¡Viva Latino! - Vasco
It was a move to London twelve years ago that opened the world of Latin America to Chef Jennifer Lee of Vasco. “I worked in bars, where a lot of Mexicans, Columbians, and Brazilians worked as well,” says the 36-year-old Australian Chinese.
“I always had this fascination with people from the region.” The salsa dancer also lived in Mexico for a year, teaching English, and doing pastry in a café. “I loved the whole culture, where everything’s centered around food and music.” Ingredients such as the different types of potatoes in Peru and chillies in Mexico create dishes that you don’t find anywhere else. “Latin American food is family oriented; everybody gets together, everything is shared.” At Vasco, which specializes in spirts from Latin America, and gin from Columbia and Peru. You’ll find the use of pisco, a Peruvian brandy, with ginger and cardamom; reposado tequila, made from Mexican blue agave, with herb and cherry bitters; and cachaça, Brazilian sugarcane spirt, with passionfruit and almonds.
Originally cultivated in Peru, quinoa is a high-protein cereal that comes in black, red, and white. Chef Lee mixes it with huancaína sauce, a Peruvian cheese sauce with smoked red peppers. “In Mexico, avocados are eaten almost every meal,” says Chef Lee. And it’s not always eaten mashed. “If it’s a soup, or if you have tacos, it’d be sliced avocados.” Basically, it’s an accompaniment to whatever you’re eating, for example, rice, with some green and red chilli sauce. “The quality of avocados is amazing,” says Chef Lee. “Some avocados are like butter; there’re also those you eat with the skin.”
When she talks about the sweet snack made of amaranth, her eyes light up. “Every vendor on the street would sell it; puffed amaranth is mixed with honey or molasses, pumpkin seeds, and raisins, and it’s like a brick. And it was super cheap, like 5 pesos (S$0.35).”
42 Hongkong Street, Singapore 059681
Tel: (65) 8799 7085
Adapted from the Mar Apr 18
issue of Cuisine & Wine Asia.