When Singaporeans are overseas, you'll never hear them reminiscing about the weather. Instead, many lament about being far removed from their favourite bowl of laksa, chicken rice, or nasi lemak. Thankfully, for our Singapore athletes heading up to Rio, unfulfilled food cravings will be the least of their worries. Even if they find themselves miles away from home, they'll still have access to dishes they've grown up with.
Thanks to Chef Elson Cheong, Executive Sous Chef at Pan Pacific Singapore, and a team of dietitians at the Singapore Sports Institute, our national team will get to choose from 88 menu items at meal times. Needless to say, street food favourites such as chicken rice and laksa are included in the gastronomic lineup. Below, Cheong lets us in on what it takes to feed a contingent of hungry local athletes.
What considerations did you keep in mind when designing the 88-item menu for our Singapore athletes?
I had to design a special menu based on the dietary restrictions of the athletes and at the same consider the local food the athletes would like to eat when they are in Brazil. I also had to consider the ingredients available in Brazil as well as the kitchen equipment and utensils at our cooking facility.
Could you provide us with a rough idea of what the athletes can expect to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
The menu items will feature more carbohydrates as well as high-protein and high-fibre items. All of it will be prepared with less sodium and oil.
What are some iconic local dishes that have made it onto the menu?
The athletes can look forward to local favourites such as Singapore laksa, chicken rice, fried mee siam, soto ayam and beef rendang.
How would you rework the recipe for dishes such as chicken rice and laksa, given that they are not exactly the healthiest fare?
I had to reduce the amount of cooking oil, salt, and fat in the dishes and worked closely with the nutritionists at the Singapore Sports Institute to design the menu.
Will there be any snacks available?
There will be some light desserts such as mango pudding, red bean soup with sago and agar agar, and cut fruits.
In terms of logistics, what kind of equipment and ingredients are you bringing to Rio?
In terms of ingredients, I will be bringing over nyonya paste, rendang paste, laksa leaves, pandan leaves, curry leaves, and a bak kut teh mix. I'm also bringing over some large cooking tools such as a 200-litre pot and a rice cooker with a capacity for 30 persons.
What's the one local dish you miss the most when you're overseas?
I always miss having traditional nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaves.