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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Beef rendang with raw veggies

Founder of Michelin-starred Noma Claus Meyer to open new eatery serving Peranakan food with a Nordic twist in Denmark
The Straits Times - August 1, 2011
By: melissa kok
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Beef rendang with raw veggies -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF CLAUS MEYER

Peranakan cuisine may be getting a leg up in the world of fine dining.

A Danish celebrity chef famed for opening Noma - named the world's best restaurant two years in a row on the influential S. Pellegrino list - will be opening a Singapore-inspired eatery in November.

Chef Claus Meyer, 46, famous for co-founding Michelin-starred Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, is embarking on his latest culinary venture with two of his close friends, a Singaporean Peranakan and her Danish husband.

The 140-seat bistro, to be named 'Namnam', is located in downtown Copenhagen and will offer Peranakan dishes such as beef rendang, buah keluak and chap chye. It will also serve popular Singapore dishes such as Hainanese chicken rice, rojak and roti prata.

Other twists on Peranakan favourites that Meyer wants to serve: beef rendang with crudites (side dish of raw vegetables) and chap chye (mixed vegetable stew) cooked by stir-frying cabbage and throwing it in at the last minute.

He stressed that the food will have Peranakan roots but will be mixed with 'some of the greatest street food you find in Singapore' and a touch of 'the universal qualities of new Nordic cuisine'.

He said: 'The grandmas may think it is blasphemous to touch the ancient recipe but if every generation copied everything from the last generation, where would we be?

'We must look at things with an open mind. Maybe it is easier for a Dane than it is for a Peranakan to challenge grandma's or grandpa's ideas.'

Namnam - the name is a child-like expression for succulent food in Danish - will be the first proper restaurant he opens since Noma, which specialises in new Nordic fine dining, launched in 2003.

After Noma, he was involved in other projects, such as setting up a chain of modern Nordic cafeterias and organic bakeries.

Meyer had been in town with his family since last Sunday to scout for Peranakan-inspired designware for Namnam. He headed back to Denmark last Friday.

He said one reason he wanted to set up the restaurant was to pay tribute to his friends Tin Pang- Larsen, 59, and her husband Michael Larsen, 59.

He had met them 20 years ago at the restaurant the couple used to run, about 11km from downtown Copenhagen. Called Nams Kuisine, it was known for being the only restaurant in the area to serve authentic Peranakan food. The food followed recipes passed down from Ms Pang-Larsen's mother.

'The food was f***ing good. It was unschooled but, you know, dangerously good. They were so keen on finding the best possible taste experience, but from a Peranakan origin,' he said.

Mr Larsen said in a telephone interview that Nams Kuisine, which opened in 1991, closed in 2005 because it was 'way too much work' and also because of its 'out of the way' location.

Of the new venture, he said: 'I want it to be a place where, when people come, the meal is a celebration of life, the company, and the food that is given, which everyone fights to pay after.'

Between ?500,000 and ?800,000 (S$866,000 and S$1.4 million) will be invested in the new eatery.

Meyer has had an illustrious career in food, having hosted his own television series on cooking, titled Meyers Koekken (Meyer's Kitchen), on Danish TV in the 1990s, written cookbooks and setting up a successful catering business and a chain of delis called Meyers Deli in Denmark.

He is also the Danish host of New Scandinavian Cooking, a television series broadcast in more than 50 countries, including Singapore.

Noma, which Meyer describes as 'something meant to be an instrument in my toolbox', was set up with the aim of creating a totally new cuisine with Nordic roots.

The restaurant is known for creating dishes such as knife mussels wrapped in a parsley gel and served with horseradish snow; and a dessert of sheep's yogurt mousse served with a granite made from sorrel leaves, a wild herb with an acidic taste.

He credits Noma's success to the abilities of fellow chef and co-owner Rene Redzepi.

'It's the genius of my partner. That will be, by far, the No. 1 reason we went so far,' he said.

Seven years after its inception, Noma remains extremely popular, with table bookings completely snapped up within two hours each time it starts taking reservations every three months.

For those keen on dining at the world's best restaurant, Meyer advised: 'Call again in two weeks' time. There'll always be someone who cancels. You might get lucky.'

'The grandmas may think it is blasphemous to touch the ancient recipe... We must look at things with an open mind. Maybe it is easier for a Dane to challenge grandma's or grandpa's ideas'.

Chef Claus Meyer on tweaking Peranakan recipes for his upcoming bistro, Namnam, in Copenhagen.



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