Although 25 Degrees Burgers & Liquor Bar may have just opened three months ago, the popular burger joint has already gained recognition amongst food critics and foodies alike for its extensive menu serving up a variety of authentic American-style burgers and, of course, beers and sodas to go with it. But now, the resto has tapped onto the creatives of up-and-coming homegrown chef, Lennard Yeong for its first ever local collaboration. The challenge? To create a local-inspired burger for the famed Los Angeles joint.
We spoke to the chef himself on his inspiration behind his creation and where to get the best burgers in town.
Why did you decide to take up this challenge?
Making burgers is definitely not something I have really done in the past and making an Asian-inspired burger sounded like a fun challenge to get me out of my comfort zone.
You used XO sauce for your local-inspired burger. Why and how did you use it in your cooking?
In my opinion, XO is one of the most versatile sauces around. Toss it with plain rice or noodles, and you immediately have something tasty. It is also great when mixed with stir fry for extra flavour.
I worked together with Sous Chef Sam Chan to create a housemade XO sauce with dried shrimp, scallop and bacon which are bound together with shrimp paste and perfectly griddled. It is layered with 25 Degrees’ classic turkey patty, then topped with fresh, slightly bitter arugula, and kaffir lime mayonnaise for a touch of acidity. Sandwiched between butter-grilled brioche buns, the burger is served with pickled cucumber, butterhead lettuce, tomato and onions on the side.
Where did you get the inspiration (of using XO sauce) from?
When the premise of the burger was first presented to me, the immediate ideas I got were more of the more common and basic ones such as laksa, chilli crab and salted egg. But I feel that these flavours have been done to death. Although XO is not technically Singaporean (more so Cantonese), I think it is a flavour Singaporeans can relate to.
Besides XO sauce, did you try using other ingredients? If so, what were they?
I did try Laksa flavour but I ended up not really liking it.
How do you think this challenge has helped you become a better chef?
At the end of the day, I am still a home cook. The biggest takeaway for me from this challenge is to see how the real kitchen operates. As a diner, it is very easy to have a meal at the restaurant and say, “why didn’t they do this/that, it would’ve made things better”, but once you start working behind the scenes, you realise that there are many restrictions that immediately become obvious, things like inventory/costing/operational workflow etc.
What other recommendations do you have for people interested in visiting 25 Degrees?
Definitely get the fries as a side, the curly fries are my favourite.
Where are some of the best places in Singapore to get your burger cravings satisfied?
When I was younger I used to frequent Swiss Grill along Bukit Timah, it was cheap and kind of no frills, but they have since closed. 25 Degrees will be my go to now.
Where are some of the best places in Singapore with local-inspired foods?
I love all ends of the spectrum. From “zhi char” places to higher end restaurants like Labyrinth and Candlenut that are really taking the flavours of Singapore to the world stage.
What are some of the other local-inspired foods you have made?
Lately, I’ve been making a lot of curry pastes from scratch because I find the kind of flavours you can get from the aromatics and herbs we have in our region quite amazing.
What can we expect from you in the second half of the year?
I’ll continue to work on interesting food projects so keep a lookout for a few more coming out later this year!
The XOXO Burger is now available until 31 August 2017 at $14++.
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