Photo: Upscale Nasi Lemak dish

Singapore is home to a melting pot of cultures. One can expect Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, European, Korean, Mexican, Greek, Peranakan, and Japanese cuisines available at Singapore1. These vast varieties form the widely diverse culinary scene in this country, making Singapore one of Asia’s biggest culinary capitals. The highlight of a Singaporean cuisine is its local street food, which is inexpensive and can be found at any hawker centers2 located throughout the island.

Hawker centers are open-air food complexes that offer a wide variety of local Singaporean foods. These centers are a must-visit to taste authentic Singaporean dishes3. Quality local favorites are sold at affordable prices from S$2.50 to S$6.00 (US$1.80 to US$4.30), including chicken rice, fried kway teowHokkien meebak kut teh and satay4.

Restaurateurs elevate these local dishes to fine-dining levels for their diners5,6. These humble local dishes are reinvented through new cooking techniques, fusion of flavors and innovative plating, while retaining the local flavors that diners would find familiar. This is known as modern Singaporean cuisine (Mod-Sin), a term coined by local chef Willin Low, who runs Wild Rocket6.

Hainanese chicken rice
One of Singapore’s iconic national dishes, Hainanese chicken rice is a dish adapted from early Chinese immigrants from the Hainan Island. Blanched, roasted or soya sauce-braised chicken comes with fragrant rice which is cooked in chicken stock, ginger, and pandan leaves. It is served with a spicy chili and ginger paste7.

Chatterbox, a high-end restaurant located at the 5-star hotel at Mandarin Orchard, offers a posh ambience for traditional local fares. It has been serving its legendary Mandarin chicken rice dish since 1971. At a whopping S$32 (US$23), it comes with a plate of chicken, a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup and three condiments of chili sauce, ginger paste and dark soy sauce. Its premium price is justified by its sophisticated setting in a prominent hotel, outstanding service and generous serving8.

Nasi lemak
Nasi lemak gets its name from the savory, creamy and aromatic rice that is infused with coconut milk and pandanleaves. It is usually served with deep-fried fish or chicken wings, otah (grilled fish paste), fried ikan bilis (anchovies), along with roasted peanuts, fried eggs, cucumber slices, and sambal (spicy chilli paste). While this is the standard serving by the Malays in Singapore, the Chinese came up with their renditions. Theirs would include other items such as deep fried drumsticks, curried vegetables, and luncheon meat9.

Route 12 is a roadside coffee shop concept along Sam Leong Road. This concept is inspired by its owner Faz’s bike trips around Malaysia and Thailand. Its nasi lemak sotong kingis a huge serving of the nasi lemak dish, served with additional chicken wings and fish, along with a giant deep fried squid. This dish is recommended to share among three to four diners10. Priced at S$18 (US$13), it is significantly more expensive than the traditional version10.

1 City Nomads (2014). SINGAPORE’S CUISINE: THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF SINGAPOREAN FOOD [Online] Available at:https://www.citynomads.com/singapores-cuisine-the-past-present-and-future/
2 YourSingapore (2016). Sniffing out local food in Singapore [Online] Available at:http://www.yoursingapore.com/editorials/the-street-food-of-singapore.html
TheSmartLocal (2015). 9 Best Hawker Centres in Singapore And Their Star Dishes Every Human Must Try [Online] Available at: http://thesmartlocal.com/read/best-hawker-centres
4 TheBestSingapore (2016). The 5 Best Hawker Centres in Singapore [Online] Available at: http://www.thebestsingapore.com/eat-and-drink/the-best-5-hawker-centres-in-singapore/
5 Weekender Singapore (2017). Great local food or too atas? [Online] Available at: https://weekender.com.sg/w/dining/local/great-local-food-or-too-atas/
6 YourSingapore (2016). Modern twist to local dining [Online] Available at: http://www.yoursingapore.com/editorials/modern-twist-to-local-dining.html
7 YourSingapore (2017). Chicken Rice [Online] Available at: http://www.yoursingapore.com/dining-drinks-singapore/local-dishes/hainanese-chicken-rice.html
8 The Best Singapore (2016). Chatterbox [Online] Available at: http://www.thebestsingapore.com/best-place/chatterbox/
9 YourSingapore (2017). Nasi Lemak [Online] Available at: http://www.yoursingapore.com/dining-drinks-singapore/local-dishes/nasi-lemak.html
10 SethLui.com (2017). ROUTE 12: Biker Coffeeshop Serving The Mother Of All Nasi Lemaks in Singapore [Online] Available at: http://sethlui.com/route-12-nasi-lemak-singapore/