The chef behind the new-wave Japanese at Mirai in Adliya lets us into his kitchen and teaches to cook tempura
Where are you from originally? I was born in Siracusa, Sicily, on the sunny Mediterranean sea, but my home is now Toronto, Canada.
What brought you to Bahrain? A good friend asked me to come and help him open an Italian restaurant and I stayed on to work at Mirai. The concept and name of the restaurant (which means future) came from one of the company directors, inspired by his love of Japanese cuisine.
Describe the food at Mirai in five words? Sensory, delighting, innovative Japanese cuisine.
Is there a signature must-try dish? The miso glaze Chilean seabass.
What experiences in particular have seasoned your cooking? I’ve worked with many great chefs around the world, but my experiences in Toronto, the Bahamas and the British West Indies, combined with my love of Indonesian food, come through strongest in my cooking.
Define your personal style when cooking for family and friends? I like to keep things simple, healthy and spicy, and to have fun when I cook. After long days in the kitchen and plate after plate artfully presented, I’d rather grill a beautiful steak or piece of fish and serve it with a simple lightly dressed salad.
What are your favourite ingredients? My kitchen is always stocked with galangal, kafir, tofu, chillies, broccoli, lemongrass, rice and pasta. Milk, bread and Nutella are also essentials.
What is the best meal you’ve had that you didn’t cook yourself? 1992, Lyon, France: Paul Bocuse restaurant in Cologne-sur-Mont-d’Or. I had a most memorable meal of foie gras, truffle soup, roasted veal and an incredible selection of homemade cheeses and miniature desserts.
Do you have a favourite recipe book? Yes, an Auguste Escoffier that I bought at a fundraising auction for homeless people in Toronto. It was one of his first works and cost me a month’s salary. Escoffier is best known for devising a meal of several courses, which is now how we generally dine.
What would you choose for your last supper? Nasi uduk with tempe – an Indonesian breakfast dish which consists of aromatic rice accompanied by a spicy chilli peanut sambal and crispy fried bean cake. What recipe have you decided to share with us? An adapted version of a famous Indonesian dish made with crispy tofu, with the addition of soft-shell crab tempura and a spicy sauce. It’s healthy, fun and tastes amazing. It’s also very quick and easy, so you won’t be trapped in the kitchen all night.
Softshell crab and tempe tempura
Serves 2 as a starter Ingredients 1 softshell crab (80-100g)* 4 slices tempe tofu/bean cake (the stage before it becomes tofu), one sixteenth of an inch thick** 2/3 cup tempura flour (without eggs included) 1/4 cup very cold water 1 egg, mixed and kept in a separate bowl
For the sambal 4 kafir lime leaves 1 lemongrass stick 12 hot red chillies 2 cloves garlic 1 large shallot 1 fresh tomato 1 small piece galangal 30ml sweet soya sauce Salt Corn or sunflower oil for frying
* Softshell crab is available at Asiana House (17 262 578), next to Central Market ** Tempe is available at Rachanee Supermarket (17 749 162), Adliya
Method First, prepare the sambal: in a blender, puree the kafir, lemongrass, chillies, garlic, shallot and tomato (add a bit of water to bind). Reserve three tablespoons.
Next, make the batter: mix the tempura flour, egg and water, adding a little at a time till the batter is neither too thick nor too runny. Add the reserved sambal mixture.
Remove the claws and legs from the softshell crab and cut the body in half. Lightly dust them with tempura flour. Do the same for the tempe tofu. Then coat all with batter. Fry them in a deep fryer at about 275°C, until crisp and slighty golden. Drain on paper towels.
In the meantime, add some corn oil or sunflower oil to a frying pan. When hot, add the sambal ingredients and cook for five minutes. Add the galangal (smashed so as to allow the juices to flavour the sauce). Add the soya sauce and continue cooking for five minutes. Add salt to taste. Remove from heat. Decoratively spoon the sauce onto a serving plate, then arrange the fried crab and tempe on top of it. Garnish with spring onions and fresh red chilli. Enjoy. Taste Sam’s cooking at Mirai, Adliya, tel 17 713 113