Singaporean Lee Yum Hwa is obsessed with creating the perfect pasta.
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At his private diner Ben Fatto 95, which means well-made in Italian and references Lee’s childhood home where sumptuous family dinners used to be held, he serves his guests four to five pasta dishes at each omakase-style meal.
The self-taught chef meticulously hand-makes every pasta with an eye to form, texture and tradition. “I cook only small portions of pasta, and every bite is at its peak,” emphasised Lee.
“I'm there explaining how the pasta is made, where it's from, why it's made this way with a little bit of history. I will get people to come and have an interactive experience where they touch the pasta dough and they try to make it as well.”
In Lee’s opinion, technique is everything in pasta-making, even though he feels that his profession as a pastaio – pasta chef – is not acknowledged in the eyes of most people, “because to them a chef is a chef”.
He said: “Technique is something that you build through a lot of hard practice. You got to use every part of your body depending on what kind of pasta you're making. You need to know the nuances of how to form or shape a particular pasta. When you go into that level, there's also a differentiation between good technique and bad technique.”
He finds that each pasta-making experience is different and creates a roller coaster of emotions. His focus is on traditional pastas such as the ring-shaped tortellini (“little ears” of orecchiette), and unusual shapes like the cresc’tajat, which is from the Italian coastal region of Marche.