For National Day on Aug 9, more restaurants are promoting the patriotic spirit by rolling out dishes and menus to commemorate Singapore's 52nd year of independence.
At least 12 eateries are introducing food - from burgers to steamboat dishes to desserts - that fly the Singapore flag.
The dishes draw inspiration from popular hawker dishes such as nasi lemak and satay and are heavy on favourite local flavours such as pandan, gula melaka and salted egg yolk.
Like Christmas and Chinese New Year, National Day has become yet another important occasion on the calendar for restaurants.
The trend of creating National Day-themed dishes has been gaining momentum since 2015, the year of Singapore's Golden Jubilee, or SG50. Before that, restaurants and hotels would just offer buffets focusing on local dishes to mark the occasion.
The talk of the town this year is the Nasi Lemak Burger from fast- food chain McDonald's, launched on July 13. Inspired by the iconic Malay dish, the burger features a cornflakes-coated fried chicken thigh patty that is infused with a spiced coconut marinade, with a fried egg, caramelised onions and cucumber slices sandwiched between lightly toasted semolina buns. The burger is part of the chain's locally inspired menu created for National Day, which includes a Chendol McFlurry and Bandung McFizz .
Ms Agatha Yap, McDonald's Singapore's senior director of marketing, menu and digital innovation, says the locally inspired menu has received "overwhelming" response.
"The burger is one of our most successful promotions in recent years," she adds. Demand for it is double what the chain expected based on sales of the salted egg yolk chicken burger launched for last year's National Day.
McDonald's has come up with new Singapore-themed items to mark National Day in the past three years. Ms Yap says: "Singaporeans have always been very discerning when it comes to food, and local fare is something that we hold close to our hearts."
Product executive Benson Tan, 33, tried eight of the 10 locally inspired items last week and gives them the thumbs-up. He says: "The coconut flavour of the chicken patty in the Nasi Lemak Burger was quite strong, but I wished that rice patties were used instead of buns. All my friends were discussing these food items and it helps us get into the National Day mood."
Other restaurants are also capitalising on that mood.
One-Michelin-starred restaurant Saint Pierre at One Fullerton is serving a nine-course National Day- themed menu on Aug 9 this year. The French restaurant took about three months to craft the menu, which costs $248++ a person.
Last year, it rolled out one special dish, buah keluak Iberico pork belly, for the month of August.
Co-owner Edina Hong, 43, says: "We are right in the action of the National Day Parade, with most of the tables having a view of the fireworks, so we are hoping to see an increase in customers."
The restaurant is about 30 per cent booked for Aug 9.
Italian restaurant Forlino, also at One Fullerton, will launch a National Day semi-buffet with live oyster, pasta and cold stations with new locally themed dishes such as grilled chicken satay and chilli crab pasta.
Mr Olivier Bendel, 46, chief executive officer of Deliciae Hospitality Management, which runs Forlino, says: "National Day is one of the more important festivals that are good for business. Being in the Central Business District, weekends are usually not busy, but we are overbooked on National Day and packed on the Saturdays when the parade rehearsals happen."
But it is not all about business.
At The Black Sheep Cafe in Upper Thomson Road, chef-owner Rathakrishnan Ramaiyan, 47, created a three-course National Day menu this year that includes a pandan souffle baked in a coconut and laksa panna cotta with chilled prawns, after receiving a request from a group of army buddies.
He says: "Some diners feel patriotic and want to connect over local flavours in a meal."
Where to go for National Day-themed food
THE BREAD TABLE
What: Taking on the national colours is the Love Singapore Red Velvet Cinnamon Bun ($3.80) from this European-style bakery. The chocolate chip-studded bun boasts a dark red hue from roasted beetroot puree and is topped with vanilla cream cheese and garnished with red candy bits. Till Aug 31.
Where: 1010 Upper Serangoon Road
Open: 11am to 9pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 10am to 9pm (weekends), closed on Mondays
What: Taking inspiration from popular local food, the fast-food chain has come up with 10 items that are exclusive to its Singapore stores. Besides the Nasi Lemak Burger ($5.95), there are desserts such as the Chendol McFlurry (from $3), which is a swirl of vanilla softserve with chendol jelly bits and gula melaka sauce; Coconut Pie ($1.20); and the Bandung McFizz ($3), which features rose syrup. The chain's cafe, McCafe, introduced a kueh salat cake (from $5) that has glutinous rice sandwiched between pandan sponge layers. While stocks last.
What: Like durians and pizza? Get them both in the halal-certified pizza chain's Durian King ($5.90 a slice, $32.90 for a 35cm pizza). Spread over the black charcoal pizza dough is creamy Mao Shan Wang and D24 durian pulp, sweetened with condensed milk and topped with mozzarella cheese. Till mid-August.
Where: All Pezzo outlets except Changi Airport Terminal 2
What: Jamie's Italian introduces a Singapore-inspired dish that pays homage to chicken rice.
The Chicken & Rice Jamie's Style ($19.65++) features roasted free-range chicken and broccolini on a bed of chicken stock-infused carnaroli rice. The risotto is served with green onions and a sweet wine vinegar-spiked red chilli paste. From Aug 1 to 13.
What: Get a taste of chef Emmanuel Stroobant's modern French interpretation of local food in a nine-course dinner ($248++ a person) on Aug 9.
Dishes include Satay, a skewer of roasted Japanese eel, king prawn and squid served with a peanut-based sauce; Idli, which has live Hokkaido scallop carpaccio on the South Indian rice cakes; and Nasi Lemak, which features poached Hokkaido king crab crusted with puffed coconut rice, sambal jel, egg yolk confit, pandan puree and ikan bilis dust.
Mains include a 24-hour-braised Ohmi beef rendang and pork belly in a sweet pork consomme and char siew shavings. The restaurant, which has a view of Marina Bay, will open earlier, at 5pm, on Aug 9 for diners to take in the sights and sounds of the nearby parade.
What: The Pandan Souffle a la Ondeh Ondeh is chef-owner Rathakrishnan Ramaiyan's answer to the quest for a "national dessert". Fashioned after the Malay kueh, the souffle is baked in a young coconut instead of a ramekin. Besides perfuming the souffle, the coconut also gives a "three- dimensional experience" as diners scrape the flesh off its shell. It is drizzled with gula melaka sauce and served with coconut ice cream.
This dessert is part of a three-course National Day menu ($45 a person) that includes dishes such as laksa panna cotta with chilled prawns and duck confit with local spices, garlic fried rice and baby spinach. From Aug 1 to 31.
What: Inspired by the old-school pink-hued attap chee (palm seed) ice cream, the National Day- themed Gula Melaka Attap Chee Cake (from $28 for a 800g cake) has pink vanilla sponge layered with gula melaka fudge, studded with pieces of attap chee. The cake is piped with buttercream in rosette swirls that form a Singapore flag design. Till Aug 31.
Where: Four outlets, including at 01-2369/2329, Block 529 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10
What: Cook your own chilli crab with the steamboat restaurant's Chilli Crab Set ($52++ for two). It includes a sweet-spicy chilli crab soup base that is concocted with spices such as lemongrass, belacan and blue ginger; a live mud crab (300 to 350g) and other seafood such as live prawns, fish balls and fish paste tofu.
Save the crab for last. Thicken the chilli crab broth with cornstarch and egg and mop the pot dry with mantou or fried beancurd skin. From Aug 1 to 31.
Where: Three outlets including at 03-16 Tampines 1, 10 Tampines Central 1 and 01-53 VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk
What: Local flavours shine brightly at the 120-seat bistro's maiden National Day menu. Savouries include Tamarind Seabass Ceviche with "Hei Ko" ($18++), which is reminiscent of assam laksa and adorned with shaved ginger flower, green chilli, glass noodles and shrimp paste ice cream; and Iberico Char Siew ($34++), chargrilled pork with carrot "noodles" and honey pork jus. Hawker's Sweet Delight ($14++) comprises a "chendol" parfait (frozen gula melaka mousse, rice flour jelly and salted corn sorbet), rose meringue shards, coconut foam and gula melaka crumble. From July 31 to Aug 13.
Where: 50 Cluny Park Road
Open: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 10pm (Wednesdays to Fridays); 6 to 10pm (Saturdays); 11.30am to 3pm, 6 to 10pm (Sundays); closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
What: Giving a Sichuan twist to the humble popiah is Sichuan-themed cafe Birds Of A Feather's Salted Egg Crab Popiah ($18++). The black charcoal skin is used to wrap stewed turnip spiced with Sichuan peppercorns, soft-shell crab tempura, crab roe and shredded fresh cucumber. For punch, dip the rolls in the accompanying salted egg espuma. From Aug 8 to 11.
Where: 115 Amoy Street
Open: 11am to 11pm (Mondays), 10am to 11pm (Tuesdays and Wednesdays), 10am to midnight (Thursdays to Saturdays), 10am to 10pm (Sundays)
What: Thai-American television personality and chef Angela May is launching a Singapura High Tea set ($52 for two people) that encapsulates local flavours in dainty bites. Highlights of the two-tier set include the springy bundt-shaped pandan mochi cake, gula melaka ginger tea cakes and bak kwa jam sandwiches. Chef May has also created a pandan cake with roasted black sesame buttercream and kaya (from $12++ a slice). From Aug 1 to 31.
The cake is also part of a set meal ($38++) that includes a lobster crab laksa roll with salted-egg fries. The set is also available at sister restaurants such as L'Entrecote, &Made and Sabio. From Aug 5 to 13.
What: The Italian fine-dining restaurant offers four-course lunch ($52++) and dinner ($148++) sets. New dishes include Fusilli all'Arrabbiata in chilli crab tomato sauce, slow-braised Miyazaki wagyu short rib done in a bak kut teh style, grilled chicken satay and salted egg white chocolate sformato. The lunch set is available till Aug 9 and the dinner set till Aug 8.
For the first time, the restaurant is introducing a National Day dinner semi-buffet ($280++ a person) on Aug 9 that comes with live oyster, cold cuts, pasta and dessert stations.
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