It is out with millennial pink and in with the blues – thanks to the butterfly pea, or blue pea, flower.
The flower, which is used in food and drink as a natural food colouring and barely has any taste, is commonly seen in Thai, Malay and Peranakan cuisines.
It is said to be full of antioxidants and is touted to improve skin quality, among other health benefits.
In Thai dishes, the ingredient’s colour represents vibrancy. As for Peranakan food, Folklore’s chef Damian D’Silva says that it is used not only to mark certain dishes – such as Nonya Kueh Chang – as Peranakan, but, on a more sombre note, also signifies mourning.
As the same type of kueh can be served at various events – be it weddings or funerals – one should note the colours used, says Peranakan cookbook author Lloyd Matthew Tan. For example, the nine-layer kueh lapis, if coloured blue and white, is meant for funerals.
And if the glutinous rice layer is stained blue throughout for kueh salat, it is meant for funerals. The glutinous rice layer for the kueh is usually white or speckled with blue.
He adds: “Blue is never used in nasi lemak for traditional Peranakans, who serve nasi lemak on the 12th day of the wedding ceremony. The rice must be white to denote the purity of the bride.”
But in the age of social media, hip blue hues are definitely eye-catching and Instagram-worthy. Think everything from blue carbonara to glass noodles to tea – all infused with the blue pea flower extract. Plus, the natural colouring takes on deeper purple and magenta shades when mixed with acid.
If you need a blue space to have blue food and drink, Blue Willow in Clementi Road has got you covered with its Avatar-inspired bistro. It is the sister outlet to the Harry Potter inspired Platform 1094 in Serangoon Road as well as Fresh Fruits Lab in Changi Road.
“We wanted to continue on a fantasy theme and thought that, using the Avatar movie as our inspiration, everything could be blue. We worked closely with our kitchen to ensure that the blue items would be exciting for diners as well,” says owner Kelvin Tan, 34, referring to the 2009 hit film.
So, from the baby blues to indigo to sapphire, The Straits Times has sussed out sweet and savoury items in various shades of blue.
Blue Willow, a bistro themed after the 2009 Hollywood sci-fi film Avatar, is awash in blue – from the walls to the food and drinks. Highlights include the Eywa Natural Blue Carbonara ($14) with bacon, arugula and sous vide egg; FFL Da Bomb Burger ($19), a 200g beef patty with lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and egg, served with fries and salad and blue- coloured cheese sauce; and Neytiri’s Blue Pancake Stack ($14), blue pancakes topped with blueberry, maple sago and crumble.
For dessert, there is a blue cake ($7.50) infused with Lupicia tea; and blue velvet cake ($7.50). Instead of the usual latte, order the off-menu blue latte (from $5).
Where: Blue Willow, 28 Clementi Road
Open: Noon to midnight (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays
Info: Call 6803-7472 or go to www.facebook.com/bluewillowsg
NEXT: NASI LEMAK →
Chef Wan’s Kitchen launched a new nasi lemak collection earlier this month, where the rice is coloured blue. Options ($15.90+ each) include sambal sotong, Javanese fried chicken, balado fish and balado prawn. The coconut rice is cooked before the natural blue colouring from the blue pea flower is added.
Where: Chef Wan’s Kitchen, 02-14 Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Avenue
Open: Noon to 3pm, 5.30 to 10pm daily
Info: Call 6397-4911 or go to www.facebook.com/ChefWansKitchen
NEXT: BUTTERFLY PEA GLASS NOODLE SALAD →
Due to popular demand, Thai restaurant Soi Thai Soi Nice’s special butterfly pea menu – launched in October last year – is still available.
One of the dishes, Butterfly Pea Glass Noodle Salad ($9.80++), has already made it to the permanent menu.
Other savoury options include basil mince pork with butterfly pea rice ($8.80++) and sweet dishes include butterfly pea sticky rice with coconut ice cream ($5.80++). Complete the meal with hot butterfly pea tea ($3.80++) or iced butterfly pea coconut drink ($4.80++).
Where: Soi Thai Soi Nice outlets at 01-29/30 The Seletar Mall, 33 Sengkang West Avenue; and 02-01 Alexandra Central, 321 Alexandra Road
Open: Seletar Mall – 11.30am to 10pm (weekdays), 11am to 10pm (weekends); Alexandra Central – 11.30am to 3.30pm, 6 to 10pm (weekdays), 11.30am to 10pm (weekends)
NEXT: ORA KING SALMON ABURI →
At Morsels, the dried blue pea flower is soaked in warm niboshi dashi to extract the natural colouring. It is then used to make Italian meringue, which is torched and serves as a cream to the baek kimchi, pearl barley and Ora King Salmon Aburi. The dish is available – with an additional $8 – on the set menus (from $55).
Where: Morsels, 01-04, 25 Dempsey Road
Open: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 10pm (Tuesdays to Thursdays); noon to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm (Fridays and Saturdays); 11am to 3pm (Sundays); closed on Mondays
Info: Call 6266-3822 or go to www.morsels.com.sg
NEXT: CRAB MEAT YELLOW CURRY →
Thai restaurant Blue Jasmine offers a few dishes that use the butterfly pea flower, including crab meat yellow curry ($26++) with Blue Jasmine vermicelli; and mango with Blue Jasmine sticky rice ($14++). There is also a Blue Jasmine mocktail ($10++) infused with yuzu and lychee juice.
Where: Level 5 Park Hotel Farrer Park, 10 Farrer Park Station Road
Open: 11.30am to 10pm daily
Info: Call 6824-8851 or go to e-mail email@example.com
NEXT: MERMAIDS’ TEARS →
Butterfly pea is used in a small selection of drinks at bubble tea brand Bobii Frutii. Ice-blended options include Mermaids’ Tears ($5.90), with mango, lemon, honey, milk and butterfly pea “bobii” (pearls). Pandora’s Treasure ($5.90) has a colour- changing purple hue that comes from the natural reaction between the butterfly pea extract and the acidicity of lemon juice. The bobii – available in original, butterfly pea and brown sugar flavours (extra 60 to 90 cents) – can be added to any drink.
Where: Bobii Frutii, 04-K4, The Clementi Mall, 3155 Commonwealth Avenue West
Open: 10am to 10pm daily
NEXT: BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER LEMONADE COLD BREW →
Launched two weeks ago, Starbucks’ Butterfly Pea Flower Lemonade Cold Brew ($6.90) is a layered drink with butterfly pea flower extract, lightly sweetened lemonade and slow-poured Starbucks cold-brew coffee on top. The coffee is slowly poured onto an inverted bar spoon placed over the cup to ensure that a clear layer sits on top of the lemonade – an interesting and unusual combination not for the faint-hearted.
Where: Till early April or while stocks last at all Starbucks outlets, various opening hours
NEXT: INK GIN & 1724 TONIC WATER COCKTAIL →
The drinks menu at Spanish restaurant FOC Pim Pam includes Ink Gin & 1724 Tonic Water with hibiscus petal and orange zest ($36++ for 60ml, $358++ for a bottle). The colour of the Ink Gin comes from the natural infusion of petals from butterfly pea flowers that have been hand-cut and dried.
Where: FOC Pim Pam, 01-29, 442 Orchard Road
Open: Noon to 3pm (daily), 5 to 11pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 5pm to 1am (Fridays and Saturdays)
Info: Call 6100-4242 or go to www.focpimpam.com
NEXT: LYCHEE MARTINI WITH TRIO OF FLOWERS →
Modern Singaporean restaurant Wild Rocket offers a dessert called lychee martini with trio of flowers – ginger flower, butterfly pea flower and elderflower ($16++). It comes with a lychee sorbet and lychee martini gummy.
Where: Wild Rocket, Hangout @ Mt Emily, 10A Upper Wilkie Road
Open: Noon to 3pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 6.30 to 10.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays
Info: Call 6339-9448 or go to www.wildrocket.com.sg
NEXT: SPIRAL GALAXY →
A popular tea mocktail from d’Good Cafe is Spiral Galaxy ($15), with butterfly pea flower extract, jasmine green tea and grape juice. Just pour grape juice into the glass layered with butterfly pea flower extract and jasmine green tea, stir and add ice cubes.
Where: d’Good Cafe, B1-56 Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road
Open: 10am to 10pm daily
Info: Call 6694-1411 or go to www.facebook.com/dgoodcafe
NEXT: PEA FLOWER COCONUT MUFFIN →
You cannot miss the striking pea flower coconut muffin ($7.50++) at the Wildseed Cafe counter. The muffin is infused with the natural colouring of the blue pea flower and its centre is filled with gula melaka coconut.
Where: Wildseed Cafe, 3 Park Lane
Open: 9am to 5pm daily
Info: Call 6262-1063 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
NEXT: EYWA NATURAL BLUE CARBONARA →
By Eunice Quek, The Straits Times, March 4, 2018. Additional reporting: Debby Kwong
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