Singapore, August 8, 2012
Celebrate National Day with these 11 new culinary treasures of Singapore, and much more at food establishments whipping up local flavours with international influences.
Bak Chor Mee Pasta
The Wok & Barrel
13 Duxton Hill
Tel: 6220 0595
It totally makes sense, to toss in pasta with bak chor ($19.90) – which is what The Wok & Barrel devised for its homemade tagliatelle.
Instead of straightforward minced meat, however, it has made a confit of the pork and seasoned it with five spice, besides adding in the chilli and vinegar for that mix of savoury, spicy and sour.
Besides that, the restaurant also does a beef rendang pizza ($13.90) and Sweetened Bak Kwa Ribs ($32).
How’s that for blending in favoured local tastes with Western standards?
Chilli crab toastoo
#01-04/06 Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Road
Tel: 6732 9808
Think of it as a French-Singaporean lovechild. The Chilli Crab Toastoo ($16) at three Michelin-star chef Bruno Menard’s first local venture &Made marries a creamy chowder-like paste of chilli crab with the buckwheat crepe typical of Brittany in France.
The earthy flavour of the toasted buckwheat encasement counters the spiciness of the filling inside perfectly.
Chef Menard, who is a big fan of chilli crab, says the idea to do a take on the local favourite took several months to bring to life, as recreating the flavours was a challenge.
“I believe we are quite close but there is always room for improvement,” he concedes.
Hae bee hiam cookies
Don’t belittle these deep orange nuggets (above), they pack unexpected explosions of spicy flavour in every mouthful.
Instead of filling mini-spring rolls with spicy dried shrimp sambal as traditional recipes decree, Margaret Ong of online bakery Margaret’s Cookies decided to mix in the hae bee hiam into her Western cookie dough for Chinese New Year three years ago, and it’s become one of her bestsellers ever since.
“Most of the cookies offered were on the sweet side so I thought what if I were to offer spicy cookies on my menu.
I use a lot of hae bee hiam in my cooking from fried rice to sandwiches and vegetables so why not on a cookie,” she says.
At $24 a tub, it’s a tad expensive, but it’s a surefire conversation piece at every Chinese New Year gathering.
22 Lim Tua Tow Road
Tel: 6283 7680
Some call it heaven in a bottle, others think it’s pink and stinky, but that didn’t stop Sophia Leong from working chinchalok into the menu at her month-old fries and ice-cream eatery, The Factory.
Essentially fermented shrimp paste, the chinchalok flavour combines surprisingly well with tomatoes, onion, red chilli and lime to result in a tear-wrenching red paste. ($7.50 for 4oz of fries with one dip or $11.50 for 7oz and two dips. Or $2.50 for a 2.5oz bottle of dip sold separately).
“I wanted a fun way to remind ourselves of what being Singaporean is about.
With globalisation, we are exposed to ‘Western influences’, so what I’m trying to do through these dips is to create something that will marry these influences with reminders of our Singapore roots,” says Leong.
Besides other local flavours like chilli crab and an ultra-fragrant laksa pesto, she’s also got controversial flavours like honey marmite aioli (tastes far better than it sounds) and is currently working on a pi pa gao milkshake.
Kalamansi meringue tart
Bay Level L1-03, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 6688 7227
There’s nothing like a mug of iced calamansi juice to beat our tropical heat and the week-old Marina Bay Sands chocolaterie-cum-bistro Au Chocolat has cleverly worked this zesty little local favourite into their meringue tart ($7).
The lime puree’s deep yolk-yellow colour is not only pretty to behold as it oozes out from under the flambeed meringue crust, but its sharp, tangy flavour helps to cut through the sugary topping and buttery tart crust too.
Expect more familiar flavours like chilli and ice-kacang worked into the rest of their chocolate and dessert offerings soon, on top of existing innovations like kaya pralines and a black sesame hot chocolate spoon.
#01-12 The Quayside, 60 Robertson Quay
Tel: 6735 7738
If it sounds gross to you, don’t worry, it’s not what you think.
Bartender Din Hassan at hole-in-the-wall Spanish tapas bar Dada won’t be tipping spoons of kaya into your drink; his idea (gotten, of course, over a kaya toast breakfast one day) is to put together a concoction that just tastes like the much beloved coconut egg jam, without any kaya added.
The result – a combination of dark rum, tea, lemon, honey and egg whites ($19) – is served with a slice of kaya-covered toasted baguette on the side so you have a yardstick to judge how close he comes to the mark.
It’s a fairly mild potion that isn’t quite as sweet or eggy as the jam variant but scores completely on colour: a murky green shade that’s thankfully not too visible when served in a metal tin.
Cheong fun roulade
Beets Modern Vegetarian Restaurant
22 Dempsey Road
Tel: 6475 6869
The humble chee cheong fun gets a gourmet makeover at Beets.
The fourmonth-old modern vegetarian eatery tarts its version up with minced vegetables, a very tasty shiitake mushroom sauce and a drizzle of fragrant truffle oil ($19) – and a quirky name that’s hard to miss.
To stay true to its Eastern roots, the familiar silken flour sheets were retained and, of course, “the essential chilli oil that adds an unmistakable kick to the dish,” adds Tania Lim, food and beverage director of parent company Starworth.
Milo Dino and Horlicks cookies
412 Joo Chiat Road
Tel: 6345 9677
While the origins of Milo actually traces back to Australia (sorry guys, let it go already), the Milo dinosaur – a cup of the chocolate malt drink topped with an undissolved spoonful of the Milo powder – is an indisputably local invention.
Likewise the Milo Dino and Horlicious ($16 each), recently conceived cookie takes on the malt drinks by local baker Olivia Lim.
The idea came about when Ms Lim, who spent much of her youth hanging out at 24-hour coffeeshops, knocking back cups of Milo Dinosaurs, was struck by pangs of nostalgia as National Day approached.
She says: “Many of my regular customers would tell me about how the cookies brought back memories of the time when they were young and ate Milo powder straight out of the tin or drinking the Milo Dinosaur.”
Laksa Clam Chowder
The Scarlet, 33 Erskine Road
Tel: 6511 3323
This hotel’s eatery was revamped late last year, to carry a medley of Singaporean flavours married with Western dishes.
There are some obvious choices like chicken curry on pizza but one of the more innovative dishes is Laksa Clam Chowder ($14).
The chowder is creamy, with the requisite clam bits, but laksa paste tempers the creaminess a tad.
This is essentially still clam chowder though, with truffle oil, and just a bit spiced up, with the herbs cutting back the richness of the cream.
It could do with some laksa leaves for a stronger Singapore laksa flavour. Putting the soup in a bread bowl (very chewy, country bread style) means this is a hearty dish which is a meal in itself especially as you start ripping into the bowl.
Ahi Kueh Pie Tee
331 North Bridge Rd #03-07, Odeon Towers Extension Rooftop
Tel: 6338 8035
The name is already a cheeky reference to local pronunciations, and now its re-opened bar (in May) sports an even more colloquial Singapore menu.
The Ahi Kueh Pie Tee ($16 for four pieces) is a culinary stroke of genius – with raw tuna bits mixed with jicama and pine nuts for a refreshing salad in the fried dough shells.
We also like the crispy, moist chicken wings dipped in sambal (like the type used in nasi lemak), which goes so well with yummy drinks like Singapore sour ($17, vodka with a whole blended calamansi and “sng boey” or sour plum) and Bandung bloom ($17, vodka with a dash of rose syrup, lime juice and sparkling wine).
Hae Bee Hiam Panini
Violet Oon’s Kitchen
881 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6468 5430
Spicy and salty, and robustly flavoured – as can be expected from dried shrimp – Violet Oon’s Hae Bee Hiam Panini packs a punch.
The dried prawns are ground up and fried, and tossed with sambal chilli for that mouthful of flavour, and slathered with Monterey Jack cheese after it’s placed on chewy panini bread.
The house-made Italian style sweet onion relish is what gives this dish a necessary sweet balance.
The well-known chef returned to the restaurant business because of her two children, sayin: “So many people were still mentioning my food to my son, that he wanted to make use of the family ‘brand name’.”
Violet Oon’s Kitchen carries her Peranakan nature – with Peranakan dishes, as well as Western dishes with a localised twist.
Click on the thumbnails below to see pictures of all the 11 new national treasures: