[dropcap size=small]B[/dropcap]ack in Kerry, Ireland, a typical day out shopping for produce would see 24-year-old Mark Moriarty chatting with stallholders and inhaling the crisp aroma of fresh fruit and vegetables. So, imagine the young chef’s surprise when he casually prods a mango at a fruit stall in Tiong Bahru Market, only to have the stallholder swat his hands away and berate him for touching the fruit. “In Ireland, being told ‘don’t touch my mangoes’ usually means something quite different,” says Moriarty wryly, with an amused smile.
The Irish chef was in town in early 2016 for a World Gourmet Summit four-hands dinner collaboration with Kirk Westaway, chef de cuisine of Jaan at Swissotel the Stamford. Both chefs met at the San Pellegrino Young Chefs 2015 contest held in Milan, Italy, where Devon-born Westaway took home the South-east Asia title and Moriarty was named overall winner.
(RELATED: Jaan has raked in a number of accolades this year – an Award of Excellence during our G Restaurant Awards 2016 and a Michelin star in the inaugural Singapore guide. Westaway himself was awarded Rising Chef of the Year during the 2016 World Gourmet Summit.)
Facing an irate elderly woman isn’t the only new sight (and sound) that Moriarty is taking in, on his first trip to a wet market in Asia. “What is that?” asks Moriarty, while staring in fascination at an oddly shaped dark brown object hung at another stall.
“It’s dried jellyfish; there’s a lot of salt put on it,” explains an elderly man sitting on a stool, who is staring back at him with the same fascination.
“I’d never seen dried jellyfish before,” says Moriarty, who is used to seeing the slimy sea creature laid out fresh back home. “It’s a very different sight, and this is cool,” he says.
Together with Westaway, both chefs meander through the aisles of Tiong Bahru Market’s wet section, the floors made even slipperier, thanks to the morning’s merciless onslaught of rain. This scene isn’t new to Westaway, whom Moriarty is counting on to take the lead.
“Pick a big one, Mark,” says Westaway, who is having some fun at Moriarty’s expense, while watching him trying to communicate with a hawker selling chestnuts. “Can I get one of these, my dear?” asks a charming Moriarty, clearly hoping to score some of the best picks.
(RELATED: Premium dried foodstuffs can also be found at this gem on Hong Kong Street.)
But the stallholder will have none of it. “What you say? I don’t know what you want,” she replies firmly. Moriarty replies: “Uh, this chestnut, please.” Exchange made, he hands over some money.
The two young chefs then scurry off to sneak a forbidden tasting of some raw peanuts, which they’d secretly plucked off. Though Moriarty didn’t get the chance to sip “kopi” at the hawker centre upstairs, the good-natured chef is happy enough with his finds. “I got some beautiful leeks and chives that we can use for the lunch that we will serve later,” shares Moriarty proudly.
“There’s a lamb dish on the menu and some of these leeks will go really well with it. I’m also going to use those wonderful mangoes in the dessert!”