Silversea’s Silver Moon to match cuisine with ports
There’s a very pleasant psychology at play when you unpack at the start of a Silversea cruise.
My Classic Veranda Suite on board the ultra-luxe Silver Muse is the essence of calm with its palette of dove grey and latte, a view to a sun-speckled ocean that’s barely rippling, and a butler asking which region I’d like my pinot noir sourced from.
Not to mention the perfect peach and chilled grapes in a bowl on my coffee table that’s making me feel instantly low-cal. I’m already thinking this sixnight cruise from the Philippines to Singapore is going to be a treat.
But this is merely the calm before the food storm. Before long, I will learn how Filipino food is gaining international cred; know the difference between a Malaysian and Peranakan chicken curry; find out the secrets to making Singaporean kueh (cake); and savour a paddle pop that tastes like laksa.
These forensic-like insights into regional cuisine are part of a thoughtprovoking concept being implemented by Silversea that will match food with the ports on each itinerary.
© Lucia Griggi/Silversea Cruises
S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste)
Appropriately called S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste), it will be introduced first on Silver Moon, the new and uber-glamorous sibling to Silver Muse launching in August 2020.
I’m one of the first passengers to taste-test this intriguing S.A.L.T. degustation on a leisurely six-night voyage from Manila to Singapore, via Philippines’ Coron and Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah.
Directed by Adam Sachs, an award-winning food journalist and a former editor-in-chief of America’s esteemed Saveur magazine, S.A.L.T. will offer a deep dive into each location’s cuisine, people, history, culture and politics.
More than dining
An onboard S.A.L.T. Lab will host demonstrations and culinary classes, along with a restaurant where each night’s menu will reflect the port of call.
Elements of the concept will also permeate the broader ship community, who can nibble at it or bite off as much as they can chew. Once the concept is launched on Silver Moon, other ships in the Silversea fleet will soon follow.
On-shore insights will delve into the destination’s ingredients, the communities that grow them, markets or ‘hawker’ centres that sell it, restaurants that best exemplify it, chefs who cook it, people who write about it, and savvy locals who know what’s hot – and what’s not.
S.A.L.T. is also about how to eat. For example, central to Filipino cuisine are its dipping sauces. Filipinos form their food into little balls and dip them into bowls of condiments (sawsawan), so you can curate your preferred bitter/sour/ salty/sweet preference from fish sauce, soy sauce, salt-fermented shrimp paste, myriad vinegars and banana ketchup.
Sachs has taken a narrative approach to the program: “Who are the characters and what are their stories?”
“Finding the thread is what’s interesting here,” he adds. “On a cruise ship, you can make the connections. How does the food change when you travel from Indonesia to Malaysia to the Philippines?”
Produce, culture and natural beauty
In the ports Silver Muse visits, produce, culture and natural beauty are all in the mix, often accessed by tricked-up Jeepneys or outriggers.
We take one of the latter to Coron Island where Kayangan Lake is located. This exquisite swimming hole is a refreshing reward for climbing hundreds of uneven steps via a sublime lookout.
We also visit one of the oldest communities in the Philippines, the Tagbanua, who prepare food for us.
In Kota Kinabalu, breakfast at Seng Hing Coffee Shop taps into the bustle of the capital, where signature heart-starters include tom yum soup and luscious rice wine noodles flecked with roasted pork, egg and stalky greens.
The fish market attached to Kota Kinabalu Central Market puts on a great show: red snapper, barracuda, rainbow fish, scallops in shellacked shells and giant prawns with purple pincers.
Sunsets in Sabah, close to the equator, are famous. A sundowner cruise delivers us to Manukan Island and a barbecue with satays, plump fish and leafy salads.
In Singapore, we visit Redhill Food Centre and watch aromatic robusta coffee beans being ground with salt, sugar and butter. We duly “chope” a table and order Hainanese chicken rice.
At Clarence Ling’s Allspice Institute of culinary arts, we make nasi ulam using rice coloured with blue pea flowers and turmeric, loaded up with shredded leaves from the school’s spice garden.
Our final feast is at Singapore’s Tok Panjang, where the food embraces an array of Asian flavours. The table is set with gilt-edged Royal Copenhagen ‘Flora Danica’ porcelain, Tiffany & Co. silverware and classic condiment sets retrieved from the Ca Mau shipwreck, a Chinese junk that sank off the coast of Vietnam in 1725.
Nothing but the best for curious diners and connoisseur cruisers.
A seven-day cruise on board the new Silver Moon starts from $7,500 per person (twin-share).