Sup ekor (oxtail soup) with whisky, you say? Not exactly a typical food and Scotch pairing that we’ve ever come across but definitely one to remember.
Carrying the same bold spirit as the pairing, Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking’ ambassador Chef Nigel Richter showed us that whisky goes hand-in-hand with dishes that we’d normally have on any given day.
Dishes like oxtail broth and prawn maki are enjoyable on its own, but paired with a glass of Scotch whisky elevates it into gourmet territory.
Having moved from Canada to Malaysia, Chef Nigel’s story of personal progress embodies the spirit of ‘Keep Walking’. The culinary expert is on a mission to better promote locally grown and cultivated produce as part of his passion for “fine dining”, inspiring us all to take notice of what’s in our very own backyards, and be bold enough to carve out our own paths.
“When pairing food with whisky – or any drink for that matter – you want to look at the flavour profile in the drink,” says Chef Nigel, “What is it made of? Is it made from grains, potatoes, grapes? Then you look at how it’s aged, how it’s produced. Is it fermented? Whisky is usually made from malt and aged in sherry casks, so that’s similar to a lot of red wines. It’s quite easy these days to pair food.”
Read on to see what Chef Nigel prepared to go with each Johnnie Walker whisky and perhaps you’ll be inspired yourself to pair Scotch with your meals.
Tiger prawn tempura and Dungeness crab maki
Ponzu sauve, avocado, cucumber, scallions, radish, black and white sesame
Paired with: Johnnie Walker Black Label
Chef's insights: My objective is to dispel whisky as merely being a 'drinker's drink'. With the first course, the goal was to pair the rich flavours from grain whiskies with ponzu, which has sake, bonito, soy sauce, konbu, and yuzu citrus flavours in it; all of which possess some identical aromatic molecules found in the Black Label.
Tatler says: A particularly good pairing that didn’t compete with each other. The noticeable flavours of seaweed, sesame seeds, sake and soy sauce really carried the sweetness of the Black Label. The lingering whisky aftertaste then brought out the prawn’s sweetness and the subtle spices in the maki.
Spiced oxtail cappuccino
Slow-cooked oxtail, roasted shitake, smoked parsnip, fenugreek foam, crusty olive oil ciabatta, carrot dust
Paired with: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
Chef's insights: This dish was structured around the earthy flavours found in the Gold Label Reserve. I specifically wanted to highlight the charred flavours and aromas of browned oxtail known as umami or savory flavour. I added spices like cinnamon, star anise, and allspice in the broth which complimented the wood and light sweet flavours found in the Gold Reserve. The fenugreek used to flavour the milk foam also has common flavour compounds found in the Gold Label Reserve which originates from the whisky being aged in oak barrels.
Tatler says: An outstanding pairing; this was an excellent display of smokiness from both dish and drink. The spices stood out and went very well with the smoothness of the Gold Label Reserve. The earthy flavours of the shitake mushrooms also shone through, adding a softness that played along very well with the whisky.
Smoked cheese cake
Vanilla-hazelnut crust, pomegranate, white chocolate malt crunch, forest honey, fresh in-season berries
Paired with: Johnnie Walker Double Black
Chef's insights: I chose a common dessert favourite like cheesecake; strawberry was a natural choice as it enhances the citrus and fruit flavours found in the Double Black. I infused natural vanilla in the shortbread crust. The crumble accompanying the cheese cake was malt flavoured and enriched with butter and white chocolate. The egg introduced into the cheesecake was further flavoured by hickory-smoked water and is a great match with the smoky wood tones found in the Double Black.
Tatler says: A delicate and simple cheesecake that was perilously overwhelmed by the Double Black. The cheesecake’s texture was out of this world and the crunchy malt bits were a nice touch.
Chef Nigel Richter is a Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking’ ambassador along with mixologists Shawn Chong and Karl Too of Omakase+Appreciate, fashion designer Harvee Kok and budding filmmaker Quek Shio Chuan – all of whom carry their own motivational story of how they got to where they are today.
Johnnie Walker will be celebrating Chef Nigel and these four other progressive individuals at the Johnnie Walker Circuit Lounge 2014 event happening on March 29th, 2014.