It is said that eating a variety of colourful food and vegetables makes for a balanced and nutritional diet.
And business owners are taking that quite literally, as food and drink are getting a rainbow makeover with edible food colouring. The splash of colours not only gives the dishes a bright pop, but also makes for an Instagram-worthy picture.
Food colouring is often used in sweet treats, kueh and agar agar. But recently, the trend has crept into savoury items as well, from the coloured xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at restaurant chain Paradise Dynasty to the rainbow cheese toastie from Epicurious cafe at Robertson Quay.
As Ms Helena Lim, chef-owner of Epicurious, puts it: "We all eat with our eyes, or cameras, first."
The popular rainbow cheese toastie at the 14-year-old cafe came about when she spotted a picture from street-food stall Grill My Cheese in London on Instagram. It is famous for its grilled cheese sandwiches and, now, its rainbow cheese toast.
She had planned for the dish to be a Blackboard Special for a few weeks, but it has since been a hot-seller every day. She says: "Rainbow food is happy food. It is impossible not to smile when this plain-looking toast comes on a plain white plate. When you pull it apart, ribbons of colour emerge. The toast is not serious food."
Rainbow food will never go out of fashion as people just love the colours.
MS ELIA LIM, owner of Le Halo cafe, which sells rainbow kueh lapis and rainbow cake
Another top seller is bottled "Unicorn Tears" from Dapper Coffee in Amoy Street. More than 1,000 bottles were sold over the recent four-day Singapore Coffee Festival.
Ms Christine Seah, 25, Dapper Coffee's business leader, is coy about what the glittery blue drink, launched in September last year, contains.
She says, tongue firmly in cheek: "Our in-house unicorn, Sparkles, was celebrating its third birthday and cried tears of joy when we presented it with a cake and a handwritten card. It was then that we realised these blue, sparkly tears were actually delicious."
The drink is on sale at Dapper Coffee's website and the cafe moves up to 50 bottles a day. Those not keen on sparkly "tears" can opt for the cafe's Gold Brew, which is cold-brew coffee with iridescent dust.
I Am cafe in North Bridge Road recently launched the rainbow latte. The trend started when a barista in Las Vegas coffee shop Sambalatte added food dye to steamed milk.
The drink at I Am has been gaining popularity, alongside its rainbow cake and rainbow mille crepe. Up to 450 slices of rainbow cake are sold every week, says cafe founder Muhamad Jamuri, 44.
Le Halo cafe in Jalan Bukit Ho Swee sells rainbow kueh lapis and rainbow cake. Owner Elia Lim says: "Rainbow food will never go out of fashion as people just love the colours. I used to sell many other types of cakes but, over time, I realised that as long as I have rainbow cakes on display, the other cakes will not sell."
The food businesses tell The Sunday Times that they use food-grade colouring, in paste or liquid form.
Ms Peh Hui Yee, a dietitian at the Singapore General Hospital, says: "In general, food colouring contains no nutritional value and does not affect nutrient absorption of food. Nevertheless, they are important components of food products as they make them more appealing."
She adds that, while uncommon, some people may have allergic or sensitive reactions to food colouring.
"According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, the food colouring tartrazine (synthetic lemon yellow azo dye) causes itchiness and hives in fewer than one in 10,000 people."
Ms Bibi Chia, principal dietitian of the Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, says: "There is no recommended amount of food colouring that we can consume. However, we should limit foods that are empty calories. High sugar, vibrantly coloured foods are often marketed at children. We should aim to limit the intake of these foods and choose more wholesome options."
Yet, diners are so captivated by the vibrant hues that taste is secondary.
Student Angela Chen, 18, who queued for half an hour at the Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar to buy a rainbow bagel, says: "I'm not really concerned about how it tastes. I just wanted to try it and snap a photo. I wanted to see what the hype is about. It's on the sweet side, but that's why I like it."
Housewife Joanne Lum, 45, who has two daughters aged 15 and 10, says: "I don't get the fuss over rainbow cakes as it's mainly food colouring. But it's the first thing my children will pick when they see it in a cake display, so I won't spoil their mood. And, the cakes don't taste bad. Maybe I'll try to bake my own rainbow cake next time, with natural colouring instead."
What: The hottest latte art trend from Las Vegas has made its way to I Am cafe, where edible food colouring is swirled into the coffee (above). It is available from 2 to 6pm on weekdays only, as a set ($12) with the cafe's seven-layer rainbow cake.
I Am also sells a rainbow mille crepe, layered with white and dark chocolate, at $8.90 a slice.
Where: I Am, 674 North Bridge Road, 01-01; open: 11.30am to 11pm (Monday to Thursday), 11.30 to 1am (Friday and Saturday), 11.30am to 10pm (Sunday); open from 11.30am to 3.30pm tomorrow, closed this Tuesday and Wednesday
What: A Malay milk pudding drink ($5, above), similar in texture to soya beancurd. The colours represent different flavours - pink for strawberry, purple for yam, blue for watermelon, green for pandan and yellow for corn. To best taste the flavours, drink it layer by layer.
Where: Sahwon, Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar, Stall 24, along Engku Aman Road; open: 4pm to midnight daily
What: If unicorns could cry, their tears, as Dapper Coffee would have you believe, would be blue and glittery. The cafe sells bottled Unicorn Tears (far left), which taste like a fruity syrup. It is priced at $10 a bottle. Another sparkly option is Gold Brew (left), cold-brew coffee shimmering with gold dust.
Where: Dapper Coffee, 73A Amoy Street, open: 8am to 5pm (weekday), closed on weekend
Info: Order online at dappercoffee.com/
What: No need to travel to Brooklyn, New York, for the most eye-catching dish on social media. Just get in line at the ongoing Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar and be prepared to queue for at least 15 minutes for rainbow bagels by Word bistro. It has a strawberry cream cheese filling, with toasted marshmallows and cookie crumble.
Where: Word, 906P Upper Thomson Road and two stalls at Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar - Stall 9 and Stall 127, near Haig Road Hawker Centre; open: 5 to 9.30pm (weekday), 1 to 10pm (Saturday), noon to 10pm (Sunday); 3pm to midnight daily (Geylang Serai)
What: The franchise from the United States, which used to be in Singapore in the late 2000s, has returned with a new store at VivoCity. The rainbow-coloured beads of ice cream are frozen instantly using liquid nitrogen at extremely low temperatures.
Flavours include Rainbow Ice, lemon lime, cookies and cream, and double chocolate. It is priced from $5.50.
Where: Mini Melts, VivoCity, 1 HarbourFront Walk, B2-K7; open: 10am to 10pm daily
What: Cool down at the Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar with a colourful macaron ice cream sandwich ($4). Flavours include Oreo, vanilla, Nutella, chocolate and salted caramel, sandwiched between macaron shells and topped with rainbow cornflakes.
Where: Barakah-Fe, Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar, Stall 16; open: 3pm till late
MULTI-LAYER RAINBOW JELLYHEARTS
What: This four-layered cake has a biscuit base, followed by cream cheese, fresh fruit and jelly. It is priced from $47. All products from TheJellyHearts are halal-certified.
Where: TheJellyHearts, two outlets at E!hub@ Downtown East, 1 Pasir Ris Close, 02-111; and One Raffles Place, 1 Raffles Place, B1-08; open: E!hub: 11am to 9.30pm (Sunday to Thursday), 11am to 10pm (Friday and Saturday); One Raffles Place: 10am to 9pm (weekday), 10am to 4pm (weekend and public holiday)
Info: Order online at thejellyhearts.com/
What: Instead of the usual kueh lapis, opt for a rainbow version (above). It is priced from $1.80 a slice to $52 for 1kg. Le Halo cafe also sells rainbow cake, from $6.50 a slice to $130 for 2kg. Order three days in advance. To complement the cake, the cafe offers a Rose Cafe Latte ($5.80, above), which is a latte with rose syrup.
Where: Le Halo, Block 4 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, 01-162; open: 10.30am to 6pm (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday), 10.30am to 8.30pm (Friday and Saturday), closed on Tuesday
What: To jazz up its selection of cheesecakes, East Manhattan Bakery Cafe's director, Mr John Wee, introduced the Happy Cheesecake - a rainbow- coloured cheesecake with an Oreo cookie base and topping. It is priced at $6.90 a slice or $65 for 1kg.
Where: East Manhattan Bakery Cafe, two outlets at Katong V, 30 East Coast Road, 01-04; and 19 Lorong Kilat, 01-03; open: Katong V: 10am to 10pm daily; Lorong Kilat: 10am to 9pm (Tuesday to Thursday), 10am to 10pm (Friday), 9am to 10pm (Saturday), 9am to 7pm (Sunday), closed on Monday
RAINBOW JAR CAKE
What: Add that pop of colour to your next party with rainbow jar cakes ($12 each, smaller sizes at $7 and $9 for bulk orders only) from Little Nothings bakery. Rainbow push pops ($5) and rainbow cupcakes ($4) are also available.
What: Instead of the usual red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, the blue velvet cake (left) at Buck Tile St. Cafe comes with vanilla Swiss meringue frosting. It is priced at $6.90 a slice. Order whole cakes four days in advance, priced from $69 to $89.
For more blue items, the cafe also has a blue velvet waffle ($11.90), with a scoop of ice cream and "blue velvet" white cocoa sauce; and a Royal Tinsel Island drink ($7.90), which is blue (from Monin syrup) and has fresh lemon juice.
Where: 104 Faber Drive; open: noon to 11pm (Thursday to Tuesday), closed on Wednesday
What: The grilled cheese sandwich ($9) is filled with a cheese mixture made up mainly of mozzarella, and truffle oil. To achieve the rainbow colours, vegetable puree is mixed into the cheese - beetroot is used for pink, carrot for orange and yellow, spinach for green, potato and butterfly pea flower for blue, and red cabbage for violet. A small amount of liquid food colouring is used as well to enhance the colours.
Where: Epicurious, The Quayside, Robertson Quay, 01-02; open: 11.30am to 2.30pm , 6 to 10pm (Tuesday to Friday), 8.30am to 10pm (weekend), closed on Monday
What: Butter and marshmallows go into each layer of the crispy delights, along with couverture dark chocolate chips and coloured rice puffs. Prices start at $4 for a box to $20 for a tray. Order at least one week in advance, self-collection at Woodlands.
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.