Chef Ivan Lim, Swissôtel Merchant Court’s new executive chef, reveals his favourite dish to James Ong and shares his recipe for the perfect laksa
First published on 28 Jun 2012. Updated on 23 Jul 2012.
His favourite dish is chicken rice and if you ask him to a potluck dinner, he would likely bring his signature laksa (he uses pandan leaves). Such is Ivan Lim’s dedication to preserving the authenticity of the Little Red Dot’s national dishes that, at one point, the Singapore Chefs’ Association sent him to Chengdu as its ‘culinary ambassador’. In May 2012 he assumed the post of executive chef at Swissôtel Merchant Court, known for its dining outlet Ellenborough Market Café, which serves local and Peranakan dishes.
Which meal do you most like to cook at home?
Chicken rice. I usually cook it for dinner. I really love this dish because it represents our heritage.
Where did you learn to cook it?
I mostly learnt by eating a lot of chicken rice, particularly in food courts. I only got the formal recipe when I started working in a hotel. For the ingredients, I go to a major supermarket or wet market.
Do you serve chicken rice in your restaurant?
I do serve chicken rice at the Ellenborough Market Café. The restaurant is famous for Peranakan cuisine and our signature dishes often relate to Singapore heritage. Therefore, I would say that chicken rice is a good dish to order at Ellenborough Market Café.
Which three ingredients do you always make sure you have in your fridge?
Garlic, onion and ginger – I believe these three ingredients are the core of most dishes and are crucial for cooking.
Do you like to entertain at home?
Only when I am not spending quality time with my wife and son. It is always a pleasure to share a meal with people who are dear to you. Most of the time, I invite my closest friends.
Who’s your dream guest?
Most chefs I guess would pick another chef, but for me I would definitely choose my favourite Hollywood celebrity, Sylvester Stallone. When I was younger, I watched Rocky and his movies truly inspired me.
What would you serve kids at home?
I think you can never go wrong with pasta when it comes to kids. I know my son loves it. I also think of French fries and nuggets, which are usually very popular with the kids.
What’s one home-cooked dish that you’ll never get sick of?
I will never get sick of sweet and sour pork. I could eat it every day.
Apart from the food, what are the other key ingredients to a memorable home-cooked meal?
I think entertainment is crucial at any event. Beautiful decor, as well as pleasant music, makes all the difference. I am not so much of a dancer myself, but dancing also makes an evening more joyful.
Finally, if you’re going to a potluck dinner, which dish would you bring?
This is an easy one. I would definitely bring my signature laksa. Here is the recipe:
Chef Ivan’s signature laksa
- Laksa gravy
- Laksa paste
- 180g Laksa (pre-mix) 150g
- Lemongrass 20g
- Pandan leaves 50g
- Water 1 litre
- Cucumber julienne 80 g
- Chicken breast (shredded) 80 g
- Two hard-boiled eggs
- Bean Sprouts 40g
- Eight prawns (cooked and peeled)
- Fish cake 100g
- Thick rice noodles 720g
- Laksa leaves 1g
- Bring water to boil and add in laksa. Mix using a ladle.
- Add in lemongrass and pandan leaves to boil together.
- Add in laksa paste. Mix well and bring to boil.
- Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Strain to remove the lemongrass and pandan leaves.
- Blanch thick rice noodles with bean sprouts and place in bowl.
- Pour over the prepared laksa gravy and top with cooked prawns, half-boiled eggs, sliced fish cake, shredded chicken breast and cucumber julienne. Sprinkle with chopped laksa leaves when ready to serve.