Taiwanese food is downright heavenly.
Just imagine, right here right now — the sound of chatter in a bustling Shilin night market, braised pork melting on your tongue, the controversial whiff of stinky tofu that rises up your nose, washing the harmony of tastes down with the homely sweetness of bubble milk tea.
Tell me you didn’t already drool.
Taiwanese food may be as iconic in Asian culture as Krabby Patties.
But have we ever dreamed of Taiwanese savouring Singapore’s brand of local food or even the rest of Asia?
Even If You Haven’t, It’s Already Come True
Jimmy Lim is setting out to make that dream a reality with his very own JL studio, which flashily entered the ‘Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list.
Admittedly, not many people take the Singaporean culture with us when we leave our little red dot; we start a new life, intrigued by cities with ever-winding lanes. Jimmy Lim was the same.
After enrolling into Shatec and settling for some time with restaurants in Singapore, Jimmy Lim then went on to immerse himself in French fine-dining in Taiwan for almost eight years, occasionally travelling to learn in Denmark as well.
It comes as no surprise to both him and everyone else that he started out his restaurant cooking European-style.
What did come as a surprise was him realising that the concept felt “impersonal”.
Returned To S’pore Cooking
Home truly is where the heart is, as he went back to his roots by cooking Singapore-inspired food after merely a month.
Taking notes from his late father’s zichar stall, where he used to help wash dishes and learn recipes, Jimmy Lim embarked on his search to create Singaporean hawker food using ingredients fresh from Taiwan, and sophisticated enough for fine dining.
So far, here are some of his creations:
I don’t see hor fun, and the kai lan’s visual is not exactly what I’m used to… but sure.
This plate screams more Singaporean; in fact, it can pass off as an extremely atas dessert that I’d never be able to afford.
He didn’t learn much from his father’s zichar stall since he had focused his interests elsewhere.
But that didn’t stop him from challenging our Gordon-Ramsay-approved local food, through endless rounds of trial and error.
Now, some may be quick to discredit him and argue that his customers are mostly just Singaporeans. But really, I don’t think Singaporeans would take care of our fellow people so much if it sets them back by $122.88 (for a nine-course meal; a 15- to 17-course meal costs around $166.77) unless we’re filthy rich. We’d just stick to Taiwan’s street food when we go there.
So no, most of his customers are actually Taiwanese, though there are regulars from Singapore.
With aspiring cooks like Jimmy Lim, perhaps it is not a faraway dream for Singapore’s culture to make its mark in the world. By then, we shall no longer be regarded as ‘part of China’.