MasterChef Asia’s Woo Wai Leong & his Ibid

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Chef Woo Wai Leong

Chef Woo Wai Leong

If you’ve ever watched Masterchef Asia, the name ‘Woo Wai Leong’ will not be an unfamiliar one. The winner of the inaugural season has taken slightly over two years to open his first restaurant – Ibid, at North Canal Road.

Driven by what he calls “Nanyang” cuisine, the restaurant serves dishes that are a blend of East-West cooking techniques with inspiration drawn from experiences of food that Chef Wai Leong had growing up. Ibid offers four courses at S$78++, six at S$88++ and eight at S$118++.

Ibid-Spring Onion Shao Bing

Spring Onion Shao Bing

Starting with one of the two complimentary starters, I was duly impressed with the thought and effort that went into the Spring Onion Shao Bing with yeasted butter and laksa leaf oil. Stuffed with a mixture of mozzarella cheese, spring onions, black pepper and sesame oil, the chewy interior contrasted very nicely with the muffin-like exterior. Paired with the light yeasted butter on the side, and I’d say that Ibid has a very delectable starter that everybody should try.

Ibid-Tea Egg Soubise

Tea Egg Soubise

But the dish that got me scraping the bottom of the bowl was the Tea Egg Soubise, comprised of an organic egg yolk sous vide for an hour at 65 degrees, and a broth made from aged mandarin peels, Pu-Er tea leaves, rock sugar and kelp that’s poured over. I absolutely loved the broth, and I found that it paired nicely with the jam-like egg yolk, helping to lift the richness and cleanse the palate.

I’m not a big fan of gingko nuts in general due to the powdery texture, but thankfully, the pieces here were chewy and added a little texture to the dish.

 

Ibid-Ah Hua Kelong Grouper

Ah Hua Kelong Grouper

Moving on to the mains, I was definitely intrigued by the Ah Hua Kelong Grouper, having had the pleasure of touring Ah Hua Kelong’s fish farm once before. As expected, the fish was moist and flaky, sitting on top of a delicious mound of tofu butter – Chef Wai Leong’s creation of tofu blended with butter – a creamy paste that held hints of tofu, and richness afforded by the butter.

Ibid-Short Rib with black garlic

Short Rib with black garlic

My favourite main was the Short Rib with black garlic, however. This dish has been refined by Chef Wai Leong over the last few years, accompanying him at his pop-up appearances. Sous-vided at a surprisingly high temperature of 65 degrees for 48 hours, the short rib was tender, but not to the point where it would fall apart.

What caught my attention was the black fungus and the shavings of Chinese pear. The black fungus is pickled in soya sauce, black vinegar and sugar before being charred slight, while the pear shavings were dehydrated, then rehydrated. Together, they gave a very nice balance of sweetness and acidity, while adding a nice crunch element to the dish.

Ibid-Soy Milk Ice Cream

Soy Milk Ice Cream

I’ve never been a big fan of tofu, so imagine my surprise when two of my favourite dishes had tofu as an ingredient. The Soy Milk Ice Cream dessert that Chef Wai Leong puts out utilises soy milk and tofu to create an ice cream, which is then enhanced by chunks of sesame cake, and an almond espuma. This is a great dessert for the lactose-intolerant, with no milk or dairy ice cream used.

But the best part of the dish? A slight hint of pepper at the end. It’s so subtle that if you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss it entirely. But to me, that note of pepper elevated the dish by adding a touch of complexity, in addition to the myriad of textures present; the lightness of the almond espuma, the chewiness of the sesame cake, and the smoothness of the ice cream.

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