'Tok Panjang' which means long table, is a Peranakan tradition where family and friends gather at a table and reunite over a spread of dishes.
This tradition was brought back again by Mr Clarence Ling, founder of Allspice Institute where he invites partners and guests to enjoy an array of dishes served on vintage cutlery.
Last Friday, Allspice Institute organized an Indian-themed Tok Panjang. The dishes were prepared by Chef Sakthivel Karrupiah, executive head chef of Allspice Institute.The menu featured starters, mains and dessert from the different parts of India, and was a spice-filled afternoon where guests mingled and laughter was prominent.
The table was set with exotic decorations and colourful flowers like the white jasmine - one of India's favourite flowers. The front also had a vintage-looking clock and Mr Ling explained its significance "This clock is here to show that here at our Tok Panjang, we are bringing different things about food to be enjoyed during the span of time".
The cutlery used during the lunch were vintage collectors' pieces that are part of Mr Ling's collection. The porcelain used was known as the Flora Danica porcelain, and was ordered by Danish King Christian VII to be produced in 1790 as a gift for Russian Queen Catherine the Great. Catherine the Great was an avid collector of porcelain, luxury goods, art and literature. Unfortunately, Catherine the Great died six years after the order was made, and after the service was completed, the finished porcelain stayed with the Danish royal family. The silverware were part of the Chrysanthemum, Tiffany collection, one out of the twelve patterns of the Southern Silver Zodiac.
While dining with such exquisite cutlery made one feel like royalty, the dishes prepared would make one feel like they were in India. The dishes presented, such as the Bread Aur Chutney Wala - a mixture of Indian breads served with yellow dal and chutneys from spicy to sweet, showcased the authentic flavours of India one is not able to experience in Singapore. The different breads were of different textures, one contained cottage cheese, while the other contained sweet fruits. This dish featured an array of flavours that were complemented with the different chutneys. What caught the attention of my taste buds was the yellow dal, which was so versatile as it matched any bread that was dipped into it.
The main course, Smoked Ghost - smoked lamb marinated in spicy yoghurt served with saffron potato puree and brahmi salad was a dish that would awaken one's senses. The lamb was moist and had a slight hint of spiciness. The smokiness of the dish also matched the sweet carrot and smooth creamy potato puree. Overall, this was a dish to be wowed about, and the array of flavours cannot be found elsewhere.
To end of the meal, the Desi Kulfi was the dessert of choice. Featuring a simple rose infused milk ice-cream mix with pistachio served with buckwheat candy. The ice-cream was served on a stick, and was sweet delight that reminded me of a Singaporean classical dessert - potong. Unlike the potong, this ice-cream was creamy and milky, which was enjoyed with the chewy and crunchy buckwheat candy. Everyone at the table enjoyed the dessert, each was reminded of their own childhood.
Other than organizing the Tok Panjang, Allspice Institute also often rents it premises out for coporations hoping to hold team-bonding activites. The institution has many kitchens, some of which are rare - like their Japanese kitchen where students learn how to make sushi and Japanese cuisine using traditional cooking methods. In these kitchens, corporations can hold team-bonding activities, one that is bound to make memories.
As the masala tea-filtered coffee was served after dessert, guests continue to chit-chat, while engaging in traditional Indian culture prepared by the ambience and dishes prepared by Chef Sakthivel.