As the most recent effort in promoting Swedish culture, including its cuisine, the Embassy of Sweden in Singapore, in partnership with $100Gourmet, invited the Michelin-starred Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt to Singapore.
$100Gourmet is a year-long series that features acclaimed international chefs who collaborate with a host restaurant in Singapore, with the concept to offer create uniquely created 6-course menus for only $100.
Being one of the first two in the line-up of visiting international chefs Niklas Ekstedt, from one star restaurant Ekstedt in Stockholm, teamed up with Singaporean chef Jason Tan. Together they cooked up a storm at Jason’s restaurant, Corner House at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. They combined their culinary expertise and created a unique food tasting experience offering lunch and dinner for four full days to food hungry Singaporeans. The sold-out event series, showcased a collaborative effort in bringing together Swedish and Singaporean cuisine in a creative way, complimented by Asian flavours and ingredients.
The Embassy together with the Swedish Business Association of Singapore, SBAS, also hosted a lunch for specially invited guests and SBAS corporate members to get a taste of the culinary blend of Swedish and Singaporean gastronomy.
This concept is a win-win where visiting chefs get to showcase their respective own specialties while creating new dishes inspired by the ideas our local kitchens throw at them.
For the Swedish Embassy this chef showcase was a follow-up to previous participation in the ‘Savour food festival’, a food and wine extravaganza, attracting an audience of more than 16 000 visitors, to which the embassy brought Michelin star Chefs Gustaf Trädgårdh and Ulf Wagner (Sjömagasinet) in 2013.
As Savour branched out with new concepts, the embassy partnered up with Savour for the $100Gourmet series, striving to find a new angle on how to profile Sweden and Swedish gastronomy.
Chefs like Niklas Ekstedt are putting Sweden more firmly on the culinary map as an upcoming epicentre for culinary delights. Swedish chefs are renowned around the world for their ability to make the best of this blend of tradition and innovation, states the Swedish Embassy.
“Niklas Ekstedt’s restaurants are good examples of a unique restaurant concept – reviving the lost flavours of Swedish and Scandinavian heritage of cooking methods, including cooking over wood-fuelled fire!”
During his visit to Singapore the embassy talked to Niklas about Swedish and Singaporean cuisine, and about current culinary trends. A few extracts:
“My latest restaurant, Ekstedt, is a bit of a “historical project”. I wanted to revive the lost flavors of the Scandinavian heritage of cooking over a wood-fuelled fire that disappeared when electricity was introduced into the kitchens. Instead of focusing on introducing new produce and creating new dishes, I have fixed my attention to the preparation process, using old Scandinavian techniques.”
Next big trend related to Swedish food: “Cast iron. Sweden has a unique tradition of cooking with this material, but when I attended restaurant school, we were told to stop using cast iron; it was considered too heavy and it gave the food a weird after-taste. But at my restaurants, we are instead utilizing this taste. The metallic taste is very umami and it gives depth to the flavours. Another advantage of using cast iron is that the pans actually work on new induction stoves. You can also use them when you are cooking outside on the grill. I prefer to use pans from Skeppshult, which is an old Swedish brand which still has its factory in Sweden.
On his two new cookbooks: “It is about how food can affect your longevity and I am looking for commonalities in diets in countries such as Japan, Italy, and Greece, which all have similar longevity to Sweden. I have come to two simple conclusions if you want to live a long and healthy life: avoid refined sugar and aim for a varied diet. My second book is a cookbook for the British and American markets. The book contains Scandinavian recipes in an urban setting. Most Swedish cookbooks are set in the idyllic countryside with, for example, dreamy pictures of cows in the sunset, that sort of things. The books are very beautiful, but my upcoming cookbook aims to be more practical and useful.”
On Sweden as a culinary nation in the making: “Sweden has been a culinary nation for culinary enthusiasts all over the world for quite some time now. The next step is to make it into a culinary nation for the mainstream crowd. Most people think about music and culture when they think about Swedish culture, but I would like them to also think about food. I am working with Stockholm Visitor Board on this, and I also think that Sweden needs ‘food ambassadors’, who can market Sweden as a culinary nation.“
To read more about Niklas Ekstedt’s views on Swedish and Singaporean cuisine and to get his take on the current culinary trends, see: www.facebook.com/embassyofswedeninsingapore
Chef interview and background text and photos published with kind permission from the Embassy of Sweden, Singapore.