Sunday August 12, 2012
Catch of the day
By Rebecca Lynne Tan
TV host K.F. Seetoh sneaks up on eateries in Malaysia and Singapore for his show, The Food Surprise!.
SINGAPOREAN street-food advocate K.F. Seetoh has a television show where he ambushes restaurant kitchens and hawker stalls across Malaysia and Singapore.
He says of The Food Surprise!, a 13-episode series on the TLC channel: “We want to capture people off guard. Once people know what the game is about, they recover but you want to find out how they initiate the media. We want to be treated like any other customer because we come to you unplanned and unannounced.”
Its concept is similar to a show he fronted in 2008 called Makansutra Raw, which covered only Singapore.
In the The Food Surprise!, Seetoh, 49, founder of street-food guide Makansutra, drops in on eateries that range from hawker stalls to coffee shops, and even a restaurant in Singapore run by a three Michelin-star chef.
Some stall owners caught by surprise were seemingly unnerved by a camera in their faces and Seetoh’s constant questions, while others were noticeably disgruntled, he says.
In fact, he and his crew were kicked out of one kitchen during the series’ month-long shoot last year.
But more often than not, he says that the initial “shock and fear turned into smiles” after about 30 seconds.
He says: “Some people are rude while others are so slick, you would think the whole thing was planned.”
Seetoh says he entered eateries through both the front and back entrances and adds that he also made it a point to suss out stalls, restaurants and coffee shops that he had never featured or been to. He found these eateries by speaking to locals and other foodies.
After doing a reconnaissance of an eatery and the area it is located in, he and his team would strategise their approach.
“We would then cruise by and fly out of the van, like a vice raid,” he says.
While he is mum on most of the details about his show, he reveals a few tasty behind-the-scenes morsels.
At one of the restaurants he barged into in Singapore, he noticed the kitchen had half-peeled vegetables strewn across counter tops and other ingredients “all over the shop”.
But after speaking with its chef for a few minutes and when the time came to zoom in on the cooking process, the counters were neat.
He also found a canteen-cum-cafe in Johor Baru that is run by a Singaporean Indian-Muslim, who sells the “best nasi briyani” (a lamb shank briyani).
He was bowled over by a few dishes in Penang, including mee udang, which he says is a cross between mee rebus and prawn noodle soup, and a Peranakan-style salad made with ingredients such as banana flower and traditional peanut candy.
However, he says: “Some places were not good. We say it as it is – come here for this, but forget the rest of the dishes.” — The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network
■ In conjunction with Merdeka Day celebrations, TLC (Astro Ch 707) will be showing special screenings of The Food Surprise! on Aug 24 and Aug 31 (both at 9.30pm). Meanwhile, you can head to the Makansutra YouTube page to check out clips from The Food Surprise!.