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Blog: Of Ramadan buffets and the primitive brain

As a child, I was a picky and difficult eater. My father took huge pains to train me to clean my plate, whether I liked the food or not, nevermind that I took longer – sometimes an additional 15 to 20 minutes – than the rest of my family to finish my dinner.

So when I was introduced to my first buffet at 11 at a four-star hotel in Malaysia, I thought that I finally could have my cake and eat it: I could now choose what and how much I want to eat and have a clean plate at the end of it. As a relatively health-conscious adult, I have always taken pride in my ability of not overeating at buffets and ensuring that I have a good balance of nutritional essentials, all while not depriving myself of the sense of satisfaction from a meal well had.

The Asian Market Cafe at Fairmont Hotel

Human beings’ desire for sweet and fatty foods is no fluke of nature; the human body is hard-wired to ensure the survival of the species so it craves high-energy foods that can help tide over times when food is scarce. However, in modern day and food-rich Singapore, especially during Ramadan, it’s too often that the primitive brain takes over and people pile their plates with little mountains of food, some of which would start to rot and turn toxic before the system can digest it properly.

The Ramadan buffet at the Asian Market at Fairmont Hotel is not for those with poor self-control.

A little late on the uptake, the Asian Market adopted the Middle Eastern theme this year, with a whole spit-roasted goat served up in the dramatic Saudi style on the buffet spread in addition to a variety of mains and sweets from Egypt to Yemen.

I  suspected the chefs and cooks on duty were Malaysian with working experience in the Middle East when I sampled the very authentic belacan kampong fried rice,  one of the several rice dishes which had half a dozen sambals displayed on the side including a piquant sambal tomato, my personal favourite. The buffet also had a decent Indian spread which included a tender mutton rogan gosh. There was also a beeline for the famous chilli crab which had to be replenished several times during the course of the dinner.

The Asian Market Cafe Ramadan Iftar has a decent Indian spread.

The service was excellent, and I hoped it wasn’t because I was seated at the media table (I made a mental note to visit them incognito sometime next week) and the service staff ensured that we had everything we needed from fresh bowls of water to fresh cutlery. There was no mantou anywhere near the chilli crab and being cheeky, I asked the service staff for some, emphasising that it was okay if they couldn’t find me any. The mantou came steaming hot and a brilliant golden after my order and it was much later during the meal that I learnt that they had been made entirely from scratch.

My company had also over-estimated our appetite for chilli crab that night and we had a half a dozen pincers left and so I asked for it to be packed before we left. I felt like I had crossed the line as a media guest; I repeated to the PR person that I know that buffet restaurants do not allow guests to take home excess food and some in fact make greedy patrons pay for excess unconsumed food but I didn’t want the chilli crab and mantou to go to waste. It was only then that I looked around and realised to my chagrin, that there was still plenty of delicious and edible food in the chafing dishes that would more than likely be binned in the same indiscriminate fashion at the close of business day.

I was quickly informed that the Fairmont Singapore and the Swissôtel Stamford had in place since 2010, a food recycling system to help reduce and recycle food waste. Discarded food is put into the Bio-Helper machine which accelerates the natural decomposition process of solid food waste into either organic compost that can be used as natural fertiliser or nutrient liquid to facilitate its disposal of the liquid waste into public sewers. I recalled that several other F&B establishments such as those in Furama Hotels also have similar recycling systems.

The Asian Market Cafe composts excess food

Although the revelation made me feel less guilty, I did not change my mind about taking home the chilli crab; I signed a form that indemnified the restaurant from all potential damage and side effects to my health and digestive system from consuming food outside of the restaurant premises.

In short, especially if you have poor self-control at buffets, dining at establishments with food recycling systems helps you play a part in reducing food waste.

The Asian Market Cafe Ramadan Iftar buffet is on from now until 7 of August at $60++ per adult and $32++ per child. All pictures are courtesy of the Asian Market Cafe.

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