On a recent trip to Thailand for a family holiday, we made the most of a day's layover in Singapore.

This was a perfect opportunity to experience the city's rich food culture, in particular the exciting hawker, food court-styled markets where dishes burst with authentic, rich flavours and a depth of spice not found in the diluted versions made for the Western palate.

We chose the China Food Complex, in the middle of Chinatown and close to Singapore's renowned shopping areas - it can't all be about food when travelling with the better half.

The market was heaving with locals and tourists alike, a medley of people; dads killing time drinking swap-a-crate sized beers while their wives shopped in the nearby area, alongside business types.


Singapore has created its own food style by drawing influences from surrounding Southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

I loved the vibrant flavours of cumin, chilli, turmeric, ginger and fish sauce, and the fresh herbs such as chives and basil, that were prevalent in all the food shops and which give curry dishes depth and punch.

At my restaurant, Rosie, our head chef, Ezra Wisikanso and I use similar techniques to enhance depth of flavour. We create dishes that are somewhat contradictory to the norm, in terms of allowing for an imbalance of flavours and using bold flavour-profiled ingredients. We apply this technique to locally sourced, seasonal New Zealand produce to give us a somewhat unique style of cooking at Rosie. This is what represents us, our identity and Rosie.

- Mike de Vries is the owner of Rosie restaurant in Auckland's Parnell.
Lamb backstrap, spiced arborio rice, pumpkin, nduja

Serves 2

2 medium-sized lamb backstraps

200g arborio rice
1 white onion diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 small knob of ginger crushed
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1 Tbsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar
50ml white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp spoon butter
500ml vegetable stock

For the rice, combine the onions, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, star anise and cinnamon in a medium-hot pan with canola oil and cook until the onions are soft.


Add the turmeric and cumin powder and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring to prevent catching and burning. Add in the brown sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes until sugar has dissolved and started to caramelise with the spice and onion base. Finally add arborio rice, vinegar and vegetable stock and cook for a further 15 minutes until the rice is al dente. You may need to add in additional stock or water. It should have the consistency of risotto once done. Finish off with a generous knob of butter, salt and chopped coriander.


50g nduja or chorizo diced
10ml anchovy paste
1 clove garlic
10g coriander leaves
1 shallot
1 tsp fennel powder
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
10ml olive oil

In a medium pan cook the nduja until crispy and fat is rendered out. Combine the rest of the ingredients with nduja in a food processor and blend roughly. Season cautiously, as nduja and anchovy are generally salty.

Pumpkin puree

200g roughly chopped pumpkin
100ml double cream
10g butter

In a saucepan, combine the pumpkin, double cream and butter, cook until soft and blend in a food processor until smooth, season with salt.


Season the lamb with salt and cook in a moderate to hot pan with canola oil, for 2-3 mins on each side depending on thickness. Backstrap is generally at its best between medium and medium rare.