This year, Nurdin is taking time to travel and further explore ingredients and food cultures outside of Hong Kong. It is important for chefs to continue to develop one’s ideas and knowledge, to keep educating themselves and their teams, and to progress. He will be in close contact with his chefs to relay inspiration throughout his travels to ensure the menus at NUR continue to embody his philosophy and bring guests invigorating, healthy dishes and ingredients. Read about Nurdin’s #NURonTour travels in Manila, Noto/Kyoto, and Tokyo.
Copenhagen is one of my favorite cities; it’s wonderful to “live like a native” and cycle around the beautiful architecture. The high-quality dining scene is reminiscent of Japan – the care that is put into every step of a dish, from design to delivery.
It is easy to see how this city is rated as one of the happiest cities in the world to live in, with its close proximity to the countryside and sea; it’s a city designed to live in. For me professionally, I have also had some great memories from working in Copenhagen which has been a catalyst in my career; developing my understanding and craft, and also where I have made some lifelong friendships.
Nordic Food Lab
I first heard about the lab during my stage at NOMA in the summer of 2012. It started as a research facility by Rene Redezepi and Claus Meyer. Originally a house boat moored next to NOMA, they now inhabit a lab in University of Copenhagen. They are a non-profit, open-source organization that investigates food diversity and deliciousness with a focus on the Nordic region.
The lab accepts intern / researcher applications throughout the year and I was accepted to join them later in 2012. I remember my first task of organizing and cleaning up the lab’s dry stores, where I encountered a multitude of weird and wonderful ingredients. This was a first insight into some of the new ingredients that represents some of what the Nordic larder has to offer – there were 15 different types of seaweeds, home-prepared dried spices from wild edible plants, homemade miso, soy-style sauces, and all sorts of different vinegars. Ingredients were often written in Latin, and I had no idea what 75% of them were.
The rest of the time that month was spent cooking, researching and developing recipes. We did lots of tastings of rare game from the Nordic regions – beaver, ptarmigan (a plump game bird in the grouse family), and bear. We processed these ingredients by curing and smoking in a homemade closet smoker.
The environment was fantastic; being surrounded by scientists, food academics, and meeting amazing food suppliers and producers. The lack of ‘restaurant service’ allowed us to explore ideas, concepts and techniques in a much deeper and meaningful way.
My second time at the lab, I was invited to join them on the start of a project about insects. At first I was a little anxious about the thought of exploring insects as food; remembering an earlier trip to Korea over Christmas and smelling the pungent funk of boiled silkworm larvae which I found utterly revolting, stimulating a strong gag reflex if I got too near. But I loved Copenhagen and the work environment and team I had worked with previously, and knew that the team would create a fun and productive journey in our work.
The month’s work culminated in an event at the Welcome Collection where we presented a 5-course tasting menu incorporating the most delicious insects and techniques we had discovered.
This time around, Lead Researcher Josh Evans, whom I worked with back in 2012, asked myself and Chef Josh Pollen, from London’s Blanch & Shock, to join them in developing some recipes to finish a chapter of their research. We had some intense long days but after 3 years of the NFL work and multiple field trips, we were lucky enough to work on some already well-developed ideas, and insects that I believe were some of the more delicious options available.
It’s always wonderful to be back in Copenhagen and I hope I can be back soon. Next on #NURonTour, I will explore biodynamic farms and local ingredients from southern Sweden.
With over 18 years of experience, Chef Nurdin spent time at the Nordic Food Lab, Copenhagen, before founding NUR in 2014. He is now travelling the world for inspiration from local cultures. Follow Chef Nurdin’s journey on #NURonTour and @ntopham on Instagram.