Food

13 Best “Zenged” Versions of Local Dishes That Will Change The Way You View The Classics

Last Updated: July 5, 2017

Written by Herman Low

I have to admit, as a Singaporean I’m rather protective of our local culinary landscape. I just love our local dishes the way they are, just like a simple plate of Hainanese Chicken Rice.

However, with the passing of time, our taste buds have developed and people have become more well travelled, which usually results in them having slightly pickier palettes.

As such, there have been many restaurants and hawker stalls that have tried to jazz up our local dishes by revamping them and turning them into dishes that some of us have difficulty recognising.

While we have covered 10 such dishes before, here are another 13 Zenged (Enhanced) versions of local dishes that I feel deserve special mention for doing our nation proud by continuing to push the boundaries of our local cuisine.

13. Ding Dong (Hokkaido Scallop Tartare)

Ding Dong - Bar Counter

With a fun-loving and playful take on Asian cuisine, Ding Dong promises you that and much more. Come down to the restaurant situated along Amoy Street to experience a culinary journey of a lifetime through modern yet nostalgic elements of Southeast Asian flavours.

Better yet, Ding Dong boasts a pretty cool cocktail menu courtesy of group bar manager, Joe Schofield, that you definitely need to check out!

Ding Dong - Hokkaido Scallop Tartare

The Hokkaido Scallop Tartare with coconut, pickled ginger & sea grapes ($19) is a playful spin on the traditional Peranakan dish, Kueh Pie Tee.  It features a bamboo charcoal shell filled with fresh slices of sweet Hokkaido scallops that have been mixed with a sauce made from chilli sauce, lime juice, pickled cucumbers and Japanese mayonnaise.

The dish is finished with a garnish of coconut, pickled ginger, pickled ginger flower and sea grapes to help add some brightness and contrast of textures.

Ding Dong: 115 Amoy Street, #01-02, Singapore 069935 | Tel: 65570189 | Facebook | Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 12am, Closed on Sunday. 

12. Loof (Bak Chor Mee Grilled Cheese)

Loof

With one of the most iconic picturesque rooftops in town, Loof is no stranger to the local bar scene and serves an array of nostalgic cocktails and creative menu offerings.

Loof Bar Chor Mee Grilled Cheese

Part of the revamped menu in collaboration with Chef Bjorn Chen, the B.C.M Grilled Cheese ($18) is certainly pushing the boundaries of our local favourite. I bet you no one can resist this piece of ooey-gooey cheesy sourdough bread that has been toasted to perfection and filled with minced pork and pickles.

Don’t worry about people giving you dirty looks if you asked for a side of black vinegar to go with your sandwich.

Loof: 331 North Bridge Road, #03-07, Odeon Towers Extension Rooftop (Opposite Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade), Singapore 188720 | Tel: 63379416 | Website | Opening hours: Mon – Thurs: 5pm – 1am, Fri – Sat: 5pm – 2am, Closed on Sundays. 

11. Sumo Big Prawn (Lobster Beehoon Soup)

Sumo Big Prawn

There is a high chance that the most innovative takes on our local dishes are done by young budding chefs. The twist on our local prawn noodle soup at Sumo Big Prawn is one such example.

Started by two young hawker-preneurs, Desmond and Jeffrey, the queues at the stall are a testament to the fact that Singaporeans are open to the idea of elevating their local dishes, even if it means paying a little more.

Sumo Lobster Beehoon Soup

Enticing customers with a deep orange broth made from boiling prawn shells and pork ribs, the Lobster Beehoon Soup ($24.90 or $18.90 depending on Lobster availability) is worth its weight in gold.

The generous portions of lobster, prawns and clams all add up to sweeten the broth, which was lighter as compared to what you would find at other prawn mee stalls.

My only wish is for the broth to have a more complex flavour, perhaps some heat or saltiness to contrast against the sweetness. Still, it is pretty good attempt at pushing the envelope on our iconic local dish.

Sumo Big Prawn: Blk 628, Ang Mo Kio Ave 4, Singapore 560628 | Tel: 98164514 | FacebookOpening hours: Tues – Sun: 9.30am – 4pm, 5pm – 9pm

10. Xiao Ya Tou (Chai Tow Kway)

Xiao Ya Tou - Interior

Labelling itself as a Naughty Modern Asian restarant, Xiao Ya Tou is aptly located at Duxton Hill which was an area known to be filled with opium dens back in the old days.

The interior of the restaurant is meant to model after the shady dens in the past and is decked out in old school prints and paintings that give off a 80s feel together with the use of red lanterns that are hung from the ceilings.

Xiao Ya Tou - Chai Tow Kway

The dish I am featuring is more of a deconstructed version of our local Chai Tow Kway or carrot cake as it is more commonly known. The Chai Tow Kway ($18, Bring your own eggs and get $1 off) is a worthy contender.

Firstly, the whole concept of bringing your own eggs is such a cool idea that dates back to my parent’s era. In fact, some of the hawker stalls are still allowing you to bring your own eggs today.

The carrot cake is made in-house and fried to a crisp. It is not too oily and has a pleasant sweetness to it. My suggestion to eating this dish would be to burst the yolks for that gooey egg yolk mixture to bind the minced pork together before having it with the fried carrot cake.

Extra points to the chef for putting the chilli padi as a garnish, allowing the diner to control the amount of heat they want in the dish.

Xiao Ya Tou: 6 Duxton Hill, Singapore 089592 | Tel: 62261965 | Website | Opening hours: Mon – Thurs: 10am – 11pm, Fri: 10am – 12am, Sat: 9am – 12am, Sun: 9am – 5pm

9. Rahim Muslim Food (Mee Rebus with Chicken)

Rahim Muslim Food - Storefront

With a tagline that reads, “If it doesn’t taste good, tell us. If it does, tell your friends!” you know that the Rahim Muslim Food stall takes its food seriously. Having been open since the 1960s, the recipe has been passed down from two generations with even the third generation helping out now.

Rahim Muslim Food - Mee Rebus Power

If you love Mee Rebus as much as I do, you’d know that the gravy is what makes or breaks the dish. The Mee Rebus Power ($3.80) is served with the addition of kampung chicken and a chunky satay sauce that gives the dish that much more oomph.

The addition of the satay sauce gives the gravy a nice nutty flavour which I feel helps cut through the heaviness of the dish. The chicken is pretty moist and definitely makes for a more filling meal.

Rahim Muslim Food: Blk 721, Ang Mo Kio Ave 8, Singapore 560721 | Tel: 97867362 | Facebook |Opening hours: Daily: 12.15pm – 8pm

8. Sunday Market (Rendang Lasagne)

Sunday Market - Storefront

Situated along a row of shophouses on Lim Tua Tow Road, Sunday Market’s menu aims to introduce dishes that are commonly found in Sunday Markets around the world but with the Asian flavours that we are familar with.

Sunday Market - Rendang Lasagne

We often see rendang in many Malay or Indonesian eateries and that distinct mix of spices pairs so perfectly with the beef or mutton that it is often made with.

Sunday Market’s Rendang Lasagne ($16) is a perfect blend of Italian meets Asian flavours. The beef brisket is minced and cooked with a rempah paste that is both spicy and fragrant, before being filled into the pasta sheets.

The lasagne is thick and contains a good amount of cheese which is pretty important for a lasagne. The top layers were a little too dry for my liking, but overall it was a decent dish with interesting flavours.

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Sunday Market: 22 Lim Tua Tow Road, Singapore 547772 | Tel: 62878880 | Website | Opening hours: Mon – Tues, Thurs – Fri: 11am – 11pm, Sat: 9am – 11pm, Sun: 9am – 9pm

7. A Noodle Story (Singapore Style Ramen)

A Noodle Story lauds itself for serving “Singapore-style ramen”. A twist on the usual wonton mee, each bowl is packed with a variety of toppings such as fatty pork-belly char siew, a perfectly runny hot spring egg, HK-style pork wontons and a potato-wrapped prawn.

Bib Gourmand A Noodle Story

The Singapore-Style Ramen ($5.90/$7.20/$8.50) is prepared and cooked to perfection. Be prepared to queue though, as a 30 minute line started forming well before 11.30am.

I loved how each bowl looked, with a variety of ingredients that had a contrast of textures. The noodles are rather springy and have a nice bite to them.

A Noodle Story: 7 Maxwell Road, Amoy Street Food Centre #01-397, Singapore 069111 | Opening hours: Mon – Fri: 11.15am – 2.30pm (lunch), 5.30pm – 7.30pm (dinner), Sat: 10.30am – 1.30pm, Closed on Sun & PH

6. Red Pan (Bak Chor Foie Gras Pasta)

Red Pan - Storefront

A perfect marriage between design and food, DP Architects and local restauranteurs, The Food Explorer Group, have joined together to start Red Pan — a chic yet comfortable space that acts as a living room where ideas can be incubated and exchanged over a meal.

With a menu that focuses on “Local Fun Dining”, diners can expect to find local ingredients and familiar flavours that are creatively injected into modern dishes found here.

Red Pan - Bak Chor Mee with Foie Gras Pasta

If you’re a lover of Bak Chor Mee (Minced pork noodles with mushrooms), you need to try the pasta version of it. The Bak Chor Foie Gras Pasta ($18) has all the elements of a typical Bak Chor Mee with the exception of the black vinegar, but we asked for some just to see how it would change the flavour profile of the dish.

The kurobuta pork belly was nicely grilled and had a good meat to fat ratio with the foie gras acting as a replacement for the pig liver that you would normally get. I totally would order this again, of course with the added dash of vinegar like how you would get it here in Singapore.

Red Pan: 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, #02-03/04, Singapore 039594 | Tel: 62555850 | WebsiteOpening hours: Daily: 11am – 10pm (Till 11pm on Fridays). Last orders 30 mins before closing.

5. Stateland Cafe (Hainanese Chicken Rice Risotto)

Stateland Cafe - Storefront

Stateland Cafe has been tearing up the scenes along Bali Lane ever since they started with their take on savoury waffles. Continuing to employ the same level of creativity, the team is launching their Asian Fusion series with interesting dishes like Kimchi Carbonara and Korean Fried Chicken Waffles.

Stateland Cafe - Hainanese Chicken Rice Risotto

Hainanese Chicken Rice is probably one of Singapore’s iconic dishes and Stateland’s Hainanese Chicken Rice Risotto ($20 nett with a drink) has certainly done the nation proud.

Without taking too much away from it, the risotto manages to retain the essence of chicken rice by incorporating the significant flavours like the chilli sauce and the tender ginger steamed chicken. Newer elements like the fried chicken skin and xiao bai chye elevate the dish to a whole other level. It was so good that I would lick the plate clean if I could.

Stateland Cafe: 32 Bali Lane, Singapore 189868 | Tel: 92964997 | FacebookOpening hours: Mon, Wed – Thurs & Sun: 12pm – 9.30pm, Fri & Sat: 12pm – 10.30pm

4. The Naked Finn (Hae Mee Tng)

The Naked Finn ONLINE - Storefront

Credit

Promising to serve only the best quality seafood, Chef Owner Ken Loon’s obsession with shellfish, prawns in particular, has led him to open his own restaurant in Gillman Barracks. The Naked Finn serves up premium seafood that will change your opinion on paying for quality shellfish.

The Hae Mee Tng ($25) is no doubt the priciest bowl of prawn noodles that I know of, but of course there is a perfect explanation for that.

Each and every component of this dish is well-thought out, starting with the broth which is made from three types of prawns — wild-caught blue and red shrimp, Northern prawns, and dried Sakura ebi. Each type adds a level of complexity and flavour to the dish.

Choose between beehoon or somen and have it topped off with ramen-style pork belly rounds that have a good balance of fat and meat. Take your time to savour each sip after knowing what goes on behind the scenes to make this bowl of ultimate goodness.

The Naked Finn: Blk 39, Malan Road, Gilman Barracks, Singapore 109442 | Tel: 66940807 | WebsiteOpening hours: Tues – Sat: 12pm – 3pm (Last order 2.30pm), 6pm – 10pm (Last order 9.30pm), Closed on Sunday & Monday

3. CreatureS (Laksa)

A modern-day cafe set in the culturally rich area of Desker Road, CreatureS serves up East-meets-West comfort food with an Asian flair. The best part? All the dishes are prepared without MSG, with the flavours brought out from the natural ingredients.

The seating is spread over two levels, with the interior being a mix of rainforest and industrial chic that will make for nice photos.

The CreatureS Laksa ($24) is pretty pricey but the nonya-style broth is packed full of ingredients like fresh prawns, quail eggs, fish cake, chicken and cucumber laces.

Order this if you prefer your broth to be a little more “lemak”, or if you’re sharing with a friend. Do take note that this dish is only available on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays.

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CreatureS: 120 Desker Road, Singapore 209639 | Tel: 62916996 | Website | Opening hours: Tues – Thurs & Sun: 12pm – 10.30pm, Fri – Sat: 12pm – 11.30pm, Closed on Monday

2. Lepark (Chicken Sushi)

Situated on the rooftop of the iconic People’s Park Complex, Lepark has been the go-to place for street tapas and craft beers while relaxing to tunes by the resident DJs or the occasional gig by guest performers.

Given that the place is owned by event organisers Getai Electronica, expect to find group yoga sessions or music events happening right at the rooftop.

While a little hard to locate, the hunt for this place is worth it as you get to experience amazing views of Chinatown along with some kick-ass tapas dishes and awesome craft beer options.

Ordering the Poached Chicken Sushi ($8) might seem a little daunting as you do not know what to expect. Relax! I’m here to tell you that the dish manages to retain the flavours of the chicken rice that we love while presenting it in the most unique way possible.

Lepark: 1 Park Road, Level 6, People’s Park Complex, Singapore 059108 | Tel: 69085809 | Website Opening hours: Tues – Thurs: 4pm – 11pm, Fri: 4pm – 12am, Sat: 12pm – 12am, Sun: 12pm – 11pm

1. Souperstar

Souperstar - Storefront

With its new outlet in Tanjong Pagar Centre, Souperstar has been serving up fusion popiah flavours along with hearty soups and sandwiches to cater to the appetites of the office workers in the area. Little did I know that this is actually the hard work of two sisters, Wei Ling and Wei Ting who are the 2nd-gen owners of Fortune Food(s) Pte Ltd.

The Souperstar brand is their effort to try and make our local dishes like popiah more relatable to the younger generation by offering them a variety of flavours to choose from.

Souperstar - The Sweet Thai Chicken

Souperstar takes popiah to the next level by transforming it into a wrap version that features well-put together Asian flavours that are very much welcomed. I got to try three of their unique flavours which include the Sesame Chicken ($3.80 per roll), Sweet Thai Chicken ($3.80 per roll) and Seafood Wasabi Mayo ($4.10).

Despite using a single layer of popiah skin, the ingredients did not fall out when picking it up. Each bite promises a refreshing crunch of flavours and textures that make for a healthy and light lunch and will get you through your day.

I must commend the sisters for their efforts in trying to roll-out (pun intended) popiah as a convenient meal option for the busy workers of the CBD while at the same time trying to spread the existence of this beloved Singaporean snack to more people in Singapore.

Souperstar: 7 Wallich Street, Tanjong Pagar Centre, #B2-31, Singapore 078884 | Website |Opening hours: Daily: 8am – 10pm

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