A taste of chilli crab at Berlin film festival to go with Eric Khoo's movie Wanton Mee

Eric Khoo at Berlin Film Festival with Wanton Mee.
Eric Khoo at Berlin Film Festival with Wanton Mee.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ERIC KHOO
Local film maker Eric Khoo.
Local film maker Eric Khoo.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

After watching Singaporean director Eric Khoo's food-themed film Wanton Mee, four chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants created their versions of local fare such as chilli crab for an event on Thursday (Feb 18) at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival.

Khoo gave all the dishes the thumbs-up.

He says: "All four chefs watched the film and created the dishes inspired by the film with their own artistic take. I liked all the dishes as they were extremely tasty. My favourite would be the chilli crab as it was super punchy and you don't have to use your fingers."

The menu includes an amuse-bouche of seafood and vegetables with "a beautiful intense glazed sauce" by Anton Schmaus (one-Michelin-starred Storstad); a play on chilli crab with king crab and spicy tomato fumé by Alexander Dressel (one-Michelin-starred Restaurant Friedrich Wilhelm); an interpretation of Indian curry with red porgy fish and papaya by Thomas Merkle (one-Michelin-starred Merkles Restaurant); and a mantou (Chinese steamed bun) dish with wasabi and carrot by Daniel Schmidthaler (one-Michelin-starred Alte Schule Furstenhagen).


Amuse-bouche of seafood and vegetables with “a beautiful intense glazed sauce” by Anton Schmaus (one-Michelin-starred Storstad). PHOTO: COURTESY OF ERIC KHOO


An interpretation of Indian curry with red porgy fish and papaya by Thomas Merkle (one-Michelin-starred Merkles Restaurant). PHOTO: COURTESY OF ERIC KHOO


A play on chilli crab with king crab and spicy tomato fumé by Alexander Dressel (one-Michelin-starred Restaurant Friedrich Wilhelm). PHOTO: ERIC KHOO

Wanton Mee, is part of the festival's line-up for the Culinary Cinema programme, from Feb 14 to 19. The showcase, themed Make Food Not War, comprises 11 feature-length films on the relationship between food, culture and politics.

In the 71-minute-long Wanton Mee, an affectionate look at local dishes such as fishhead curry, chilli crab, bak chor mee and nasi lemak, actor Koh Boon Pin plays a food critic who digs into the stories behind these much loved eats.

Khoo, 50, says: "I was trying to be greedy so everything I like I threw it all in." It was also his attempt to perhaps slow the rapid pace of change in Singapore. "We were worried that as time progresses, eventually, some of these foods will no longer exist."

At the Berlin event, patrons paid 98 euros (S$153) to watch the film on Feb 18 and enjoy a special four-course meal afterwards. The pop-up restaurant set up for the occasion could seat 200 guests and Khoo enthuses about the "brilliant atmosphere" and calls the evening a "big success".

The film-maker was previously represented at the festival by the dramas Be With Me in 2006 and Mee Pok Man in 1996.

Food has been a recurrent theme in his movies from his dark debut feature Mee Pok Man to the more recent television movie Recipe (2013), which serves up curry rice and dementia.

Sprinkle that with the infectious enthusiasm with which he talks about it, and that makes him the perfect choice to be a food ambassador for Singapore.

He adds: "What touched me most after our dinner Q&A were all these people who came up to me and said they'll visit Singapore because of our film - that there's this universal bond of food, memories and love."

bchan@sph.com.sg