Singapore’s food culture is a delectable tapestry of multiculturalism. It was first epitomized in our hawker fare and traditional dishes, but this vibrant food culture is constantly evolving, thanks in no small part to Mod-Sin Cuisine.
Originally coined in 2005, “Mod-Sin” stands for “modern Singaporean cuisine”, and centres on transforming local dishes in delightfully surprising ways.
From heartland hawker stores to Michelin-awarded restaurants, this guide will take you on a journey to experience the best of both worlds. We suggest tantalizing your taste-buds with the original dishes, before expanding your culinary horizons with the modern versions.
AYAM BUAH KELUAK
A mainstay of Nonya* food culture, ayam buah keluak (braised chicken in a spicy tamarind gravy) was brought to Singapore by Peranakans from Java and Sumatra.
The buah keluak (black nut indigenous to Southeast Asia) is what gives this dish its colour. A lot of preparation is needed to make this dish—the black nuts have to be boiled, fermented and soaked in water over several days to make it edible.
For a Western twist on this traditional dish, make Baba Chews your next pitstop. Peranakan food is famous for its rich, complex flavours—drawing from a mix of Chinese, Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine—and the menu here adds Western influences to this heady mix.
Their ayam buah keluak is served as a burger, combining a grilled chicken patty, pureed buah keluak and achar (Asian pickles).
*Nonya cuisine is also known as Peranakan (meaning "local born") cuisine. The cuisine comes from people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
Guan Hoe Soon. 38/40 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427764. +65 6344 2761.
Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, 6-9.30pm; Sat & Sun 11am-3pm, 5.30-9.30pm.
Baba Chews at Katong Square. 86 East Coast Road, Singapore 428788. +65 6723 2025.
Mon-Thu & Sun 6.30am-11pm; Fri & Sat 6.30am-midnight.
HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE
One of Singapore’s most famous dishes, chicken rice’s simple ingredients belie its delicious flavours. This local favourite comprises fragrant rice, piquant chilli and ginger paste served with strips of poached or roasted chicken.
We recommend Tian Tian Chicken Rice hawker stall at Maxwell Food Centre for its aromatic rice and tender chicken.
After this taste of tradition, visit Michelin-starred Labyrinth for Chef-owner Han Li Guan’s traditional dishes infused with whimsical, modern twists.
The chef’s “Ang Moh” (“Caucasian” in Chinese dialect) Chicken Rice is made with locally-sourced mushrooms and poultry in a roux sauce, and served in a claypot. It was created by his grandmother to suit the palates of her British employers, whom she served as a cook.
For other variations on local classics, be sure to the sample the Labyrinth Rojak— 10 edible garden herbs, flowers and sprouts, and stingless bee honey take the place of this traditional fruit salad’s regular ingredients like dough fritters and bean sprouts.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre. 1 Kadayanallur Street #01-10/11, Singapore 069184. +65 9691 4852.
Labyrinth at Esplanade Mall. 8 Raffles Avenue #02-23, Singapore 039802. +65 6223 4098.
Tue-Fri noon-2.30pm, 6.30-11pm; Sat & Sun 6.30-11pm.
Originally brought to Singapore by migrants of Cantonese descent, Wanton Mee consists of egg noodles served with slices of char siew (barbecued pork) and bite-sized wanton (dumplings).
Many variations of this hawker dish can be found across the island, but Old Airport Road Food Centre is home to two of the most famous stalls—Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wanton Mee and Cho Kee Noodle.
Japanese ramen replaces egg noodles in this rendition, and each bowl comes with an assortment of savoury goodies, including tender roast meat, deep-fried potato-wrapped prawns and wanton dumplings.
Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wan Ton Mee at Old Airport Road Food Centre. 51 Old Airport Road #01-02, Singapore 390051. +65 9620 1543.
Mon, Wed-Sun 8am-10pm.
Cho Kee Noodle at Old Airport Road Food Centre. 51 Old Airport Road #01-04, Singapore 390051. +65 9455 0963.
Mon-Fri 11am-11pm; Sat & Sun 10am-10pm.
A Noodle Story at Amoy Street Food Centre. 7 Maxwell Road #01-39, Singapore 069111. +65 9027 6289.
Mon-Fri 11.30am-2pm, 5.30-7pm; Sat 10.30am-1.30pm.
The perfect comfort food for a rainy day, laksa (spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup) is also the subject of lively debate in Singapore.
Different takes on this traditional comfort food can be found across the island, and most Singaporeans have an opinion on which stall sells the superior dish. For first-time foodies, we recommend 328 Katong Laksa, a long-time contender for the crown.
A modern take on this beloved staple can be found at CreatureS, a restaurant that’s won a trove of awards for its culinary excellence. Traditional Peranakan laksa is often served with ingredients like prawns and fishcakes, but this establishment’s variation enhances its dish with quail eggs and slices of cucumber.
Other imaginative interpretations include You “Orh-Bee Good”—a dessert that combines coconut pudding with pulut hitam (black glutinous rice porridge)—and the restaurant’s version of kueh pie tee (pastry filled with sliced vegetables and prawn), which is served with cuttlefish.
328 Katong Laksa. 51 East Coast Road, Singapore 428770. +65 9732 8163.
CreatureS. 120 Desker Road, Singapore 209639. +65 6291 6996.
Tue-Thu 5-10pm; Fri-Sun noon-10.30pm.