Hawker favourites get new twists at Singapore Food Festival

Chefs at the festival include Jeremy Cheok and Tan Huang Ming (above, from left).
Chefs at the festival include Jeremy Cheok and Tan Huang Ming (above, from left). ST PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI
Ken Ling and Susur Lee (from left), who are preparing a dish of laksa chee cheong fun.
Ken Ling and Susur Lee (from left), who are preparing a dish of laksa chee cheong fun.

This year's Singapore Food Festival will also see chef collaborations and pop-up restaurants

A melting pot of old school and modern flavours awaits visitors to this year's Singapore Food Festival. Nostalgic tributes to time-honoured kueh and hawker fare will be joined by food trends such as chef collaborations and pop-up eateries.

The annual event will be held from July 15 to 31 at various locations across the country.

In its 24th edition, the festival, which celebrates Singapore's vibrant food culture, has a record line-up of 18 events, from pop-up restaurants and cooking showdowns to classes and tours, up from 13 last year.

Among the highlights, British chef Ryan Clift of progressive restaurant Tippling Club will present hawker-inspired canapes paired with cocktails, and Canadian celebrity chef Susur Lee teams up with home-grown chef Han Liguang of Restaurant Labyrinth to present modern interpretations of hawker favourites such as laksa and satay.

The theme this year is "Savour the past, taste the future". Ms Ranita Sundra, director of attractions, dining and retail at Singapore Tourism Board - which organises the festival, says this year's line-up is a reflection of the "unique and adventurous food landscape that makes Singapore a vibrant dining capital".

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE FOOD FESTIVAL

  • WHERE: Various locations

    WHEN: July 15 to 31

    ADMISSION: Free admission (charges for food, workshops and tours apply to the respective events)

    INFO: www.singaporefoodfestival.com

She adds: "These experiences deftly combine the authenticity of our traditional dishes with edgy modern interpretations and techniques, representing the progress and direction of our food scene today."

One such event is the Street Hawkers Inspired 5 Course Cocktail Pairing menu by chef Clift. The menu ($220++), available from July 18 to 23, comprises snazzy interpretations of his "go-to favourite hawker dishes" paired with cocktails.

For example, his version of chicken rice is skewered sous vide chicken breast topped with chicken stock puree, fermented cucumbers and puffed rice. Accompanying it is a Ginger Yuzu Buck, concocted with vodka, ginger syrup, yuzu juice and soda water.

Clift, 40, who has been living here for nine years, says: "I live for moments of translating my food memories of submerging myself in hawker culture and experimenting with flavour profiles to create things that I love."

Another envelope-pusher is the festival's marquee event, Streat, which gives hawker food an epicurean update, on July 15 and 16. Chef Lee, chef Han and TungLok Heen's senior executive chef Ken Ling will helm a five-course dinner ($40 a person).

Chef Lee has come up with two dishes: laksa chee cheong fan and a "cup" made of fried oyster omelette, on top of a collaborative dish of grilled chicken satay housed in an egg shell and topped with peanut sauce foam.

The 58-year-old, who is participating in the festival for the first time, says: "Eating street food is comforting, but I want to give diners some excitement of eating these familiar dishes while preserving the old flavours, culture and romance of cooking."

He and the other two chefs have also curated a medley of 12 stalls at Streat, working with eateries such as Char and Candlenut.

New this year is Open Stoves by Timbre+, which features five collaborations between chefs in the hipster hawker centre in Ayer Rajah and guest chefs. Together, they will whip up locally inspired dishes at Timbre+ on July 23 and 24.

One Open Stoves pairing sees chef Jeremy Cheok, of Dusk by Slake in Timbre+, teaming up with chef Tan Huang Ming of Park Bench Deli. The duo, who used to be partners in a now-defunct private dining business, have come up with a prata taco topped with stewed tripe or barbecued pork collar, which is a modern take on soft-shelled tacos.

Chef Cheok says: "Tacos are our chill-out food with beer, but we have switched it to grilled prata so that it resembles a taco."

Another highlight is Mandarin Orchard's Chatterbox Food Truck, which will sell its famed chicken rice, chicken rice maki and seafood laksa around the island throughout the festival.

Besides embracing new food concepts, visitors can take a walk down memory lane at The 50 Cents Fest! by Select Group on July 30 and 31.

About 20 stalls in Chinatown Food Street will sell old-school dishes such as kok kok mee, chicken rice balls and trishaw noodles. They are priced from 50 cents to $2.50.

Food lovers can also attend the One Farrer Food Street by One Farrer Hotel & Spa, which serves hawker food that were once sold in the Farrer Park area, from July 16 to 31.

Kueh Appreciation Day takes place on July 24, during which there will be cooking demonstrations for heritage delicacies such as yam cake and kueh lempur udang.

Correction note: An earlier version of the story stated that food lovers can also attend the One Farrer Food Street by One Farrer Hotel & Spa, which invites former street hawkers from the Farrer Park area to recreate the street-side dining experience from July 16 to 31. This is incorrect. The food street serves hawker food that were once sold in the Farrer Park area. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Savour old flavours in new ways'. Print Edition | Subscribe