New-generation mod-Sin collaborations showcase boundless creativity in celebrating Singapore's flavours
New-generation mod-Sin collaborations
Chef collaborations are commonplace these days. Some recent examples: Italian chef Umberto Bombana of Hong Kong's three-Michelin starred 8½ Otto e Mezzo was in town for a four-hands gig with chef Kirk Westaway of Jaan; and chef André Chiang whipped up degustation meals with Australian celebrity chef Dan Hunter from contemporary, seasonal dining restaurant Brae.
But combustible synergies are not just the domain of restaurant chefs. Younger hawkerpreneurs doing mod-Sin cuisine are getting into the act and serving up some seriously exciting nosh. Singapore-style ramen noodles hawker Noodle Story, for instance, did a supper series late last year with Mediterranean-centric restaurant Moosehead Kitchen & Bar. Dishes like poached wanton and mushroom dashi, and Inka roasted Spanish pork char siew were quickly slurped up and devoured. Corner Burger, a mod-Sin stall at Brunners coffeeshop in Katong, recently worked with Jago Cowboy Hokkien Noodles, another stall within the coffeeshop, to come up with Alaskan king crab noodle, an amped-up version of Hokkien mee. The burger stall has plans to do a collaboration soon with Firebake, a wood-fired bakehouse and restaurant across the road.
There's even more room for exciting dishes to be born when you bring together nine pairs of restaurant-hawker chefs to create new street food-inspired dishes. This was the scenario at the second edition of the Singapore Food Festival Open Stoves at Timbre+ recently. Many of them were mod-Sin chefs who thrive on giving a new spin to traditional Singapore flavours. We take a closer look at three collaborative duos and the gems they conjured up at Open Stoves.
Chef Chung Deming of Kush, and chef Melvin Chew of Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck and Kway Chap
Chef Chung helms Kush at Timbre+, a modSin inspired charcoal grill skewers and rice bowls concept. He is also the founder of The Quarters, a mod-Sin diner at Enggor Street, serving signature dishes such as salted egg fries and satay burgers. Chef Chew on the other hand took over his family’s braised duck stall in Chinatown Complex in 2014. He came up with a duck rice bento box featuring braised duck, offal, kway chap and onsen eggs.
THE DISH Crispy skin braised duck burger
Here, crispy-skinned braised duck is topped with Peranakan achar and nestled between two handmade Japanese and Hokkien-inspired rice patties glazed with fiery sambal. It is a combination of chef Chew’s family recipe for the braised duck and sambal, and chef Chung’s achar and rice patty recipes from The Quarters.
WHAT IS MOD-SIN TO YOU?
Says chef Chung, “Mod-Sin is about being big on flavour, true to our cultural influences with a modern touch, and bloody delicious!" He follows the principle of "keeping it handmade, seeking Singapore inspiration and ingredients” in developing his cuisine.
For chef Chew, it is about adding touches to traditional cuisine to create interest among the new generation. He says, “We hope that going a bit Japanese [with the bento concept] will bring in more youngsters, to let them remember this ‘uncle and auntie food’, braised duck and kway chap. It will be a forgotten food if we don't do something to bring in new blood.”
Chef Chung is working on a charcoal-seared foie gras on homemade kaya, scrambled egg on toast with smoked salt. He will also be presenting dishes like chargrilled buah keluak chicken in his omakasecommunal style dining option, The Quarters Experience. Meanwhile, chef Chew plans to do a kway chap yakitori and a donburi duck rice.
#01-36, Timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent. Tel: 6834 4174
#01-09, 16 Enggor Street. Tel: 6834 4174
Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck
#02-156 Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Block 335, Smith Street. Tel: 9018 9052
Chef Wing Lam of The World is Flat by Tanuki Raw, and chef Gwern Khoo of A Noodle Story
The Hong Kong-born and California-raised Chef Wing Lam helms the kitchen at the World is Flat by Tanuki Raw, a pizza and sandwich joint at Timbre+. A Noodle Story at Amoy Street Food Centre was started by chef Gwern Khoo and partner Ben Tham, and serves Singapore-style ramen, their version of wanton mee made up of sous vide char siew, thin egg noodles, crispy potato-wrapped prawn, onsen egg and wanton. It had been awarded a Michelin bib gourmand for the past two years.
Coconut cream prawn croquette sandwich with laksa cheese
The idea for this dish was born when chef Khoo suggested making laksa the main concept. From there, they created a brioche sandwich, leveraging on The World Is Flat’s forte of making homemade bread. Prawn and coconut, key ingredients in a good laksa, were the natural accompaniments. Chef Wing elaborates that to make the laksa cheese, they incorporated laksa paste and sambal into a lighter-flavoured cheese and added tapioca starch to form a smooth sauce. He adds, “We wanted to bring in a local flavour or concept, and apply The World Is Flat's philosophy to it—of making something satisfying, tasty, affordable and over-the-top.”
WHAT IS MOD-SIN TO YOU?
Says chef Khoo, “For me, the term means traditional Singapore flavours, usually hawker flavours, reinterpreted creatively from the original. We can do this by changing its form or by using different ingredients.” For chef Wing, it is about taking recognised local flavours to the next level, by introducing non-local techniques and pairing other flavours to enhance the overall experience.
A Noodle Story plans to launch a new chicken dish that will soon be featured as a monster bowl option. This collaboration has brought chef Wing's attention back to a local focus, and he is thinking of new ideas along this line for upcoming menus.
The World is Flat by Tanuki Raw
#01-04 Timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent.
A Noodle Story
#01-39, Maxwell 7 Maxwell Rd. Tel: 9027 6289
Chef Kelly Wong of Wong Kee Wanton Noodles & Roasted Delights, and chef Nicholas Teo of Pluck
Chef Kelly Wong started Wong Kee Wanton Noodles hawker stall at Maxwell Food Centre in 2013 and moved to Timbre+ when it opened last year. Originally in banking, she picked up culinary skills from her father Master Wong Wai Keung, who has over 50 years of F&B experience. Her stall is known for using spinach and tomato noodles. Some of her signature dishes include beef brisket spinach noodles and tomato mee pok char siew. Meanwhile, Nicholas Teo took over as head chef of mod-Sin restaurant Pluck on Club Street about a year ago. He is behind creations like drunken chicken roulade and prawn paste pork belly and tom yum cereal salmon.
Crispy spinach noodle in prawn bisque
Chef Wong wanted to showcase Wong Kee’s speciality—noodles made by their own factory in Johor Bahru. She decided to do a deep-fried version of their signature spinach noodles to give it a crispy twist, and add fried dumplings as a garnish.
Chef Teo came up with the idea of pairing it with a rich creamy prawn bisque. Says chef Teo, “We just wanted to pay respects to old ideas; we didn’t want to stray too far and make the final product unrecognisable. It was vital that we ignite a sense of nostalgia, but surprise customers with the flavours.”
WHAT IS MOD-SIN TO YOU?
For chef Wong, mod-Sin means “fusion with traditional local ingredients as focus". Chef Teo, on the other hand, thinks modern Singapore food is all about “celebrating a new wave of extremely well-travelled and immensely curious Singapore chefs, who are putting a 21st century stamp familiar flavours”.
Chef Wong is working on new dishes, like noodles with chicken cutlet while chef Teo has just launched a new menu at Pluck that updates classics such as drunken chicken, coffee ribs and sweet and sour chicken.
Wong Kee Wanton Noodles
#01-06 Timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent. Tel: 9653 4819
90 Club Street. Tel: 6225 8286
Column pairs from left to right Chung Deming of Kush and Melvin Chew of Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck; Gwern Khoo of A Noodle Story and Wing Lam of The World is Flat by Tanuki Raw; Kelly Wong of Wong Kee Wanton Noodles and Nicholas Teo of Pluck
Opposite page from top to bottom Crispy skin braised duck burger; Coconut cream croquette sandwich with laksa cheese; Crispy spinach noodle in prawn bisque