The Michelin Guide has described Singapore as a “culinary gem with a wonderful and blossoming diversity of cuisine styles.” They have been active for six years in Singapore, awarding one Michelin star to 42 different restaurants and two Michelin stars to seven individual restaurants. Meanwhile, three restaurants in Singapore have been awarded almost mythical 3-star status.
LG Han is the dynamic Singaporean chef-owner of Labyrinth Restaurant, a “New Singaporean” dining experience showcasing local produce and flavors with a modern twist and all wrapped up with heartfelt hospitality. Labyrinth was one of the original Singaporean restaurants to receive a star when Michelin launched in 2017 and is also currently ranked #40 on the 2022 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant List.
Indeed, following a recent Asia 50 Best convention in Bangkok, Han connected with Chef Peter Cuong Franklin from Anan Saigon, Vietnam’s leading representative on this list, following consecutive inclusions on the 2021 and 2022 lists.
Peter has a track record of bringing the region's finest to Anan Saigon with notable recent visits from chefs from the culinary capitals of Hong Kong and Bangkok, so it was just a matter of time before a delegation from Singapore materialized on 89 Tan Tot Dam. Chef Han would be the perfect partner for this, given that he and Peter share a similar cooking philosophy to focus on local ingredients and elevate their respective country’s cuisines.
Peter allocated Nhau Nhau, his stylish 16-seat “cuisine and cocktails at counter” concept, as a private dining room for the event. Guests included Vietnam’s cosmopolitan celebrity chef, Luke Nguyen with his beautiful and talented wife Lynn, and Vietnam's most sensational supermodel and “momtrepreneur,” Ha Anh Vu. A set menu featuring a dozen delicious dishes was curated alongside 5 unique wine pairings from importer Thien Linh Wines.
Chef Peter instantly turned the menu into a “dirty dozen” by opening up with a dill-infused “dirty” martini, capped with pearls of shimmering salmon roe and served alongside an almost bejeweled-looking Banh Nhung.
Step forward Chef Han who’d welcomed guests by sharing childhood memories of his grandma’s cooking and how they had shaped his interpretation of hospitality to centre around heart, soul, and sincerity.
Han’s up close and personal approach came to the fore as he personally brought each of his dishes out from the kitchen, even pouring out the BKT Dashi Broth into guests bowls for his “Bak Kut The”, a uniquely Singaporean pork rib dish.
Han also tantalized our tastebuds with his take on the Roti John, an omelet sandwich that is as ubiquitous amongst Hawker Stalls throughout the Malay Peninsula as Banh Mi is in Vietnam.
To this day, nobody is exactly sure where “John” came from; perhaps he was involved in the British Army or was a Malay cook from the 1970s. However, there was no doubt that this “two fingers, one bite” concoction was a huge hit with the diners as the bone marrow and the tomato tartare were expertly fused and layered onto the mini baguette.
Chef Han’s most highly anticipated dish continues to be the Labyrinth Chili Crab representing a fantastic fusion not just of flavors but also of temperatures within the dish as ice cold chili crab ice cream melds and merges magically with the mud crab, custard apple, and petite mantou.
One of Saigon’s much-loved foodies, Angelia Lee, who lived for many years in Singapore, was present, and she neatly summarized the evening as “Food without borders.” Angelia then elaborated, “from the chili crab to the black chicken pho, we enjoyed the delicious culinary and intimate stories told by each dish that evoked so many happy memories of home.”
Peter’s Pho Ga was a crowd pleaser, and he explained how “the black chicken is traditionally cooked in the Chinese style and then double steamed with herbal medicine flavors. We slowly but surely cook the bird for 8 hours to ensure that this tough bird is extremely tender when served to our guests while retaining its firmness and famously gamey flavor.”
Vietnam’s cosmopolitan celebrity Chef Luke Nguyen also really enjoyed the black chicken pho and shared with Vietcetera his recollection of an “incredible four hands dinner, as both Chef Han and Chef Peter first championed the local produce, flavors and traditional dishes of Vietnam & Singapore and then elevated their cuisine to the highest level.”
Ha Anh Vu, Saigon’s Sensational Supermodel, MC, and “Momtrepeneur” also commented, “In the cozy and vibrant ambience of Anan Saigon we enjoyed the amazing dishes created by both chef Peter and chef Han, carefully paired with a beautiful selection of champagne and French wines. I was so proud as both a Vietnamese and a foodie to have been part of such a magical experience.”
Mr. Thanh Phan, from Hedon Wines based in 35 Xuan Thuy generously supplied the wines. Guests were appropriately welcomed with bubbles from Champagne Canard Duchene, the crisp Moillard “Premier Cru” Chablis, and the majestic Aime Arnoux Chateauneuf du Pape paired exceptionally well with the Chilli Crab and the Black Chicken Pho.
Peter Cuong Franklin was delighted with what he concluded to have been an exceptional event. “It was a pleasure to work with Chef Han and his team and we learned a lot about Singaporean cuisine and techniques as well as their famously organized and systematic way of working” added Peter.
With spirits high, Peter also exclusively shared with Vietcetera about his pending plans to fly the flag for Anan Saigon around the region.
“The Anan team will be popping up in Thailand in early November for the SO Amazing Chef Series at SO Bangkok, where I will be cooking with my old friend Chef Bobby Chinn and other chefs from Thailand and Asia. I also very much look forward to participating in the upcoming 2022 Off Menu Hong Kong, a three-day pop-up Food & Drink Festival representing a Michelin-starred experience featuring world-class chefs & top mixologists. After three years, the city has finally opened up again, and it will be great to back to Hong Kong, my second home after Saigon.”
Chef Han returned to Singapore with a positive take on his time in Saigon. Han appreciated the Vietnamese’s friendly nature and loved sampling the local flavors of Vietnam and trying several styles of the street, especially Com tam.
The good news for his followers in Vietnam is that Han plans to return soon to check out our ingredients firsthand from the Mekong Delta up to the Da Lat Highlands and also aims to cook in Hanoi so please continue to follow him on Instagram and stay tuned for future developments.