Text and Images by Sheere Ng @ Makansutra
Fruits, be it fresh or smashed to a pulp, are popular ingredients in savoury dishes. We are familiar with pineapple rice, apples as stuffing, IKEA’s lingonberry sauce over meatballs, and the ubiquitous plum sauce in Chinese kitchens, plus pineapple sauce with Hainanese satay.
Different fruits lend a different quality. They could balance the saltiness of the main ingredient (think rock melon and parma ham), heighten the sweetness (Cantonese snow pear soup), tease the appetite (umeboshi) and even tenderize meats (pineapple or papaya). The list goes on.
What’s different today is, other than (or rather than) serving culinary purposes, fruits are now chosen and added based on their popularity and mass appeal potential.
Yoshimaru Ramen Bar's Spicy Yuzu Ramen
The recent craze over the Japanese Yuzu (An Asian variety of citrus fruit) saw the fruit popping up in different forms: drink, ice cream and most recently, ramen. In May this year, Yoshimaru Ramen Bar at Holland Village introduced the Spicy Yuzu Ramen. The citrusy and slight bitter flavour, found in the soup, is subtle at first but becomes charmingly obvious later in the meal.
At the newly opened Little Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant-cum-bar at Clarke Quay, chef Hoang Hong Dung dots his buttery fried rice with a rather tasteless diced dragon fruit – for symbolic and auspicious reasons. “It is cultivated in Vietnam and this year happens to be the dragon zodiac year,” he says.
Xin Wang Hong Kong Café's papaya noodle soup
For a homier option, Xin Wang Hong Kong Café adopts the nourishing Chinese red papaya soup and throws in a bundle of noodles, some corn and luncheon meat, turning it into a somewhat healthy and convenient one-dish meal.
The adaptability and positive image of fruits (associated with good health) make them a standard in the repertoire of many Asian chefs who practice the yin-yang (cool and heaty) balance in food. But given how some fruits are seen as “trendy” and “super” these days, there’s a higher chance that diners will seem more berries, pomegranate and grapefruit, instead of grape, mangoes and watermelon.
Yoshimaru Ramen Bar
31 Lorong Liput Holland Village
Little Saigon Restaurant and Bar
01-02 Clarke Quay Block E
3 River Valley Road
Xin Wang Hong Kong Café
B2-16 ION Orchard