THERE is nothing new about world-renowned chefs flaunting exotic inspirations. But Hong Kong native Susur Lee, 53, is one of the few chefs to leave the comforts of a familiar audience to make a name dishing out his brand of contemporary Asian fare.
Nothing overly avant-garde, but modern in the way he chooses to blend Asian flavours using Western techniques, winning many Americans over in the process.
Susur was later honoured as one of the world's Best Chefs by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. He is also chef-owner of four highly-rated restaurants in North America - LEE and Madeline's Restaurants, both in Toronto, Canada; Shang, which opened in Thompson LES Hotel, New York, in December 2008; and his latest restaurant, Zentan, which opened in Washington in 2009.
He partnered with the Tung Lok Group to open Club Chinois in 1997, surprising many Singaporeans with his take on contemporary Chinese dishes - true in taste yet Western in presentation.
It shut its doors a little over a decade later but found renewed fervour in January 2010 as Chinois (with a new home at Resorts World Sentosa), still serving Susur's brand of Asian cuisine.
One of his most loved creations is this dish of braised shredded abalone stuffed in crab claw and topped with sea urchin sauce.
"It is made with 'tanjia' stock - which is pork, duck and chicken - and then I blend (it) with carrot juice and sea urchin to make this very rich stock," Susur explained. In short, it features a mix of Asian ingredients (Sri Lankan crab, sea urchin and sake) prepared using Western techniques.
"The Chinese never blend their soup; they only boil ... or they just whisk but they never blend."
He had also wanted to create a richer stock, richer but with more of the taste of the ocean, he added, not just the typical ham stock.