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Weixin Quek Chong’s Botanical Salad

Gained a little weight over the holiday season? Hey, who hasn’t? Travelling to a new destination means indulging in the delicious local cuisine and what’s Christmas and New Year’s without roast turkey, ham, fruitcake and loads of champagne? But if you’re thinking of starting the new year by eating a little cleaner and healthier, we’ve got just the thing for you.

As part of dining and lifestyle brand SPRMRKT‘s art programme, which sees a rotation of exhibitions of works by local and regional artists every quarter, plant-inspired works by artist Weixin Quek Chong were showcased at its Cluny Court location recently. In conjunction with the exhibition, chef-owner Joseph Yeo created a special salad (available on the menu throughout the duration of the show) that took inspiration from Chong’s artworks.

SPRMRKT and chef Joseph have very kindly shared the recipe for their delicious salad with us and, of course, as always, I road-tested it so I could share it with you, dear readers. First up, here are the ingredients.

You will need to immerse the julienned carrots and sliced radishes in the pickling liquid for 3-4 hours, so plan ahead and start with this first.

Cut the carrots into thin strips and slice the radishes thinly too.
Mix the sugar with the water and vinegar until it dissolves and immerse the radish and carrots in the pickling liquid for 3 to 4 hours.

In a lightly heated non stick pan, add in the canola oil (I didn’t have canola so I substituted olive oil instead) and fry the chicken with garlic. Add in the turmeric powder and chopped kaffir lime leaves, then season with salt and pepper to taste. (I deviated from the recipe a little here and rubbed the chicken pieces with the turmeric powder beforehand.) When the chicken is cooked, set it aside to cool.

Kaffir lime leaves, chopped garlic and turmeric powder

Strain the carrots and sliced radish after they’ve been immersed in the pickling liquid for a few hours. They add a bright, tangy note to the salad. All that’s left for you to do now is assemble your salad. Arrange the mesclun salad leaves on a pretty plate and top with the chicken strips, carrots and radish and voila, a delicious, satisfying and healthy meal! (Note: There is no separate dressing for the salad but, if you like, toss it with a little of the garlicky turmeric-and-kaffir-lime-flavoured oil used for frying the chicken for an added Asian-flavoured kick.)

SPRMRKT’s Botanical Salad

Weixin Quek Chong, as you may already know, is the winner of the 2018 President’s Young Talents award for her installation sft ctrl crsh (you can read about it and about the works by the four other talented artists in the show, here). While, at first glance, the artist’s print works at SPRMRKT, which all feature plants and botanicals, bear little resemblance to sft ctrl crsh, they are part of the continuum of Chong’s artistic exploration of materiality and the role it plays in shaping the viewer’s aesthetic experience of her works. In particular, Chong is concerned with the ways in which different materials can be employed to serve as metaphors for human and social relationships and the psychology behind structures and projections of power, value and desire.

Weixin Quek Chong, Specimen 6, Exponential Taxonomies series, 2014 – 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In her Exponential Taxonomies series, for example, Chong juxtaposes images of live plants with cut-outs of botanical illustrations commissioned by William Farquhar, the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore. In conducting research for the series, Chong explains that she was particularly interested in the motivations behind the construction of colonial natural history records –

” … the drive to discover, collect, and attribute names to tropical plants and animals was a way of usurping the ‘exotic’ as one’s own …”

I thought it particularly apt that this, and other works in the series, were put on view at  SPRMRKT’s Cluny Court location overlooking the Singapore Botanic Gardens, especially since the Gardens’ history is so inextricably linked to the British colonial government’s interest in and research into the economic and commercial potential of colonial tropical plants. But hey, that’s a story for another time!



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