp. This plate held a unified flavor of kaya expressed in a multitude of textures that played around my mouth. Fanfreakintastic!!
Our whole table was quiet at this point with only a hush of oohs and aahs clearly audible. My seatmates and I were clamoring for a refill but the staff wisely ignored us.
After lunch I walked around the kitchen to take more pictures. I was fascinated with the chair made of cardboard. One of the staff demonstrated the strength of the cardboard couch. He told me once a group of 10 people sat on it.
They also had beautiful shelving with jars of all kinds of ingredients. It’s probably their wall of inspiration.
Chef Janice has succeeded in blurring the boundaries between sweet and savory, hot and cold. She pushed the limits on how we perceive flavors and textures. I was totally blown away by this meal. Watch out for the name Janice Wong, a rising star in the culinary world.
You can also enjoy her dessert creations at 2am:dessert bar which I hope to try on my next visit to Singapore.