Five personalities share comfort food recipes from their mothers

For the record, Michelle Chong once killed 30 crabs in a single go in order to cook chilli crab for 100 people!
For the record, Michelle Chong once killed 30 crabs in a single go in order to cook chilli crab for 100 people!
Although this recipe has been passed down through three generations in Lynn Yeow's family, Mama still cooks the best version in her eyes.
Although this recipe has been passed down through three generations in Lynn Yeow's family, Mama still cooks the best version in her eyes.
After a three- year absence from the Singapore dining scene, chef Sebastian Ng is back with his mother in the kitchen of Venue.
After a three- year absence from the Singapore dining scene, chef Sebastian Ng is back with his mother in the kitchen of Venue.
Chef Julien Royer's mother would bake Le Pate de Pomme de Terre for him as the first welcome-home dish.
Chef Julien Royer's mother would bake Le Pate de Pomme de Terre for him as the first welcome-home dish.

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - On Mother's Day weekend, five Singapore personalities share the comfort foods of their youth.

Michelle Chong

Film director and artiste

Don't be fooled by the actress's skinny frame: she loves to eat and she cooks too. And there is a dish both she and her mother swear by: chilli crab cooked by Papa Chong.

"In fact, my mom won't even order or eat this dish outside anymore," declares Ms Chong.

Even though they hardly saw each other when she was young, "She had a great influence on my life," says Ms Chong of her Mum. "My most favourite trait of hers is her positivity and zest for life."

Even when she was down, she would always greet Ms Chong and her siblings with "Children, any good news for me today?" when they got home.

"That trained us to always look and see the good in things, even when we were having a difficult or boring day."

Bonding also meant eating together. Ms Chong picked up a skill or two from her Dad, and was bold enough to wield the wok and cleaver to whip up his chilli crab recipe for 100 people during her college days in Maine.

Chilli Crab

Ingredients 
1 - 1.5kg mud crabs, cleaned and chopped into pieces
Oil
1 fermented tofu cube, mashed
3 chilli padis, 6 red chillies, blended
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups of water
125ml chilli sauce
125ml ketchup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Fresh coriander to garnish

Method 
1. 
Sauté fermented tofu, garlic and chilli with oil.
2. Increase heat and fry crab until shell turns slightly red.
3. Add water.
4. Cover lid and simmer for 6 minutes.
5. Toss and turn crab and simmer for another 6 minutes.
6. Cover with lid and simmer crab until cooked.
7. Add chilli sauce and ketchup.
8. Thicken with beaten egg immediately. Give a thorough stir.
9. Garnish with coriander before serving.

Lynn Yeow

Co-founder of sassymamasg.com and LOOP, integrated communication agency

Lynn Yeow is a mother of four mischievous boys, yet is still full of boundless energy. A familiar face at posh social events, she is also an ardent foodie whose favourite dish is an unhesitating tau yu bak or braised soya pork belly.

"My Mum's braised pork is the best in my eyes. Even my kids love it, even though their father runs a business of Italian restaurants!" Ms Yeow is married to Beppe De Vito, owner of the iLido Group of Restaurants. This recipe has been passed down through the generations in Ms Yeow's family.

"My grandfather cooked it for me. I have a soft spot for fatty pork because of him!" When her mother took over the reins, she improved it further. "The trick is to marinate the pork in the herbal mixture overnight," Monica Chng, Ms Yeow's mother, generously shared. Ms Yeow adds that she hardly cooks the dish whenever her mother is around. After all, who can beat Mum's cooking?

Teochew-style Braised Pork Belly

Ingredients
1kg pork belly, cleaned, wiped dry
For braised soya gravy:
1 rice bowl of superior dark soya sauce
1.5 rice bowls of water
3 tsps sugar
1 tsp salt
12 bay leaves
2 packets ready-to-cook bak kut teh spices

Method
1.
Mix ingredients for the braised soya gravy in a pot.
2. Put pork belly into mixture and marinate it overnight in a refrigerator.
3. Remove and let it rest to room temperature.
4. Boil pork with mixture for 1 hour.
5. Let it cool and cut into four strips.
6. Serve with a bit of gravy.

Sebastian Ng Chef

Venue by Sebastian

After a more than three-year hiatus from the Singapore dining scene, Chef Sebastian is ready to make a comeback with his latest venture, Venue. Just as at Ember, which he founded, his mother is also back in the kitchen with him. Chef Ng candidly acknowledges he grew up feeling neglected as the middle child. But he grew closer to his parents as he got older.

Asked about the mother-son pair's favourite ingredient, they both declare: petai or stinky beans. "We spent a number of years in Malaysia, both in Kuantan and Kluang (his father is Malaysian while his mother is Singaporean)," says Chef Ng. His mother learned to cook petai there, as it was cheap and abundant.

For Mother's Day, Chef Ng - who is Western-trained - created a seafood pasta dish, taking into account her dislike for fish and cream.

Seafood Pasta

Ingredients
100g linguine pasta
Olive oil
12 clams
1 squid, cut into 6 pcs
2 prawns
½ pc, minced garlic
Chilli padi (optional)
30ml white wine
100g clam stock
Pesto to taste

Clam stock:
500g clams
Water, enough to cover clams
1 clove, minced garlic
200ml white wine
30ml olive oil pesto
50g basil
A pinch of salt
50ml olive oil
½ clove, garlic
10 pine nuts

Method
1. Boil water.
2. Cook pasta according to instruction.
3. Fry garlic with olive oil till golden brown.
4. Add seafood and deglaze with white wine.
5. Add clam stock.
6. Add pasta.
7. Add pesto just before serving.

Clam stock
1. Sauté garlic with olive oil until fragrant.
2. Add clams and deglaze with white wine.
3. Add water and boil for 1 hour.
4. Strain and keep stock for further use.

Pesto
1. Place all ingredients in a blender.
2. Blend until smooth.

Julien Royer
Chef, Odette

Julien Royer named his acclaimed restaurant after his grandmother, but it's his mother's cooking that holds a special place in his heart. Whenever he returns to France for a visit, his mother never fails to welcome him with her speciality, Le Pate de Pomme de Terre. Typically, Le Pate de Pommes de Terre is made with thinly-sliced potatoes cooked in a thyme and garlic cream. The potatoes are then layered with pancetta, flavoured with tarragon, and cooked in puff pastry in the oven.

Chef Royer declares unabashedly that even with his two-Michelin-star expertise, his version can never rival his mum's. Le Pate de Pommes de Terre is a common dish in Chef Royer's hometown of Cantal in Central France; but each family has its own version. For instance, his mother has a unique way of folding the pastry sheets such that the potato will not be mushy when baked. Chef Julien has only cooked the dish once for his wife, and might share it with his customers eventually.

Le Pate De Pomme De Terre (serves up to 8)

Ingredients
1.5kg potatoes (Belle de Fontenay or Charlotte)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
50g fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1.2l cream
200g, sliced pancetta
100g tarragon leaves
2 discs, each 25cm diameter puff pastry

Method
1. Peel and slice potatoes with a Japanese mandolin, rinse in water, pat dry with a cloth.
2. Put potatoes in a pot with peeled garlic, thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cover with the cream, cook slowly over low heat till potatoes just begin to get cooked (about 15min).
3. Strain. Reduce cooking liquid by half over heat.
4. Mould the cooked potatoes into an 18cm stainless steel ring, alternating with pancetta and tarragon.
5. Refrigerate to cool.
6. Place the first layer of puff pastry on a lined baking tray. Place the layered potatoes onto it. Cover with the second puff pastry disc and make a small 'cheminee' or vent, to let the steam escape. "I cut a small circle of pastry from the middle and insert a little chimney made of aluminium foil just like I've watched my mother do it," says Chef Royer.
7. Brush the pate all over twice with egg wash.
8. Bake for 5min at 200°C then, for 15min at 180°C on a hot tray.
9. Let the pate rest for 10min.
10. Serve with a mesclun salad of fresh herbs with a red wine vinaigrette.