Seafood delights from Norwegian wizards

GIVEN the pervasive food culture in Singapore, the mere mention of Norway will get most people thinking about salmon rather than, say, fjords.

GIVEN the pervasive food culture in Singapore, the mere mention of Norway will get most people thinking about salmon rather than, say, fjords.

Seafood is the second biggest export commodity for Norway, after petroleum. Norway last year exported 2.1 million tonnes of seafood, of which salmon made up 500 tonnes. Singapore imports some 3,600 tonnes of seafood from Norway, worth about $20 million.

This year, the Norwegian Seafood Export Council has stepped in as a major supporter of the World Gourmet Summit (WGS) by sending the largest contingent of Michelin-star chefs: masterchef Eyvind Hellstrom and two ambassador chefs Charles Tjessem and Terje Ness.

Hellstrom, who has a two-star Michelin restaurant in Oslo, is synonymous with Norwegian gourmet cuisine, while Tjessem and Ness each have a Michelin star to their names and have won the prestigious Bocuse d'Or award in 2003 and 1999 respectively.

And, of course, seafood being such a defining feature of Norwegian life and cuisine, all the three chefs demonstrate their amazing abilities to treat the seafood - salmon, scallops, cod, monkfish, shrimps, crab and lobster - with utmost respect and creativity.

'As far as modern Norwegian style goes, there's now a greater awareness of the produce. I don't use too many ingredients or complicated combinations. Just enough to bring some excitement to the dish, but the seafood should taste as it is,' Hellstrom says.

The choices the three chefs offer are as fresh as they sound. While Hellstrom's offerings are influenced by French style, Tjessem's is more Japanese-inspired and Ness' has Mediterranean undertones.

The dishes they whipped up were ultra-light and brimming with natural flavours.

Hellstrom's warm Norwegian lobster lasagne, for instance, featured a flavourful lobster on one side, and a frothy lasagne layer on the other - a balance of yin and yang.

Ness' smoked eel in mille-feuille with avocado mousse was a lovely blend of textures and tastes in a bite with each ingredient complementing one another. Tjessem's pan-fried succulent scallops came with a ring of fava beans around it, enhanced with a tangy dash of mascaropone cheese.

His hot smoked Norwegian salmon was a warm, homey dish which was paired simply with a poached egg sitting on spinach foam. My favourite was Ness' salmon in lardo - a thin, grilled slice of salmon accompanied with an outstanding coriander sherbet.

It's not surprising then that the two chefs, Tjessem and Ness, both claim that their mothers have inspired their ideas for new concoctions. So far, their dishes have a warm and welcoming feel to them even though they're executed with technical sophistication.

With the recent scare that farmed salmon is less beneficial than wild salmon, the council is also stepping up efforts to counter the negative effects of that report.

Norwegian Culinary Superstars Debut at Town Restaurant, April 20-23, lunch and dinner daily