“It’s not easy in the F&B industry in Singapore. It’s one of the most volatile and labour-reliant industries,” said Bjorn Shen, the chef-owner of Artichoke, a modern Middle Eastern restaurant. “Everything could be right today and overnight, everything could change.” Shen told me this in late January over a pizza-banh mi during my visit to Small’s, his new four-seater private dining kitchen right next to Artichoke that opened in February. In hindsight, it was an eerily prescient musing.
Fast forward to right before Singapore’s circuit breaker period kicked in last Tuesday, Shen and his team of chefs returned to the restaurant, recovering all the remaining ingredients from their fridge. “We didn’t have time to sell all these products that we had in the restaurant,” Shen recalled over a phone call this week. “Rather than having them go to waste, we decided to divvy up all the stuff, bring them home, cook food and make videos using those ingredients.”
Unlike most frenzied food joints and restaurants across the city trying to work out an eleventh-hour delivery system to stay afloat, Shen and his band of chefs at Artichoke are taking a back seat. They’re staying at home.
The restaurateur acknowledges this as a luxury. Having set aside a budget for a company trip that could no longer happen, Shen decided to close the restaurant for the month. “I want to keep my guys safe at home,” said the 38-year-old. “Other businesses also want to keep their people safe but they’re facing a very challenging decision where they can’t afford to go out of business. If the circuit breaker does extend, we’ll consider going back into doing deliveries and takeaways.”
Housebound, Shen and his team are staying productive, taking up online lessons and experimenting with homemade video content on the restaurant’s Instagram. For T Singapore, Shen and three of Artichoke’s chefs — head chef Mathew Woon, sous chefs Nadine Tay and Selwyn Joseph — set out to shake up the quotidian ingredient of quarantine cuisine: instant noodles.
“It's to just poke fun at all those people who hoarded the instant noodles,” Shen quipped, referring to much of the early panic buying that cleared out stores of foods that could sit on their shelves for months. “You assholes stockpiled these noodles so I’m going to show you how to cook it.”
Below, Shen and his team’s recipes to add pizzazz to any instant noodle night-ins.
Bjorn Shen’s Black Pepper Snow Crab La Mian
Courtesy of Bjorn Shen
- 1 packet of Prima Taste Black Pepper Crab LaMian
- 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 large red chilli, sliced
- 2 stalks curry leaves
- 6 pieces of snow crab (you can get this frozen at Don Don Donki or Cold Storage)
- ¼ white onion, cubed
- 1 handful coriander leaves
- 2 stalks spring onions, cut into short lengths
- Fish sauce to season
- Parmesan or pecorino cheese for grating
Courtesy of Bjorn Shen
1. In a pot, begin to boil the noodles.
2. Meanwhile, start a frying pan with the butter and oil. Turn up the heat and scramble 1 egg very briefly. Throw in chilli, garlic and curry leaves. Throw in the crab legs and the contents of the noodle seasoning sachets. Add a splash of fish sauce to season. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.
3. Throw in the onions and spring onions and mix.
4. By this time, the noodles should be about 85% cooked. Remove the noodles from the pot and put together with the crab mixture.
5. Pour in 2 tablespoons of the noodle’s cooking water. Mix everything well.
6. Put a lid on the pan and allow to steam for half a minute.
7. Plate up, garnish with coriander leaves, spring onions and a shaving of cheese.
Nadine Tay’s Spicy Korean Lobster Noodles
Courtesy of Nadine Tay
- 1 packet of Samyang Hot Chicken Instant Ramen
- 1 lobster tail
- 50 grams of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons of uni paste
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 1 piece of garlic clove, sliced
1. Mix the butter with 1 tablespoon of uni paste.
2. Cut the lobster tail in half and smear the uni butter over it.
3. Heat your oven up to 180°C.
4. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the noodles for 4 minutes.
5. Strain the noodles and keep for later.
6. Place the lobster tail in the oven and bake it for 5 mins.
7. In a pan, sauté the sliced shallots and garlic with some olive oil till it browns.
8. Throw in your cooked noodles and the rest of the uni paste and noodles seasonings.
9. Mix everything together and plate it up. Place the baked lobster tail on top of the noodles.
Mathew Woon’s Shio Ramen With Pickled Cucumber and Grilled Szechuan Prawns
Courtesy of Mathew Woon
Ingredients for Ramen With Pickled Cucumber
- 2 packets of instant shio ramen noodles
- 2 eggs
- 100 grams of spring onions
- 10 millilitres of olive oil
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 Japanese cucumber
- 50 grams of white vinegar
- 100 millilitres of sugar
- 2 whole corns, cut into 8 pieces
- 3 sprigs of Moringa leaves
Ingredients for Grilled Tiger Prawns
- 9 pieces of tiger prawns
- 50 millilitres of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon of salt
Courtesy of Mathew Woon
1. Remove heads of the prawns and butterfly them.
2. Toast Szechuan peppercorns and once cool pound them together with the salt.
3. Mix all together with olive oil and the prawns. Let sit for a while.
4. Season the spring onions with olive oil and salt. Grill them over your stovetop.
5. Chop the charred spring onions into bite-sized pieces and leave aside.
6. Cut the cucumbers in half and remove the seeds.
7. Season with a little bit of salt and leave aside.
8. In a bowl, mix the vinegar and sugar together till sugar dissolves.
9. Rinse off the salt from the cucumber. Add the cucumber into the vinegar mixture.
10. Place a pot of water on the stovetop and bring it to boil.
11. Add in the corn and cook for 10 mins.
12. Meanwhile, heat up a pan for the prawns. Once hot, add in the prawns and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
13. After 10 minutes, add your noodles with the seasonings.
14. Cook for 4 mins for al dente noodles. (Cook a little longer if softer noodles is preferred.)
15. Add in the eggs and Moringa leaves. Stir and turn off the heat.
16. To plate up, place the noodles into a bowl and pour over the soup.
17. Place 3 prawns, some charred spring onion and pickled cucumbers on top.
18. Garnish with a sprinkle of store-bought crispy fried shallots.
Selwyn Joseph’s Fried Seafood Char Mee With Kombu Butter
Courtesy of Selwyn Tay
1 packet of Myojo Ramen Char Mee
50 grams of confit octopus, sliced
2 pieces of king crab legs, chopped
15 grams of kombu butter
1. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the noodles for only 2 minutes.
2. Strain the noodles and put aside.
3. In a pan, sauté the octopus and crab till a nice light brown colour.
4. Then add in the kombu butter and cook for a few minutes.
5. Add in your seasonings and cooked noodles.
6. Mix all together and plate it up.
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