If French Chef David Martin has one piece of advice to give his fellow countrymen, it is to travel and experience the best food in Asia. Well, make that two. David also wants them to try palm oil that is used in cooking in this part of the world.
“One of the great pleasures of being a chef is getting to experience the food and recipes of other countries, cultures and peoples. When I lived in Cambodia, I discovered palm oil and came to realise the incredible benefits it brings to a recipe.
“Its heat resistance, stability, and taste are perfect in the kitchen … and even its deep red colour is inviting to me,” says Martin.
Son of TV celebrity Jacques Martin, the chef owned The Malraux, a restaurant right at the foot of the Angkor temples, in Cambodia where he lived for a few years. Martin now runs La Traboule in Paris, and is also a television personality himself.
The City of Love is also where Martin professed his love for palm oil earlier last month.
Martin literally jumped on the food truck bandwagon when he took the Palm Oil Food Truck to Place de la Défense, the main business district in Paris.
“I did the cooking, but not the driving, and we provided food to the business people in the city,” he says.
“The food truck was an instant hit … it is such a great way to connect with people.”
However, the chef agrees that palm oil is not well-known or well-understood in France. “We cannot grow oil palm in Europe, and people cook instead with local oils – such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil. As a result, palm oil has been the focus of some fear in Europe, and negative campaigns and misunderstandings are prevalent.”
And what better way to counter misunderstanding, he thought, than through education and experience. Martin believes that his food truck project was an excellent opportunity for French people to get to know palm oil better.
But of course, learning is always more fun when there is food involved.
He prepared three varieties of popular finger food on the food truck but gave them his own twists: Potato Churros with Choron sauce, Breaded Chicken Wings with Devil Sauce and Fish and Chips with Palm Oil Vinaigrette.
“All three recipes were cooked using Malaysian palm oil. It was an opportunity for Parisians to see and taste palm oil instead of just reading about it,” he says.
“It was very popular so perhaps the French do have a taste for palm oil after all. Nearly 200 dishes were distributed within an hour. The crowd was so pleased, I even gave away some of my personal stock of palm oil to them.”
During the event, the chef shared the knowledge he had gleaned from scientist and cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Guy-André Pelouze, who provided all the scientific and health advice for Martin’s work with palm oil.
“His gave me fascinating new insights into the benefits of palm oil, like the Vitamin A betacarotenes and other wonderful things that are present in the Malaysian red palm oil that we used in the food truck,” he says.
Martin says he noted that many visitors to the food truck actually approached him about palm oil.
“Some were genuinely curious, as they had never tasted palm oil before; some were cautious, because they had read negative stories about palm oil from some media campaigns here in France.
“Some other people were just hungry. Most were open to the idea of trying something new and challenging their prejudices,” he says.
“Hopefully, we helped to open the minds of Parisians to the wonders of palm oil and Malaysian cuisine.”
Dishes prepared by Jean Michel Fraisse from recipes by David Martin
Photos: The Star/Raymond Ooi
BREADED WINGS WITH DEVIL SAUCE
20 whole chicken wings
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
100g all-purpose flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
150g white breadcrumbs
palm oil for deep frying
2 tbsp red palm oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 tsp paprika or to taste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
150ml tomato coulis or passata
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tbsp dried tarragon
salt, pepper and sugar to taste
To prepare chicken wings
Remove the wing tips and cut the wings at the joint. Season with garlic, salt and pepper, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
Coat the chicken wings with flour and then dip them into beaten eggs.
Allow excess egg to drip off and dip wing into the breadcrumbs to coat well. Dip into egg again and coat with another layer of breadcrumbs. Squeeze the wing lightly to make the crumbs stick.
Lay the breaded wings in single layer on a tray and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For the sauce
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Heat the palm oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for around 1 minute. Add garlic and paprika and cook for another minute. Add in vinegar, tomato passata and paste, and tarragon.
Simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.
To fry wings
Remove wings from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
Heat the palm oil over medium heat. When hot, add the wings in batches without overcrowding and cook for around 5 minutes, or until golden brown – the thicker upper wing will require a few minutes more of cooking.
Remove and drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Serve the golden wings immediately with the sauce.
FISH AND CHIPS WITH PALM OIL VINAIGRETTE
400g lean fish fillet (ikan sebelah, red snapper, jenahak, garoupa, etc) cut into 4 equal portions
1 litre palm oil, for deep frying
150g all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating
salt and pepper, to taste
30g caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
100ml beer or soda water
For the vinaigrette, mix together
4 tbsp red palm oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp gin (optional)
1 tbsp chopped dill
salt and pepper, to taste
To prepare batter
In a large bowl, mix half the flour, salt, pepper and sugar. Form a well in the centre and add the egg yolks and milk. Add the remaining flour and whisk to mix well. Add the beer, and whisk until smooth. If batter is lumpy, strain using a fine sieve. Adjust seasoning to taste and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Whip the egg whites into a thick foam and fold into the batter to aerate it.
To fry the fish
Heat enough palm oil for deep frying. Season fillet with salt and pepper on both sides. Coat with flour and dip into the batter. Deep fry fish on medium heat (160°C) until both sides are golden brown.
Drain on paper towels. Serve with chips and vinaigrette.
To prepare chips
Peel potatoes and rinse in water immediately (do not soak); pat dry and cut into sticks.
Heat enough palm oil for deep frying. When the oil is hot enough – it sizzles when potato is added – add the potato in small batches to avoid lowering the temperature and preventing the fries from sealing properly; if they don’t seal the potato will absorb too much oil and turn soft.
Fry the potato for 5-6 minutes in moderately hot oil (about 140ºC), remove before they turn golden, drain and cool.
Double-fried potatoes are crisper. To double-fry, now heat oil to 180ºC and re-fry potato for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle some salt over.
POTATO CHURROS WITH CHORON SAUCE
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp potato or corn starch
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
500ml palm oil, for deep frying
60ml wine or cider vinegar
1 shallot, chopped
1 tbsp tarragon, chopped
3 egg yolks
225g clarified butter
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt, sugar and pepper to taste
To prepare potato churros
Place washed potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Boil over low heat until potatoes are cooked. Peel potatoes while warm and puree in a food mill or press them through a metal sieve. Place the puree in a saucepan and dry over medium heat, stirring continusouly for 1-2 minutes. Let the potato puree cool a little, then stir in egg yolks and potato starch. Season to taste and stir with spatula until the puree becomes an elastic paste.
To fry churros
Heat the palm oil in a roomy saucepan over medium heat. Fill the potato paste into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. When oil is hot, pipe the paste directly into the oil to form churros. Fry for 5 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Remove to drain on paper towels. Serve hot with Choron sauce.
To prepare Choron sauce
Place the vinegar, shallot and tarragon in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced by two-thirds. You should have around 3 tablespoons of liquid – add water if necessary.
Add the yolks and place over a low flame. Using a wire whisk, beat quickly in a zigzag movement, making sure you cover all parts of the saucepan.
Watch the edge of the pan and remove pan from the heat from time to time if the sauce shows signs of splitting or curdling. (If the sauce splits, take pan off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add a little cold water to the sauce and whisk until smooth.) Continue whisking until the sauce forms a thick foam or “sabayon”. Remove from the heat.
Pour in clarified butter in a slow, steady stream while whisking. Mix in tomato paste and season to taste.
To make clarified butter
Melt the butter over low heat. The butter will break down into three layers: a top layer of white foam (the whey proteins), a golden yellow middle layer of clarified butter and a bottom layer of milk solids.
Remove pan from heat and skim off the foam with a spoon. Let the pan sit for a few minutes to allow more milk solids to settle to the bottom then carefully scoop out the golden liquid with a ladle.