SINGAPORE: There’s a buzz in the air as restaurants in Singapore gear up for the much-anticipated meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, dishing up Korean “fire meat” burgers with a side of kimchi mayo and American cheese.
On social media local fast-food restaurant Wolf Burgers has urged the two leaders to #SettleTheBeef.
A personal invitation has also been sent to Trump and Kim inviting them to taste “The Burger for World Peace,” the restaurant’s blend of US and Korean flavors using bulgogi (Korean grilled beef, meaning literally fire meat), kimchi mayo and US sharp cheddar.
“I don’t know if they actually saw it, or if they will acknowledge it, but it would be really, really awesome if they did,” said Sarah Lin, the 32-year-old head chef and co-owner of Wolf Burgers, who came up with the idea.
The limited edition burger has stirred a lot of interest among Wolf’s customers, she said, adding: “It has definitely helped put Wolf Burgers out there, especially since we are a home-grown brand, so it has helped us on an international level.”
As more than 3,000 journalists from all over the world descend on the city-state of Singapore to cover the denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang, all eyes will be on the luxurious Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa. Here, for the first time in history, a sitting US president will meet a North Korean leader face-to-face.
“I think it’s fantastic that this ‘peace conference’ is happening here,” said James Cheah, a British diner at Wolf Burgers. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for Singapore to prove to the world that it’s a hub not just for finance and tech opportunities, but also on the political stage,” said Cheah.
“Do I think the talks are going to be successful? I think they are going to be as successful as the combination of bulgogi beef and American cheddar cheese. I think it’s going to be a terrible mess,” he said.
“Whatever happens, which I think will be very little, it will be a huge propaganda win for North Korea and my heart bleeds for the North Koreans.”
His friend Hugh McKee, an Irish engineer who has been living here for four years, admitted he was neither a Trump fan, nor was he familiar with North Korean politics.
“I don’t know what’s to come, but definitely, Singapore’s going to be a winner,” he said. He thinks the high-profile event will “put Singapore on the world map for future conferences.” Maybe Round Two of a Trump-Kim summit? Or perhaps the Canadians, Mexicans and Europeans will also be looking to meet Trump here, he said, tongue-in-cheek.
Wolf Burgers is not the only restaurant to be joining the summit frenzy. Over at Harmony Nasi Lemak restaurant, the crew spent a month researching, before coming up with their fusion dish. The Trump Kim-chi Nasi Lemak not only combines the flavors of American dry-aged beef with fried Korean kimchi, it also blends together the tastes of Singapore’s Indian, Chinese, Malay and Eurasian cultures.
Its Singaporean co-founder, Zach Wen, explained: “We wanted to make Trump feel welcome, and because he has been very protective of beef exports from the US, we decided to use American beef in our dish.”
To pay tribute to Singapore’s four main ethnic groups, the dish uses Indian basmati rice cooked in Chinese chicken soup, combined with traditional Malay homemade sambal chilli, topped with a European sunny-side-up egg, fried to a crisp.
“This forms the foundation of Singapore,” the 34-year-old said philosophically, “and as Singapore holds the summit, it holds together the beef symbolizing the US and the kimchi, symbolizing North Korea.”
But what happened when Trump canceled the Singapore summit?
“We continued to brainstorm, because it was not perfect. We didn’t give up,” he told Arab News.
As Trump has always been known to be a good dealmaker, Wen is hoping the US President will “close the deal.”
“In Southeast Asia, a lot of people think this is a joke, but it’s not a joke. Nuclear is a serious thing and the Koreans and Japanese feel it more than us.”
Asked if he would be watching the summit live on Tuesday morning, when Trump and Kim finally meet, he replied with a laugh: “I think I need some sleep.”