There has never been a culinary concept like Fura in Singapore before. Amid the bustle of Amoy Street, an unassuming flight of stairs takes you up to the new gastrobar, where a chic space awaits with an admirable and ambitious goal. Founded by chef Christina Rasmussen and mixologist Sasha Wijidessa, the same couple behind last year’s pop-up plant-based bar Mallow, Fura aims to change the way we dine.
The idea of collaborative survival—alluding to the interdependent relationship we share with nature and other species in order for all to flourish— sits at the centre of the bar’s concept. “In an ecosystem, all species rely on one other to thrive. I think human beings have done quite the opposite of that,” Wijidessa explains. “Fura is our attempt at finding that balance and reciprocal relationship with nature.”
At Fura, sustainability is understood with great nuance and approached in manifold ways, evident in everything from the bar’s menu to its interiors. What appears to look like travertine coasters are actually made from upcycled oyster shells, while stools are crafted from recycled compressed wood by sustainable material company Panelogue. The bar’s menu, for the most part, is plant-forward, with great consideration given to where produce is sourced from. Keeping carbon emissions in mind, Fura obtains its produce locally whenever possible, even if it means the ingredients might not naturally taste as good as those that are imported.
This is where Rasmussen and Wijidessa’s skill and innovation shine.
Local tomatoes may not compare to Italy’s San Marzano tomatoes in terms of flavour, but you’ll never be able to tell after Rasmussen prepares it. Lacto-fermenting the tomatoes with monosodium glutamate, she creates a memorably scrumptious romesco pasta sauce. Working with local distributor Fresh Veggies, the bar also makes regular orders of fruits and vegetables that look imperfect or are about to go to waste, which Wijidessa ferments to create unique wines and kombucha.
The gastrobar’s biggest and boldest step towards sustainability, however, lies in its incorporation of ingredients from animal species that are considered abundant or in excess. At this point in time, that means components like insect protein and jellyfish, prepared and presented in ways that make them more approachable for the average diner to try.
Take locusts, for instance, which are considered pests due to the devastating damage they cause to farming communities and ecosystems. At Fura, they are fermented to create an umami-rich garum, then layered with sugared pumpkin and pickled beets. Mealworms, which are available in abundance and are actually the larvae of darkling beetles, are stir-fried, then infused with a chilli spirit and mixed with orange liqueur and lime to create a smoky riff on a margarita.
“Fura is an attempt at finding balance and a reciprocal relationship with nature”
“Especially in Asia, the way we eat and drink is generational and tied to tradition. My mum, for example, is Teochew Chinese. To her, a meal is one meat dish, one vegetable dish, one soup and rice. When I ask her why she eats like that, she says it’s because my grandmother eats like that. And my grandmother eats like that because her mother did so too,” Wijidessa muses. “But the resources we have today are different from what we had 50 years ago. We want to create new ways of eating and drinking that make sense for now and for the future.”
Rasmussen adds: “We want to show people that they can include sustainability in their lifestyle without sacrificing anything. If everyone can make a small change, that’s much more impactful than, say, a tiny percentage of the population going vegan, which is not realistic for everyone to do.”
The creativity at play in the menu is unsurprising given the pair’s impressive portfolios. Rasmussen, who was previously the head forager at three-Michelin-starred Noma and then the general manager of plant-based conscious dining group Ark Collection, brings to the table an adept understanding of how to best utilise each ingredient to its full potential.
Wijidessa’s cocktails, meanwhile, are a testament to her mastery of flavour, a skill she had honed at the renowned Operation Dagger where she was head bartender, before she moved to Copenhagen to join the research and development team of Danish distillery Empirical. It was in Copenhagen that she met Rasmussen, and Wijidessa’s current role as Asia-Pacific commercial director of Empirical brought them both to Singapore.
“At Fura, locusts are fermented to create an umami-rich garum, then layered with sugared pumpkin and pickled beets”
Now standing at the start of a new venture together, the pair’s advocacy for sustainability is driven by their deep connection to nature and their understanding of the relationship between food and life. “As a forager, I was visiting the same beaches and forests, day after day, season after season. I knew those places like the back of my hand; they felt like a second home,” Rasmussen shares.
“There’s a beautiful forest just north of Copenhagen that I used to visit almost daily for five years. With incredibly tall trees and the sun peeking through the canopy, it looked like something out of a fairy tale. When I returned a few years later, all the trees had been chopped down. The grass, ferns and ant hills were destroyed—all to make way for more mountain biking paths. When you have a personal connection to nature, it is especially heart-breaking to see the changes brought about by climate change or human impact. The harm we’re doing to our environment is no longer distant. It has become personal.”
Photography Sayher Heffernan
Hair and make-up Sha Shamsi
Wardrobe In Good Company
The October anniversary ‘Voices’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store from 10 October 2023.