Singapore's hawker centres – the country's much-beloved meccas of street food – have always been the places to go if you want to explore local cuisine and its myriad influences from Southeast Asia. But the pickings were considerably slimmer when it came to finer, more innovative expressions of the region's complex cuisines, which include flavours from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, amongst others.
Happily, a sea change is underway. A new generation of young chefs, many of whom honed their skills in the world's top restaurants, are now focusing on the rich flavour traditions they grew up with, making it an excellent time for rediscovery and innovation – as well as great eating. So, here are our recommendations for some of the best new expressions of Southeast Asia's delicious flavours in Singapore.
Set within the iconic Jinrikisha Station (a former rickshaw depot) in Neil Road, Born is an airy Michelin-starred gem led by Zor Tan, the former right-hand man of celebrity chef Andre Chiang. Over several snacks and a nine-course tasting menu, Tan showcases his mastery of French technique as well as his personal food memories from growing up in Malaysia and then working in Singapore and abroad.
1 Neil Rd, #01-01, Singapore 088804
His dishes are as inventive as they are delicious – like a mala-marinated wagyu beef tartare in a bao resting on an oyster emulsion and topped with bresaola, inspired by Spain's DiverXO restaurant and Tan's mother's oyster cake.
Province is all about editing – it seats just eight diners, and each dish is limited to just five components. All the better to taste every ingredient's natural flavours and textures, according to young chef Law Jia Jun. After completing a stint with three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, Jun now makes seasonal tasting menus inspired by the rich diversity of contemporary Southeast Asian cuisines at his cosy restaurant in Joo Chiat Road.
153 Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427431
His food's sense of place is immediately evident. Much of the carefully curated menu is cooked over a charcoal fire, like his aged duck accented with sauerkraut and galangal jus, or his Spanish mackerel with mussels and wild Szechuan pepper oil. This traditional method imparts an irresistibly aromatic, smoky flavour locals know as wok hei or 'breath of fire'.
Opened by English-Malay chef Hafizzul Hashim, Fiz explores Southeast Asia's vast culinary heritage through a modern lens. Focusing on Malay gastronomy, Hafizzul's menus re-acquaint diners with forgotten native ingredients, recipes, and techniques – such as hand-pounding spices. The six-course Select menu features grilled Aylesbury duck glazed with five-spice powder, coconut sugar, and fingerroot – an earthy, herbaceous ginger named for its finger-like appearance.
21 Tg Pagar Rd, #01-01/02 Next to the Fairfield Methodist Church, Singapore 088444
This is all served communally in a gulai merah, a rich stew commonly found in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand. It is accompanied by white and red rice and charcoal-grilled chayote shoots tossed with fermented black garlic and roasted coconut. Delicious.
Set within the leafy environs of Singapore Botanic Gardens' Gallop Extension, Pangium is chef Malcolm Lee's elegant, pared-back ode to Straits cuisine, with a particular focus on the food of the Peranakans (locals with mixed Chinese and Malay or Indonesian heritage). Dining here is enjoyable and educational, with every meticulously prepared dish offering a glimpse into Lee's ongoing research into lesser-known traditional herbs and recipes.
11 Gallop Rd Gallop Entrance, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore 259015
A must-try is the signature nasi ulam – an impressively lavish platter of wild herb-studded rice encircled by tempting sides like duck satay wrapped in caul fat, pickled tropical fruit, and fermented durian sambal topped with fried fish.
Named after the Malay word for lotus, the much-buzzed-about Seroja celebrates the flavours of the Malay Archipelago by using the spices and herbs native to Southeast Asia. Swiftly after opening, it was awarded its first Michelin star (and Singapore's first Michelin Green star to boot).
7 Fraser St, #01-30/31/32/33 Duo Galleria, Singapore 189356
Its philosophy is best illustrated in dishes like the signature scallop, which is accompanied by several piquant sauces, including a Chinese-style purée, a South Indian gunpowder spice-infused sauce, and a sour-salty condiment blended from fish sauce and tamarind. Line-caught silver pomfret fish, betel leaf noodles, and the fluffiest, freshly-baked roti paung (butter bun clusters popular in Terengganu) are further delicious reminders of the region's distinctive flavours.
Path is a smart, minimally styled restaurant in Singapore's sleek Marina Bay Financial Centre, helmed by Marvas Ng, who's cooked his way across Hong Kong and mainland China. Here, Ng presents what he calls a 'progressive take on the rich, meandering terrains of Modern Asian cuisine', creating ultra-refined bites that creatively – and sensitively – pair the flavours of East and West.
12 Marina Boulevard, Tower 3, #01-05/06 Marina Bay Financial Centre, Singapore 018982
Whether it's the USDA Short Rib with Chinese preserved mustard greens; Spanish Ibérico pork jowl with coffee glaze, zucchini, and rose apple (an elevated take on a local favourite); or a Bird's Nest dessert with soy, pandan and amaretto, a meal at Path promises both novelty and familiarity – wherever its diners come from.
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