Michelin-starred chef Rishi Naleendra shares his kitchen essentials

Chef Rishi Naleendra is visiting Melbourne in March.
Chef Rishi Naleendra is visiting Melbourne in March. Photo: Supplied

Trained in Australia at Tetsuya's and Taxi Dining Room, Sri Lankan chef Rishi Naleendra is a culinary lion. His Cheek Bistro in Singapore is Michelin-starred, last year he launched fine-diner Cloudstreet, and next he'll open Kotuwa, serving food from his home.

Three things you'll find in my fridge

Yoghurt. It's one of my favourite things to eat, not just for breakfast but also after a meal. If I feel like having something sweet, yoghurt is my go-to. Natural Greek yoghurt is the best.

Good-quality green tea is Naleendra's preferred caffeine hit.
Good-quality green tea is Naleendra's preferred caffeine hit. Photo: James Brickwood

Lime. It's my favourite citrus. I love using limes on salads or anything I need acidity in.

Good eggs. In Singapore it's very hard to get fresh, good-quality eggs so we always buy organic eggs from New Zealand or Australia.

I like to drink… pinot noir. One of my favourite producers is Philippe Pacalet from Burgundy. Manuela (my wife) introduced me to his wines in Melbourne and when we opened our restaurant we had his wines on the list... so we got to try a lot!

Naleendra confesses he still likes eating Kraft Singles.
Naleendra confesses he still likes eating Kraft Singles. Photo: Joe Armao

I can't live without… good salt. It's so important to me when I cook. During my apprenticeship at Melbourne's Taxi Dining Room (now Taxi Kitchen) we used pink salt from the Murray River and I've always used it since then, even in my own kitchen.

Give me an egg and I'll… make a good omelette. Just add shallots, green chilli, julienned curry leaves and Sri Lankan black pepper. It reminds me of home.

My favourite hero ingredient


Kithul treacle, from a wild palm that grows in rainforests in Sri Lanka. The syrup is something I grew up with, adding it to fresh buffalo curd. I hadn't had it in years until a friend brought it over from Sri Lanka and reminded me how good it is. Since then I've been eating a lot of it with yoghurt.

My secret to a perfect steak

Really, really good-quality meat. Once you find that and you know where it is from and how it has been produced, 80 per cent of the job is done. I like grass-fed beef that's been finished off with grain to get the marbling. It creates the perfect balance of flavour and fat. We use Australian beef from Rangers Valley and Stockyard, which are both available in Singapore.

I'm sick of seeing… truffle fries on menus in restaurants. I just don't understand why people have the need to put synthetic truffle oil on fries. It stinks. I thought it would eventually go away, but I was wrong.

I take my caffeine… in green tea. I love a good-quality green tea, especially one that's slightly cloudy like fukamushi sencha. Once it's brewed it becomes cloudy due to the deep steam. It's rich in flavour and very well balanced.

I'm embarrassed for you to see but I'll show you… Cheese Singles. I still really enjoy eating them and I'll always have them in my fridge.

Go-to midnight meal

Lamprais, a dish introduced by the Sri Lankan Dutch population. It's a little rice packet that includes a curry of mixed meat, seeni sambol (Sri Lankan-style caramelised onions), sambal belacan, ash plantain, pickled eggplant, fish and son-in-law eggs. Everything is wrapped in a banana leaf and baked. Whenever I go to Sri Lanka, mum makes them for me to stock up my freezer back home. After a night out it always hits the spot.

Catch Rishi Naleendra at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, March 19-29, mfwf.com.au