Public Service In a Dish

How would you encapsulate your work in a dish? Challenge invites three chefs in the Public Service to each create a dish inspired by their experiences.
Applewood-smoked Norwegian salmon with sautéed vegetables (bottom,left)

Chef Richard Khoo
Sous Chef, Istana

When Challenge asked Chef Richard to contribute a dish inspired by his 11 years of overseeing and preparing meals at the Istana Kitchen, he chose one of the most unique dishes he has prepared for the Singapore President and Prime Minister. The applewood-smoked salmon was created exclusively for the Istana when they purchased a smoking pan about five years ago, and reflects Chef Richard’s wish to create healthy yet interesting meals. When he invited Challenge to the Istana, his eye for detail shone through as he prepared the ingredients meticulously and monitored the temperature of the smoking pan. He chose salmon not just for its high protein, omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D content, but also because it reacts best to wood smoking – which in this recipe uses smoke from applewood chips to cook the fish. He continues to enjoy creating new dishes inspired by culinary books, magazines and visits to food joints here and overseas.

He chose salmon not just for its high protein, omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D content, but also because it reacts best to wood smoking.

Applewood-smoked Norwegian salmon with sautéed vegetables

Recipe : (Serves 4)

  • 4 skinless Norwegian salmon fillets
  • 300ml water
  • 120ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3g tea leaves
  • ¼ tbsp mixed herbs
  • 100g mushrooms
  • 100g baby carrots
  • 100g asparagus
  • 100g yellow zucchini
  • 100g cucumber
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 2 cups applewood chips
  • Special tool: Smoking pan (Alternatively, an old, unused wok can be used. The surface of the equipment will be charred during the smoking process.)
  1. Begin by seasoning the salmon thoroughly on all sides with salt, pepper and mixed herbs.
  2. Mix and place the applewood chips and tea leaves in the middle of the smoking pan.
  3. Pour the water into the smoking pan.
  4. Prepare the salmon on the grill rack for grilling.
  5. Adjust the burner and set to medium heat. (The desired smoking temperature is between 87 and 93 degree Celsius.)
  6. Close the vent and allow the smoke to impart flavour while the heat cooks the salmon.
  7. Allow the fish to cook to your liking. (The recommended total smoking time is from 15 to 25 minutes.)
  8. While waiting for the salmon to cook, blanch the baby carrots, yellow zucchini, asparagus and cucumber in chicken stock.
  9. Then, sauté the vegetables in olive oil. (The initial blanch allows for really quick cooking of the vegetables, while the sauté adds flavours.)
  10. Using a large offset spatula, remove the salmon from the grill and turn off the smoking pan.
  11. Garnish with the sautéed vegetables. Serve with roasted potatoes or a healthier option of brown rice.
Grilled barramundi with Saikyo miso (above)

Chef Desmond Ngoh
Section Head, Diploma in Culinary & Catering Management,
Temasek Polytechnic School of Business

Armed with nearly two decades of experience in the kitchens of luxury hotels, Chef Desmond Ngoh spent the past decade training and mentoring budding chefs at the Temasek Culinary Academy. He works closely with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and local farms to introduce sustainable, locally sourced and farmed ingredients in his lessons. Similarly, he has created for Challenge a new dish out of local ingredients such as barramundi – one of the species supported by the AVA. The dish also draws inspiration from his raison d’être for public agencies: “We often need to work as a unified team to provide excellent service to the public. For my dish, all the ingredients are good on their own. But when put together carefully, they work in a complementary way to elevate the dish beyond the sum of their parts.” The different colours and textures, he adds, also reflect the “multicultural nature of public service”.

Grilled barramundi with Saikyo miso

Recipe : (Serves 5)

For the fish:

  • 400g Saikyo miso
  • 250ml sake
  • 250ml mirin
  • 1kg barramundi fillet
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine miso, mirin and sake and mix into a paste.
  2. Marinate the barramundi in the mixture overnight.
  3. To serve, grill the fish on a griller or broil under a salamander until cooked.

For the dashimaki tamago (Japanese rolled omelette):

  • 5 eggs
  • 120ml dashi (flavoured stock)
  • 10ml mirin
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Whisk the eggs, dashi, mirin and salt in a bowl. Then strain through a fine bowl strainer.
  2. Add a small amount of the egg mixture into a heated pan. Once the egg has cooked slightly, with the top still slightly uncooked, push it over to the side of your pan. Repeat this step until you have used up the mixture.

For the mini white and red radish:

  • 5 pieces white radish
  • 5 pieces red radish
  • 1L dashi
  1. Simmer radishes with dashi stock until they are fork tender.

For the red spinach with goma-ae (sesame dressing):

  • 200g red spinach
  • 6 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  1. Grind sesame seeds until they are roughly ground.
  2. Combine the ground seeds with sugar, sesame oil and soy sauce. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and incorporated.
  3. Blanch spinach in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and remove excess water.
  4. Marinate spinach with the goma-ae dressing and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.


  • Mustard wasabi and amaranth leaves, trimmed and washed.
Oven-roasted ikan kurau, with glazed medley of vegetables and chicken jus (bottom)

Chef Zave Toh
Section Head, Technical Diploma in Culinary Arts, ITE College West

Chef Zave Toh has been teaching students the art of Western cooking at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) for the past eight years. Trained in classical French cuisine, he worked at several French eateries in Singapore, including the Les Amis restaurant, before joining the ITE. For Challenge, he has chosen a dish inspired by the ITE’s purpose – “to equip our students with skills for life and work”. He explains: “That is why I chose to go back to basics with this dish – there are no short cuts and no fancy molecular techniques, just a focus on quality ingredients and fundamental cooking methods.” Ikan kurau (known as Indian threadfin, or ngoh hur in Hokkien) is also close to his heart: his mother had cooked it often during his childhood when she worked as a babysitter, the fish being “one of the first solids she would start the babies on”. “It is nutritious and known as a great quality fish,” he adds.

Oven-roasted ikan kurau with glazed medley of vegetables and chicken jus

Recipe : (Serves 1)

For the ikan kurau:

  • 160g ikan kurau fillet
  • 50g French butter (demi-sel)
  • 5g thyme
  • 5g garlic
  • 5g rosemary
  1. Descale, debone and cut the fish into required shape and weight.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan, add butter and swirl around the pan.
  3. Once the butter has completely melted, place the fish fillet skin side down onto the pan and turn up the heat.
  4. Monitor the cooking process, adjusting the heat when required.
  5. Flip the fish onto the meat side once the fish skin is brown and crispy.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to cook everything in an oven at 150 degree Celsius. Cooking duration varies between 3 and 5 minutes, depending on the size of the fillet.

For the glazed medley of vegetables:                   

  • 60g baby carrots
  • 20g petai beans
  • 30g morel mushrooms (dried version)
  • 50g Idaho potatoes
  • 10g pearl onions
  • 20g baby beetroot
  1. Prepare all vegetables to desired shapes.
  2. Par-blanch all vegetables with fine salt. (The vegetables should be half cooked.)
  3. Soak the morel mushrooms in hot water and trim the bottom end.
  4. Heat up a copper pan with butter.
  5. Once the butter melts, place all the ingredients into the pan and add chicken stock.
  6. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Swirl in cold butter to set the consistency.

For the chicken jus:                         

  • 500g chicken wings
  • 100g onion
  • 50g carrot
  • 50g leek
  • 50g celery
  • 100g button mushroom trimmings
  • 1.5L chicken stock
  • 10g thyme
  • 10g bay leaf
  • 30ml cooking oil                                             
  1. Prepare and cut all the vegetables into desired shapes.
  2. Cut the chicken wings into small, even sizes and remove about half of the skin.
  3. In a hot cast iron pot, drizzle some cooking oil.
  4. Brown the chicken wings over medium heat till you attain a nice brown colour on all sides.
  5. Remove from pan, degrease with kitchen paper towel.
  6. Using the same pan, sauté all the vegetables.
  7. Return the browned chicken wings into pot and add the warm chicken stock.
  8. Bring mixture to a boil, remove and skim away fats when necessary.
  9. Simmer product until it has the correct consistency (should not be too dilute), and check its flavour.
  10. Pour product over a fine strainer to remove all the bones and vegetables.
  11. Reduce the remaining liquid to a fine consistency and check the seasoning.
    May 12, 2017
    Juliana Loh
    John Heng
    Yip Siew Fei
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