Tuesday, June 24, 2014

US Fresh Potato Culinary Challenge 2014

Do you know that potatoes are often the much sought after ingredient in the kitchen? From salad and mashes to fries and desserts, we come to realise that potatoes have been part and parcel of our everyday diet. How can we not love this indispensable source of nutrition?

Varieties of Potatoes from US Potato Board

Until recently a wide variety of US potatoes swamp into the country, I'm amazed that US actually produces and exports an astonishingly wide array of potatoes. Some are freshly imported here while others are instantly quick frozen to lock in the taste and nutrients of fresh potatoes.

In a bid to enable the creative local chefs demonstrate their skills and culinary excellence using US potatoes, the US Potato Board (USPB) has partnered with the Culinary Association of Malaysia (CAM) to organize the “US Fresh Potato Culinary Challenge", a cooking competition judged by fellow food bloggers as well as the President and the Secretary General of the Chef Association of Malaysia.

Special thanks to US Potato Board, I was invited to be one of the blogger judges for this eye-opening event. Chefs from five leading F&B outlets comprising cafes, restaurants and hotels had whipedp up and served a scrumptious dish each featuring different types of US fresh potatoes. Let's see what they had created to amaze us judges! 

#1 [Sheraton Imperial, KL] Trio Combination of Fusion US Potatoes

Our first stop of the evening was Villa Danieli, a popular spot for steak and wine at the 5-star Sheraton Imperial hotel. Chef Eugene had combined an electrifying trio of Chinese, Western and Indian flavours into one harmonious dish. 

On the left, we had an Asian-styled potato croquette that exuded rich flavours of beef from the inside and topped with sweet, caramelized onion marmalade. This crispy creation brought us a pronounced flavour of Indian spices on its hot crispy exterior. 

Moving towards flavours from West, we enjoyed each layer of the open mushroom lasagna with creamy mashed potato and mushroom filling in between the spinach pasta sheets. Rich and creamy, it was simple yet satisfying.

To complete the fusion combination, lastly we had a nice variation of Chinese yam puff in which the yam was replaced with US purple Peruvian potato. It was a beautiful interpretation to enhance the color and texture of the puff. Unravelling the crispy puff, we were surprised with a golden ball of salted egg yolk with crispy duck skin in it. Marvellous! 

Chef Eugene from Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur

#2 [Suka F&B Restaurant, KL] Baked Russet Mashed Potato with White Cod

If you often visit Changkat Bukit Bintang, surely you'd notice this fine restaurant at the corner lot of One Residency opposite Istana Hotel. The next dish was presented by SUKA in a duo combination of US Russet mashed potato filled with steak and a thick cut of seared American white cod topped with deep-fried ginger on a bed of grilled grapes, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper and tomato chutney.

Beautifully marinated with thyme, salt and pepper, the fish itself was already a winning taste, as each bite was heavenly filled with fresh oceanic flavours. However, the US potato ingredient could only be found in the mashed potato sitting on the medium rare beef steak. 

The beefy potato was fired with Cheddar Cheese and served with stewed Mushroom Ragout that enlivened the beef with its deep, earthy flavours. Unfortunately it was a tad dry for my liking.

Executive Chef Khoo Keit Seng from Suka F&B Restaurant

#3 [Bankers Room, KL] Potato in Bone Marrow Style

At the first glance, this third culinary masterpiece did not attract me as much as others did. He was probably the only chef who omitted the usage of beef steak in the dish. But as soon as I savored the dish, the marriage of Japanese, Western and Chinese styles of cooking impressed me with beautiful contrasting textures and flavours that won some brownie points for the creativity. 

I appreciated the idea of wrapping the egg yolk and mashed potato with crisp greens delights which reminded me of a Chinese mooncake. Served warm and crusty with Japanese tamago, the bone marrow was firm and tasted good with the brown sauce made of beef jus and potato skin. The only thing I was confused here was whether it should be served great as a cold dish or something hot.

 Sous Chef Kiong Lian Chai from Banker's Room

#4 [Dorsett Regency, KL] Sous Vide Strip Loin with Parmesan Crust and Foie Gras Roll

The fourth masterpiece was dished out at Checker's Cafe, Dorsett Regency Hotel KL in a beautiful presentation. Taking centre stage of the dish was the slow-cooked Australian strip loin with parmesan crust and black pepper sauce. Cooked to medium rare perfection, the meat was dripping in its own deep-flavoured jus, and punctuated by Sous Vide Vegetables and shallot balsamic glaze, every bite yielded an exquisite crunch and tenderness.

On the side, the Foie Gras Roll was equally noteworthy as I loved how the US potato puree and chunky foie gras melted in the mouth beneath the slice of turkey ham. It could be a winning taste if they further enhance the usage of US potatoes.

Chef Hakim from Dorsett Regency Kuala Lumpur

#5 [Muzeum, Setia Walk Puchong] Pan Seared Tenderloin on Potato Foam with Potato Pave

Personally, the last dish was impressive in terms of presentation and utilization of US Potatoes. Although Muzeum was well-known as a drinking hole in town, Chef Amirul proved us on the great quality of hot food here. 

Sitting on a bed of potato foam with minimal shallot jus, the premium New Zealand tenderloin was of topnotch quality but unfortunately it turned out overdone and slightly burnt at the edges. Nevertheless, it was still tender and went well with the black pepper sauce with beef jus inside.

Topped with sauteed mushroom, I noticed that the Potato Pave was nicely baked and it exuded rich, buttery aroma. A beautiful complement to the red meat. On the side, Confit Potatoes (Idaho, Purple and Sweet Potatoes) wrapped up the dish with its wonderful synchronicity of taste and texture. They were lightly boiled but didn't appear too raw, and able to retain its crunchiness.

Chef Amirul from Muzeum, Setia Walk Puchong

Anywaym, the winning chef will be awarded a study tour to the USA for a week, specifically at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) where he will be joined by other chefs from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Central America. There will be an exclusive opportunity for interactive learning and exchange of knowledge and culinary skills amongst the best chefs in the region.

Now who's the lucky grand winner?
Stay tuned at this page as I will update you with the results soon! 

For more information about US Potato Board, please visit www.potatoesusa.com or www.potatoesusa-malaysia.com.

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