Familiar hawker flavours get a twist at these restaurants

Labyrinth’s chef-owner Han Li Guang’s Ang Moh Chicken Rice (above) is one of his modern interpretations of local food. PHOTO: JOHN HENG
Labyrinth’s chef-owner Han Li Guang’s (above) Ang Moh Chicken Rice is one of his modern interpretations of local food. PHOTO: JOHN HENG
Morsels’ chef-owner Petrina Loh’s laksa (above) is made with wild Sri Lankan tiger prawns, turmeric long bean pickles, ajitsuke quail egg, Vietnamese chicken sausage and crispy laksa leaves. PHOTO: MORSELS
Morsels’ chef-owner Petrina Loh’s (above) laksa is made with wild Sri Lankan tiger prawns, turmeric long bean pickles, ajitsuke quail egg, Vietnamese chicken sausage and crispy laksa leaves. PHOTO: MORSELS

With fast-food outlets serving nasi lemak burgers and restaurants like Morsels and one-Michelin-starred Labyrinth whipping up their versions of local-inspired flavours, hawker fare has become much more than a low-cost food option for the masses.

At fusion restaurant Morsels in Dempsey, chef-owner Petrina Loh, who trained in Western culinary arts, puts her renditions of laksa and wonton mee on the menu.

But these are not replicas of the classic hawker dishes. The 35-yearold sees recreating classic flavours as a tribute to the local hawker culture.

Morsels Laksa is made with wild Sri Lankan tiger prawns, turmeric long bean pickles, ajitsuke quail egg, Vietnamese chicken sausage and crispy laksa leaves.

Chef Loh's wonton mee is served with pork jowl char siew made inhouse, complete with char siew sauce that is made from scratch.

The chef, who graduated from the California Culinary Academy which runs the Le Cordon Bleu programme, started her restaurant in 2013.

She says: "My cooking is inspired by my childhood memories of food and eating at hawker centres, and I want to recreate familiar flavours even though I am using foreign ingredients."

She eats at hawker centres three or four times a week.

Over at modern Singaporean restaurant Labyrinth at Esplanade Mall, chef-owner Han Li Guang, 33, who is known for his Ang Moh Chicken Rice and deconstructed versions of chilli crab, also says he is influenced by his childhood memories which include eating at hawker centres. He says: "Hawker culture started long ago and it is something important to a chef doing a modern interpretation of local food. It has a huge bearing.

"The local dining scene would be very different if we didn't have hawker centres. Hawker food is essential to our identity."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 02, 2018, with the headline Familiar hawker flavours get a twist at these restaurants. Subscribe