Singapore is known as a foodie's city, where people are enthusiastic about all things gastronomic, be it street eats or fine dining. As a global metropolis, our city’s passionate chefs draw on culinary influences and inspiration from all across the region and the globe, making every meal in Singapore a unique feast.
Here are some passionate ‘hawkerpreneurs’ and world class chefs who’ve helped to curate and innovate Singapore’s culinary landscape.
Chan Hon Meng
Hawker fare is a staple in the average Singaporean’s diet, and locals might argue that hawker food makes for some of the best grub across the globe—especially when it’s Michelin-starred to boot.
Take for instance Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle at Chinatown Food Complex—the world's first hawker stall to be awarded a Michelin star, and perhaps the most affordable dining option in the MICHELIN guide.
The establishment is helmed by chef-owner Chan Hon Meng, who started his hawker stall because he wanted a change from the more common Hainanese-style chicken rice, where the chicken is typically poached and chilled.
Instead, Chan first cooks the chicken in the Cantonese style of siu mei, where meats are typically roasted in a wood-burning rotisserie oven. He has since perfected his craft for over 30 years—it's no wonder that his dishes have always been a favourite with locals, boasting hour-long queues during peak hours even before the stall received the coveted Michelin nod.
Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre. 78 Smith Street #02-126, Singapore 058972.
Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham
Take a page from locals and join the queues at Amoy Street Food Centre’s A Noodle Story, where Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham are revamping hawker fare with their combination of Singapore-style wanton mee (Cantonese noodle dish) and Japanese ramen.
This pair of first-time hawkers— or ‘hawkerpreneurs’— have set their sights on entering the market with innovative renditions of Asian favourites, such as elegantly plated Hong Kong noodles paired with the chefs’ special lemongrass and garlic sauce.
The two up-and-comers are constantly reinventing their menu with new culinary experiments, and have made the Michelin Bib Gourmand list since 2016.
Amoy Street Food Centre. 7 Maxwell Road #01-39, Singapore 069111.
Singapore’s favourite confectionery maestro, Janice Wong, has been pushing the limits of dessert-making since she first exploded on the scene in 2007 with 2am:dessertbar, best known for its exquisite and supremely photogenic sweet treats.
Wong honed her chops under prestigious tutelage, counting Spanish chocolatier Oriol Balaguer and prodigious French pastry chef Pierre Hermé among her mentors. Named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef by Restaurant Magazine and Pastry Chef of the Year at the World Gourmet Summit Awards, the dessert queen has since made waves on an international stage.
The talented chef is known for her signature confluence of food and art. For instance, her passion for culinary art manifests in her various candied creations. At the Singapore: Inside Out showcase, her 1,000 Crosses exhibition allowed visitors to taste the chocolate lollipops hanging from the ceiling, in flavours such as chilli padi (bird’s eye chilli), kaya (a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs) and barbecued pork.
Wong is always changing things up—her freshly launched flagship restaurant, Janice Wong Singapore at the National Museum of Singapore, is proof. There, she ventures out of dessert territory, serving up a savoury modern Chinese menu with artistic influences. Her creations include vivid duo-toned dim sum (bite-sized portions of food served in steamer baskets or small plates), xiao long bao (mini soup dumplings) with unconventional truffle cheese chicken fillings, and ratatouille siew mai (pork dumplings).
National Museum Singapore. 93 Stamford Road #01-06, Singapore 178897. +65 9712 5338.
2am:dessertbar. 21A Lorong Liput, Singapore 277733. +65 6291 9727.
One of Singapore’s pioneer celebrity chefs, Justin Quek is famed for his signature Franco-Asian cuisine—an amalgamation of his Chinese heritage, deep insights on Asian food culture and years of extensive French culinary training.
Over the course of his illustrious career spanning three decades, Quek has served politicians and dignitaries such as late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
If you’re in the mood to splurge, reserve a table at Chinoiserie, a luxurious fine dining establishment with plush interiors and an intimate ambience. Here Quek interprets modern Asian gastronomy with a bold unorthodox approach. For instance, wild French challans ducks are fried in a wok—a typical Chinese-style method—to medium rare and served with black truffle and foie gras.
Over at JustIN Flavours of Asia, things are kept more casual. Swing by the all-day eatery to savour elevated Singaporean comfort food such as wok-fried lobster Hokkien mee (fried prawn noodles) and lamb leg satay (grilled meat skewers).
Chinoiserie at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. 2 Bayfront Avenue B1-15, Singapore 018972. +65 6688 7782.
JustIN Flavours of Asia at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. 2 Bayfront Avenue L1-83, Singapore 018972. +65 6688 7722.
Malcolm Lee, head chef and owner of Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant Candlenut, found his calling at a young age in his mother’s kitchen, watching her cook up Nonya food and learning along the way. He has since brought the flavours and techniques of Peranakan cooking to new heights with his modern Peranakan cuisine at Candlenut.
Though Malcolm dabbles in fresh flavours and imaginative menu picks—think gula melaka (palm sugar) king prawns—Candlenut still promises a dining experience reminiscent of hearty, home-cooked meals at grandma’s house. His rempah (spice pastes essential to Peranakan dishes) are made from scratch, and one particularly eye-catching selection on the menu is "Mum’s Curry", a red chicken curry dish gleaned from his mother’s recipes.
Como Dempsey. Block 17A Dempsey Road, Singapore 249676. +65 1800 304 2288.
A champion of Eurasian food in Singapore, Quentin Pereira opened his eponymous restaurant Quentin’s more than ten years ago. Today, he’s still one of the few serving traditional Eurasian dishes like curry debal (a fiery curry served with either chicken or oxtail) and feng (a mild curry made with diced pork, liver and heart). When he’s not in the kitchen, he’s busy educating those curious about Eurasian food and culture about the cuisine by holding cooking demonstrations at Shermay’s and the Eurasian Community house.
Eurasian Community House. 139 Ceylon Road Level 1, Singapore 429744. +65 6348 0327.
Wasabi prawns is an original creation that took Sam Leong all of ten minutes to whip up, and skyrocketed him to fame decades ago. Judging by how the dish has since become a menu mainstay in most local zi char (traditional dishes influenced by home-cooked Chinese food) restaurants today, Sam Leong is undoubtedly a trailblazer in modern Chinese cuisine and a household name in Singapore.
Over the span of his stellar career, Leong has worn many hats including cookbook author, judge and chef-mentor in cooking competitions as well as host of his own reality TV series.
In addition to representing Singapore at many prestigious culinary events, he has cooked for famous figures such as former US presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, and Queen Elizabeth II of England.
Sam Leong now helms the kitchen at one-Michelin starred Forest, a rainforest-themed restaurant showcasing his brand of refined contemporary Chinese cuisine. Case in point: A signature Wagyu striploin grilled over lychee wood charcoal and topped with succulent seared foie gras in black pepper sauce.
Equarius Hotel. 16 Sentosa Gateway #01-521 & 522, Singapore 098133. +65 6577 7788.
In 2009, Shen Tan traded her business suit—she was formerly a director at Forbes—for a hawker’s apron at Maxwell Food Centre. She quickly earned her stripes with her first stall—the award-winning Madam Tan’s Nasi Lemak— and kick-started an illustrious culinary career.
The self-taught chef has since forged on with Ownself Make Chef, where she hosts private home dining and cooking classes to share her Mod-Sin innovations such as bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) pasta and shendol (a wordplay on chendol, an iced dessert).
Tan is also the Culinary Director at Gastrogig, a bespoke hospitality and creative food project curation company, which brings together renowned international chefs and sommeliers to create one-of-a-kind gastronomic events. Foodies will enjoy culinary adventures such as Aporkalypse Suppers, a full course experience featuring pork recipes inspired by Tan’s travels.
Gastrogig. +65 6906 7547.
If you love Peranakan* cuisine, you’ve probably heard of Violet Oon and her legendary culinary prowess. Previously a food critic and cookbook writer, the homegrown chef is driven by a passion for sharing good food, and has carved a niche for herself by reimagining and elevating the ways in which we make and eat Peranakan food.
The cooking doyenne presents her specialty cuisine with an artisanal touch at National Kitchen by Violet Oon, located within the National Gallery Singapore. Savour Peranakan recipes with a twist, or tuck into authentic local eats: try the reinvented dry laksa minus its signature broth, or go for the classic buah kelak ayam, an aromatic spicy chicken stew infused with fresh root spices and black nuts indigenous to Southeast Asia. Round your meal off with the popular Peranakan-style canapé, crispy kueh pie tee (deep-fried pastry cups filled with shredded turnip).
*The term is an Indonesian/Malay word that means “local born”, which generally refers to people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
National Gallery. 1 St Andrew’s Road #02–01, Singapore 178957. +65 9834 9935
Chef Willin Low is a true trailblazer when it comes to Mod-Sin cuisine—after all, the lawyer-turned-restauranteur did coin the phrase. The seeds of Mod-Sin were first planted for Low during his time studying in the UK, when he missed food from home and would mix and match ingredients to recreate his favourite dishes.
His culinary style riffs off traditional Singapore tastes to create reimagined dishes for the modern Singaporean, such as spanner crab and Vietnamese coriander ravioli in laksa (spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup). Low currently helms Relish, all all-day burger and pasta restaurant.
relish @ cluny court. 501 bukit timah road, #02-01 cluny court, Singapore 259760. +65 6763 1547.