Heritage Food and Beverage

Heritage Food and Beverage

Singapore is renowned around the world for its incredible food scene. From humble hawker centre fare to the growing number of Michelin-stars awarded in the city, there's no end to the delicious and unique goodies on offer here. However, in recent years a number of potential problems that could affect the hawker and street food culture here have been identified. The demographic of hawker sellers reflects the island's aging population, with younger generations choosing office and service jobs instead of the hard craft of plying your wares from morning to night. Facing up to the challenges in the years to come, Singapore's food and beverage industry aims to preserve local food heritage with a variety of initiatives.

At the helm of this is local organisation Slow Food Singapore (image) which aims to safeguard the cities food culture. One of their celebrated initiatives is the Heritage Heroes accolade, which awards Singapore's best loved restaurants with a special status, allowing them to display labels with ‘Heritage Hero' on their stalls. This helps to advertise the restaurant and keep new customers coming, helping the business to thrive amidst a climate that includes rent rises and issues with staffing. The organisation's panel of eight foodie experts dined incognito at restaurants all over the city, awarding their favourites the accolade, with cuisines covering everything from Cantonese and Peranakan, to Malay and South Indian.

The rise of acclaimed fine dining restaurants all over the city have also allowed heritage buffs to support the foodie heritage that Singaporean's know and love. Top Singaporean chefs - and international cooks who are inspired by the rich gastronomic heritage of the island - have started to infuse their menus with local flavours and cooking techniques. Previously, the fine dining offerings in the city focused on French-inspired Western food, so this welcome change is allowing Singaporean cultural heritage to reach new audiences and to be interpreted in new and exciting ways.

At the forefront of this is chef Willin Low of Wild Rocket, a highly acclaimed fine dining restaurant that brands its unique cuisine ‘Mod Sin,' or modern Singaporean. Low takes the spirit of his favourite hawker classics, from chicken rice to laksa, and re-interprets them, taking inspiration from Western cooking techniques and food culture from all over the world. His take on Hainanese chicken rice, deconstructs the traditional dish, filling boneless chicken wings with chicken broth soaked rice and deep frying them with liver pate. His version of Katong Laksa is equally renowned, and merges Italian and Singaporean cuisine, using linguine, prawns and quails eggs, and creating a pesto inspired by laksa broth.

2019 saw Singaporeans across the city celebrate Kueh Appreciation Day, another highly successful initiative run by Slow Food Singapore. Kueh, which are sweet treats and savoury baked goods, are interpreted in varying and delicious ways by many of Singapore's cultures, from Hainanese and Nonya to Malay and Eurasian. It's therefore the perfect slice of foodie culture worth celebrating islandwide. As well as an incredible array of kueh for sale by artisan vendors, there are also heritage food classes held around the city. It's the perfect way to celebrate Singaporean food heritage and promote some of its best-loved traditional vendors to new audiences and the younger generation.

Despite the issues the heritage food industry faces, the many initiatives run by passionate Singaporean chefs, entrepreneurs and social enterprises mean the future is still bright for the unique blend of influences that make the food culture on this tiny island so spectacular. The efforts of Slow Food Singapore, and the natural leanings of homegrown chefs towards the food they grew up with and love, mean the food culture is bound to develop and be embraced by new generations of Singaporeans. The totally unique blend of regional Chinese, Malay, Peranakan, Western and Indian cooking is too good not to celebrate, and Singaporean's natural passion for sharing food and appreciating culinary creativity mean this city is bound to stay on the map as a global centre for gastronomic innovation.