The Singapore Food Festival is all things spicy this year. From the 15th to the 24th of July, participating restaurants will be whipping up select dishes using a wide range of spices like Star Anise, Cinnamon, Cardoman, Pepper, Bay, Chillies to name a few. At Shangri La’s The Line, 9 chefs will be dishing out 9 signature creations for both lunch and dinner, tantalizing tastebuds along the way.

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Four of the Nine Special Spicy Dishes : From Left – Braised Chicken Thigh with Citrus Mayonnaise Mustard Sauce, Lengua Estofado (Braised Ox Tongue), Spare Ribs with Spices Curry Sauce, Gianduja Pain D’Epices (Five Spices Sponge Cake)

I’ve generally associated spice use with mains, but to bring the unique flavourings into desserts or drinks is not a common encounter for me. Still, as an introduction to spicy cuisine, The Line has brought in specially for this food festival drinks like Kumpices and Masala Taak, and a creamy smooth sponge cake made with the influence of Five Spice.

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The Spare Ribs with Spices, Curry Sauce designed by Chef Wilson Choo is combination of Cinnamon, Clove and Star Anise along with lemongrass, blue ginger, candlenut and tamarind paste. The mild hot flavours which itself carry a nutty fragrance, goes very well with the pieces of spare ribs.

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Chef De Partie Jo Tan brings in a more smoked flavour in the line up. The Charred Beef with Spiced Salt are pieces of marinated ribeye beef, deep fried and served with spiced salt of sea salt flakes, cumin, chilli, and cinnamon.A little touch of saltiness brings out the flavours of the beef, and the charred ends are a personal choice. Its nice but I felt this serving of meat was a little dried.

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The Braised Beef Cheek with Five Spices while it may not look the best in the serving, is actually a strong favourite of mine. Soft tender slices of beef cheek seasoned with five spice powder, salt and pepper it first deep fried, boiled, steamed, and then braised slowly before serve. Each piece is soft and slightly fatty with the brown stock being a smooth savoury and viscous. Spices used in this creation by Chef Melvin Lim are Cinnamon Sticks, Star Anise, Szechuan Pepper, Five Spice, and a touch of Chinese Angelica (Dang Gui).

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Chef Faustino Picardo Jr. brings in something special with his dish of Lengua Estofado or Braised Ox Tongue. I’ve never had braised ox tongue before but it felt like a cross between a piece of fatty beef tendon that is soft to the bite with a slight melt in the mouth texture. Simple spices of Thyme and Bay leaf is used. And as a sweetening starch, caramelised banana and sweet potato is used as the final touches of this dish.

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The Asian Style Cured Salmon Gravlax by Cook Nixon Low uses fresh whole salmon that has been cured with Asian spices of Chilli, Coriander seed and dill, together with spoons of Pernod Ricard and Brandy and layers of salt and sugar. The marinade is left to be absorbed for 6hours before being sliced upon serve with sour cream and Asian salad. I thought it was a very light creation and the use of spices were very mild leaving natural flavours to the sea richness of the salmon itself.

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Cook Daniel Ting rendition of his Braised Chicken Thigh with Citrus Mayonnaise Mustard Sauce has ingredients of cumin, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and small red chilli. Flavours are fruity and creamy with a rustic aftertaste to each bite. It’s a savoury blend on hearty concoctions and one that reminds of a countryside homely feel. A very appreciated dish.

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Chef Aamod Sharma’s creation of his Bhatti Da Chop is perhaps the one dish with the most widely used amount of spices. Red Chilli, Chat Masala Powder, Garama Masala powder, Cumin, Fennel, Coriander and dried fenugreek leaf goes into the seasonings. While lamb usually has a strong gamey taste, I liked the way the spices nicely covered the otherwise strong scentinto a more spicy peppery scent that tickles the nose with its deep aroma. The lamb rack is marinated for 12 hours and then baked for about 15minutes to achieve a nice level of doneness that leaves the meat tender.

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I last met Chef Kaled during my birthday celebration in January, and it was then I was introduced to his skill in Middle Eastern Cuisine. This time round for the spicy line up, Chef Kaled has created his Lamb Tagine with Prunes. Choices of cinnamon, tumeric powder, bay leaves, and saffron is used . A very simple dish to prepare and cook but one with deep meaty flavours and a sweetness from the dried prunes that accentuates the tastes. I wish there were more prunes though, and maybe a little longer to allow the sweetness to permeate fully through the meat.

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A dessert creation is also part of the spicy presentation with the Gianduja Pain D’Epices or Five Spices Sponge Cake. I’ve never had cake with five spice strictly but the amount used in this creation is perhaps a mere touch of the spices. The cake itself by Pastry Chef Sam Huang is creamy, smooth and a little bold in its softness. The hint of five spice rises gently on each spoonful and is not intrusive on the flavours of the cake itself. I liked it though the spice use is really just a touch.

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Creations of Kumpices (Top), and Masala Taak (Bottom)

And of course Spicy concoctions from the bar have to make an appearance. The Kumpices is refreshing and clear, and though the first strike of chilli padi onto the tastebud is mild, the subsequent flavour become stronger and pepperish with the sip. An eye opener, and a palate cleanser. Still, I find it hard to appreciate the Masala Taak which is a creation of Yoghurt, Salt, Chilli, Ginger, Cumin and mint. The flavour is like a mix between slightly sweet watered yoghurt with curry fragrances. An acquired taste I believe. Real acquired but a challenge!

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Apart from just the spicy creation for this Singapore Food Festival, the Line will still be serving its generous fare in the buffet spread. The Roast Sirloin was very nicely browned though the center was a little rare for my liking.

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The Salmon Quiche was a particular favourite of mine as its creamy cheesy flavour and toasted base was very addictive. And for more shots of the buffet for your pleasure, here they are.

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The Spicy Line Up is available at The Line from the 15th of July through the 24th. And while most of the 9 signatures are created with spices, they are mostly a mild introduction to the stronger flavours of local dishes. Still its an appropriate blend into the wider range presented out for all diners, and enjoyable by all even if there are certain creations which are a little acquired in taste. An interesting introduction to the wider layout available this Singapore Food Festival.

Many Thanks to Grace, Shangri La for the invitation.

The Line
Shangri-La Hotel
22 Orange Grove Road

Reservations : 6213 4398
Lunch :
Mon – Fri : Adult $47 / Child $24
Sat : Adult $50 / Child $25
Sun : Adult $78 Free Flow Selected Cocktails and Juices / Child $42

Dinner :
Fri – Mon : Adult $68 / Child $34
Crabby Tuesdays : Adult $68 ($88 with free flow red and white wine) / Child $34
Get Grilled Wednesdays :  $78 (Free flow red and white wine, draft beer, soft drinks and juices) / Child $34
Marine Harvest Thursday : Adult $88 (Free flow red and white wine, draft beer, soft drinks and juices) / Child $44