Say “quality restaurant food”, and I doubt “healthy” is the first word that comes to mind. Duck confit with creamy mashed potatoes and pan gravy; Spaghetti Carbonara with crispy bacon bits topped with a 42 degree poached egg – fantastically fancy, delicious, and utterly sinful. Hardly healthy at all.
Yet ONAKA Restaurant and Wine Bar disagrees. An acronym for Optimum Nutrition and Kitchen Arts, ONAKA revolves around the concept of conscious eating with a passion for cooking healthily. What’s really impressive is that the restaurant uses all-natural and selective organic ingredients without artificial additives, chemicals, colorings, flavorings, MSG, and trans-fats. About 50% of their menu is Vegetarian with special focus on Low Glycemic, Gluten Free and Vegan options; and no pork and lard is served at the restaurant! One word: A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
It’s no surprise that Tefal, reknowned for their non-stick cookware, is the restaurant’s the natural choice conscious and healthy cooking. Where better to showcase the qualities of Tefal Comfort Touch Pans than at ONAKA? Attending a cooking workshop there thus marked the beginning of our culinary journey!
So to ONAKA at Alexandra Retail Centre (ARC) us 5 privileged bloggers headed to one fine Saturday afternoon. Conducted by Head Chef Jason Vito and his Sous Chef Benson Tong, the 2-hour workshop featured three dishes all whipped up with the Tefal Comfort Touch Frypan: Garlic Prawns on Toast, Roasted Mushroom Soba, Butternut Squash Pancake with Banana Ice Cream. For recipes and detailed cooking instructions, click on the title of the dish to view the respective cooking videos.
Garlic Prawns on Toast
The meal started off with a wonderfully composed dish.
Aromatic herbs and vegetables were first sautéed with some olive oil, before the prawns were added and flambéed with white wine. A knob of butter was later whisked in to emulsify the pan juices into a sauce. To plate, the prawns were placed atop a slice of homemade rye bread, drizzled with the sauce, and garnished with some micro-herbs. The final touch was a dollop of lime foam, made by passing some soy lecithin and lime juice through a handheld immersion blender.
Prawns searing beautifully and evenly in Tefal’s frypan.
I must say I was extremely impressed with how Tefal’s Frypan allowed the even heating of the pan, which was reflected by the beautiful pink-ish sear of the prawns.
With Spanish cuisine as the backbone of this dish, the addition of chilli and kaffir lime leaves added a subtle Asian touch. The rye bread was lightly toasted in a panini press before being plated, and when soaked with the sauce resulted in a delectably chewy texture. Absolutely divine.
Chef Jason holding up a dish to the camera for the omy crew!
Our portions: sitting and ready to be gobbled.
And the cherry on top is, from preparation to serving, this simple but elegant dish can be whipped up in a mere 30 minutes! A perfect appetiser for any dinner gathering.
Roasted Mushroom Soba
Smoked shimeji mushrooms were first sauteed with roasted shiitake mushrooms. Then dashi, tamari and mirin were poured in and brought to a boil. Next, blanched soba noodles were added and heated through before serving. A drizzle of truffle oil, and presto you have yourself a delicious vegan lunch!
This deceivingly simple set of instructions undermines the sheer amount of thought and effort behind this ingenious dish. Chef Jason explained this to be intentionally designed for vegetarians. And not just any Lacto-ovo Vegetarian or Vegan, but Buddhist Vegetarians who cannot take even garlic or onions. This is no easy feat, because the dashi that is used as a base cooking stock in typical Japanese dishes is made with stripjack tuna and konbu (a.k.a. edible kelp). Talk about commitment to their trade, what the geniuses at ONAKA did was to go through a tedious 1.5 hour process of making their own dashi using dried konbu, specially shipped from Hokkaido, and smoked shiitake mushrooms in place of the traditional tuna.
Plates of mouthwatering drool-inducing soba prepared for us!
Besides the special dashi, other elements of the dish came together in this perfectly composed dish. I especially loved the idea of roasting the mushrooms to give them a meaty texture, which is usually absent from vegetarian dishes. The truffle oil was also an unexpectedly welcomed addition. I dreaded tasting this dish because I have this thing against truffle oil. But I was extremely surprised that I actually liked the addition of truffle oil here! It gave this seemingly Asian dish a very subtle Western influence, simultaneously preventing the dish from falling flat after a few bites. Trust the truffle-hater when she says that it works wonders here and it is absolutely delish.
Pumpkin Pancake with Banana Ice Cream
Our tummies were a little more than bursting at this point, but dang pumpkin pancakes sound way too decadent to be missed.
Ingredients required for this dish includes roasted butternut squash, and Chef Jason saw it necessary to show us the difference between a squash and a pumpkin.
Cutesy smiley drawn on our butternut squash by Chef Jason 😀
These pancakes are shockingly easy to make. They follow the standard wet ingredient-dry ingredient procedure every baker is familiar with. First, mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients separately. Next make a well in the middle of the bowl of dry ingredients, pour the liquids in and stir the mixture until it is combined. Cook the batter over a pre-heated pan over medium heat, and presto you’ve got yourself a wonderful pancake! The key here is to take care to not overmix the batter, as it could result in flat and tough pancakes. Now that would be nasty wouldn’t it.
Tefal Frypan’s non-stick qualities were best displayed here. Despite having no oil added to the pan, the pancake browned evenly, and flipped beautifully without leaving a trace of batter behind.
Oven-roasting the squask could take up to an hour depending on the sizes of your chopped squash, so it’s good to know that it can be prepared ahead and refrigerated before being used in this dish. What is wonderful about this recipe is its versatiliy. Want it to be gluten-free? Replace the white flour with gluten-free flours like nut flours, bean flours, or simply King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Flour. Don’t like squash? Replace it with other root vegetables or even caramelised fruits, like bananas and apples.
Boy oh boy was I lucky I decided not to skip out. The squash gave these cloud-like jacks a savoury bite, while the macerated berries and ice cream added to the contrasting textures and flavours of the dish. Fluffy and lightly sweetened, it will suffice to say that I am definitely saving these pancakes for a special occasion. Maybe a birthday breakfast-in-bed?
And that was the last dish of our 2-hour cooking workshop. Thanks to the amazing staff from omy.sg, Tefal, and the wonderfully talented chefs over at ONAKA, I left the restaurant feeling overly ambitious and inspired to whip up my very own super healthy 7-course meal. That and feeling horridiously full to the brim.
I felt ridiculously happy for a few reasons. For one I have never found a restaurant living up to its claims of serving healthy yet delicious food. The Living Cafe was an utter disappointment, and vegetarian restaurants – with all their oyster-sauce dishes and fried mock meats – aren’t no better. Having personally seen the ingredients that go into the preparation of ONAKA’s dishes, I am honestly impressed at how they mastered the fine line between restaurant-quality, even fine-dining worthy, dishes and healthy conscious eating.
Chef Benson Tong told us about this chilli jelly they made to serve with their “Oyster Omelette”, essentially their rendition of the traditional hawker oyster omelette that we have here. Eaten with their homemade rye bread, the jelly kinda tastes like a solidified cube of chicken rice chilli.
The wonderful food aside, I’ve never interacted with chefs this intimately before. Cracking jokes with them, learning about the different steps that goes into the preparation of their dishes, even down to where they source their ingredients from. It’s so easy and quick for people to make a judgement about a dish, to nit and pick at it, that we often forget the tremendous effort invested by every person in the culinary team. From the head chef down to the very waiter. This experience has made me more aware of what goes on behind a dish. And I’ll be sure to hold my reservations and talk to the chefs or servers before fixing my judgement.
But of course the ultimate motive behind this cooking demonstration was for us to learn more about Tefal pans’ functions, before coming home to whip up a few of our own dishes. We left ONAKA with our very own 2 pans from the Tefal Comfort Touch Pans series, ready to head on to the next part of this challenge!
Do scoot over to Tefal Chef Challenge for updates on my progress, and stay tuned for the recipes! Check out our posts and vote for the one you think deserves to win, and you might just win yourself a Tefal blender!