Chef Edward Low is the Executive Chef of the Chestnut Residence & Conference Centre here at UTSG. We spoke to him recently as part of our series of one on one Q & A’s with our culinary team.
Q: Chef Edward, what is your idea of a perfect meal?
My favourite meal is always our holiday dinners, especially Christmas dinner. The best meal is always one shared with friends and family, and one where we can just enjoy each other’s company.
Q: What is your favourite food memory?
I would say my favourite food, and memory associated with it is the Black Tar Ham of my childhood in Trinidad. This dish is a prosciutto ham with the bone in, but it goes through a special process. First, the hams are cured for about a year, and then they are wrapped in brown grocer’s paper. The wrapped ham is then wrapped again in plastic. The last stage is dropping it into tar, which basically acts as a preserve. These are sold all over Trinidad at Christmas time. You go to the store and buy them in the tar casing, and then take it home to uncase it. You need to heat up a knife to cut the tar casing away. After you take it out of the tar, you soak it in water for two days, periodically changing the water. Then, you cook it like a regular ham. We always ate this with pickled vegetables, known as “Chow Chow”; which is pickled onions and cauliflower with mustard seeds. This is definitely my best food memory.
Q: Do you have a special, secret ingredient that makes everything better?
Yes, of course. Care. If you don’t care about what you are making, you could have the best and freshest ingredients ever but it could still taste like garbage. Care is what makes everything taste better.
Q: Who or what inspired your love of cooking?
Definitely my Dad. You know, every Sunday in Trinidad, I would go to the market with him and we would pick out a live chicken and they would kill it for us at that moment. We would also pick up these special Indian sweets that were only sold at the Sunday market. Then, we would go back with our chicken, and my Dad would also always make a seafood dish, a noodle dish and a vegetable dish. We would go out to the market every Sunday morning. We would also always bring back a Trinidadian newspaper to read and everyone enjoyed that. This was our Sunday family routine and definitely inspired me.
Q: If you could have a dinner date with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
I’d really like to have dinner or lunch with my Dad and relive those days.
Q: If you could go to any country, live there for a few months and learn their cuisine, where would it be?
I’d have to say Singapore. My daughter is living there now and she’s constantly sending me pictures of the food there. There is such an amazing variety of food. It’s just got everything and I’m always asking her ‘hey what’s that’, I’m living vicariously through her pictures. So absolutely, my choice would be Singapore.
Q: What is your idea of comfort food?
I would have to say short ribs and mashed potatoes with lots of garlic butter. You need to have those ribs braised really well, cooked in the oven for the whole day so that the meat just falls off them. And no vegetables! We are not going to be wasting room in your stomach with vegetables. Do not waste space on the plate with vegetables if you have these short ribs and potatoes!
Q: What is your favourite cooking utensil? The one you cannot live without?
My Victorinox serrated paring knife. I love it so much that I have two back-up ones just in case my current one wears out. It cuts everything. I highly advise having one, but you have to be really careful with it, it’s extremely sharp and I even cut myself with it when I started using it.
Q: What are the top five things that everyone should learn how to cook?
Eggs, that’s a food that everyone needs to know how to cook because it can be made so many different ways and you can make a meal out of eggs. Pasta, also because it’s so versatile and inexpensive. Soup, because everyone needs and loves a good soup. Steak, properly grilled on a BBQ with HP sauce and lastly, rice. My current favourite rice is an excellent Jasmine rice that I get at Costco.
Q: If you didn’t cook for a living, what would you do?
I guess once again, I think back to my Dad for inspiration. My grandparents moved from China to Trinidad. They started a small grocery store there and all the family worked there, including my Dad. They worked really hard, especially around holiday times. I remember everyone coming in to work before Christmas. We got special treats in like almonds and walnuts and made special displays including a beautiful tinsel Christmas tree. So I guess I would consider a small grocery store just like we had back then.