Mitzo’s Secret Ingredient for the Best Char Siu in Town


The case for deft and nuanced flavouring


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Mitzo’s Secret Ingredient for the Best Char Siu in Town
Dining June 14th, 2018

It started as a dish for the budget-conscious. Until the recipe for this commonplace hawker dish fetched S$2-million dollars and made the pages of The New York Times. We’re talking about char siu, that glazed barbecued meat essential to the Cantonese diet. And we’ve found the best there is in town.

Mitzo’s rendition of this sweet, glistening and tender pork is worth ditching trendy hotspots to pig out — literally — in this hotel restaurant. Order two plates, because we guarantee one won’t be enough.

Mitzo Char Siu

We guarantee one plate of Mitzo’s char siu won’t be enough. Photo by Vernon Wong

The dish reels you in first with a tantalising layer of caramelised sugar. The sweet crunch is enough to get you as is.

But there’s another secret ingredient no one has picked up on. Until now.

What really makes Mitzo’s char siu worthy of the ‘Best in Singapore’ tag is executive head chef Nicky Ng’s ingenious use of ground cumin. The spice is often used in Indian curries, but Ng uses it here to enhance the char siu’s flavour. The fine powder is added to the seasoning mix used to marinate the pork.

“I prefer using two to three ingredients to create a change that is subtle, but makes a difference.”

– Nicky Ng, executive head chef of Mitzo in Grand Park Orchard Hotel

“With the traditional seasonings, I found that it didn’t make the meat stand out enough,” shares Ng, speaking easily in Mandarin. “The seasoning needs some heat in there to really bring out the best flavours of the marinade. The cumin gives it that kick.”

Ng has been in the industry for over 20 years, 10 of which were spent overseas in cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai. His inspiration to use cumin came from his experience in the latter, when he first tried a street-side delicacy of lamb skewers seasoned with the spice.

Mitzo’s executive head chef Nicky Ng has worked in the F&B industry for over 20 years. Photo by Vernon Wong

“Cumin has quite a strong smell, so I use just a little so it doesn’t mask all the other flavours,” shares Ng.

The 52-year-old chef enjoys coming up with new dishes every month, but the char siu is one thing that does not change on Mitzo’s menu. Ng might occasionally try out a new version on the set menus, but the sugar-glazed classic is permanent.

Ng is also not a fan of in-your-face changes. “For example, I don’t like it when you taste a dish and can immediately identify something in it, like coffee,” he says.

“I prefer using two to three ingredients to create a change that is subtle, but makes a difference.”

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