Foodie Confidential

Salmon King likes sambal stingray

Mr Frank Arne Naesheim, founder of seafood supplier Snorre Food, has the local dish when he visits a hawker centre

Who: Mr Frank Arne Naesheim, 57, founder and chief executive of seafood supplier Snorre Food, which is known for importing the best of Norwegian and coldwater seafood to supply to various hotels and food and beverage establishments in 14 countries.

The Norwegian chef, who has been living in Singapore for the past 30 years, has just opened the four-day-old FiSK Seafoodbar & Market at hotel Novotel Singapore on Stevens.

Why open a restaurant now?

It is a 27-year-old dream come true. When I started in Singapore, I ran the now-defunct Vikings seafood restaurant at The Paragon for three years. Back then, it was one of a few fine-dining restaurants outside of hotels, but maybe it was ahead of its time.

Vikings was a good marketing platform for Snorre Food and a standard of seafood that Singapore had never seen before.

Who inspired your love of food and cooking?

My grandmother was a great cook who lived in the Norwegian countryside. At the age of 12, I was helping to milk cows and make butter and cheese.


    If it is food from Singapore, I will have pepper and chilli crab. For something Norwegian, I will pick lutefisk.

I have done many jobs, including making sandwiches in the airport. My parents used to work full-time, so my older sister and I had to cook our own meals.

I knew I wanted to be a chef and went to culinary school. I worked in the now-defunct Michelin-starred restaurant Bagatelle in Norway and used the supplier for Vikings in Singapore. That was how I started supplying to other chefs here.

What do you eat when you go back to Norway?

It depends on the season. During winter, we eat heavier, saltier food. I must eat Norwegian meatballs.

Between January and April, I eat fresh cod and cod roe. I also eat bacalao (salted and dried cod), as well as kumle, which is potato dumplings with salted pork sausage and lamb.

During autumn, I eat lamb stew and cabbage. When I return in summer, I have shellfish such as prawn, mussels, scallops and langoustine.

Are there any Christmas traditions in your family?

For Christmas, we must have lutefisk - cod which is air-dried in the sun for three to four months before adding caustic soda to it and steaming with a lot of salt.

Our Christmas Eve dinner includes boiled potatoes, mashed green peas and bacon butter, mustard bechamel sauce and flatbread.

Are there other occasions when you eat lutefisk?

Every year, I organise a Norwegian dinner with lutefisk. No appetisers are served, just lutefisk served twice. Each person will eat 1.2kg of fish.

In Singapore, it is a gentlemen's dinner, with 200 Norwegian men in tuxedoes eating lutefisk, drinking Aquavit (a flavoured spirit) and beer for four to five hours, and singing Norwegian songs.

So what is your favourite fish?

Turbot and Atlantic cod.

You are called the "Salmon King". Can you explain that?

It is probably because Snorre Food started supplying salmon in Singapore in the 1980s and I was also involved in chef associations and cooking competitions.

At one competition, we had a salmon buffet of 103 salmon dishes that were served to international top chefs. That probably contributed to the name. I can live with that.

We still run these gala buffets, but other seafood is served now. I love a good gravlax (a Norwegian appetiser) and salmon belly.

At FiSK, we will offer a variety of smoked salmon, which is smoked in-house in different flavours.

What are your favourite local food haunts?

I frequent Red House Seafood Restaurant at Robertson Quay the most. I have visited it 395 times and, 95 per cent of the time, I'm eating the same dishes, such as baby squid, baby kailan, scallop and broccoli, razor clams, sweet and sour garoupa, pepper crab and chilli crab with fried mantou.

Usually, I'm the one eating the garoupa head - people say that children should be at least 18 years old to watch me eating it. It is not a pretty sight.

For hawker food, I go to Newton Food Centre, Lau Pa Sat and Maxwell Food Centre. I enjoy sambal stingray and chicken rice.

Tell us about some of your exotic eats.

I've eaten deep-fried tarantula in Cambodia, but I'm not a big fan of sea cucumber or goose web. I like things that are cured or smoked, so I would love to try hakarl, which is fermented shark meat from Iceland.

In Western Norway, we eat smalahove (salted and smoked sheep head). Once you get past the look of the dish, you can eat the cartilage, cheek and eye. We even have a special sheep-head party to eat it.

Growing up, I also ate whale meat once a week as sashimi, especially during summer, which is whale season. We had a lot of whale meat as it is kept for domestic consumption.

Two years ago, I was in Northern Norway with a group of chefs and we went whale-hunting. Imagine 11 chefs having a whale barbecue, cooking the meat with 20 flavours. We treated it like beef.

What are your guilty pleasures?

I love chocolate and good Burgundy wine. I like good milk pralines and I have no shortage of it as my wife is the retail sales director for chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut in South-east Asia and Australia.

If you could pick someone (alive or dead) to dine with, who would you pick?

I would love to share a meal with the late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew as I admire him and what he had done for Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 19, 2017, with the headline 'Salmon King likes sambal stingray'. Print Edition | Subscribe