Singapore’s rich culinary heritage is one its most iconic characteristics, whether it’s the beloved hawker fare, renowned cocktail bars or its astounding number of Michelin-starred restaurants (52 restaurants with a total of 65 stars). It’s little wonder that Singaporean restaurant chains such as Wee Nam Kee, Song Fa Bak Kut Teh and Old Chang Kee, have thriving outposts in destinations as far-flung as Japan, Australia and the UK. In fact, the recent Urban Hawker eatery in New York City has proven so popular that its Singaporean hawkers have plans to take their outlets across America.
Over in Europe, the newest city to get a taste of Singapore’s cuisine is Amsterdam, thanks to an adventurous waterside restaurant called NOMADS. Located in the Winkelcentrum shopping district on the east side of town, NOMADS is known for its “travelling menu” experience which changes every six to nine months to feature cuisines from different parts of the world. Most recently, they’ve presented the flavours of India, Mexico and Portugal – so a deep-dive into Southeast Asian flavours is hotly anticipated. While Amsterdam has a vibrant Asian dining scene, including Bib Gourmand-recommended restaurants such as A-Fusion, NOMADS is one of the few establishments that’s placed a singular emphasis on Singaporean cuisine.
To bring Singaporean flavours and ingredients to Amsterdam, NOMADS owners Jaap Kin and Thomas Mutsaers teamed up with Singapore Airlines and the Singapore Tourism Board and travelled to the Lion City. There, they had the opportunity to wander local markets and cook with Singaporean chefs to gain inspiration for the restaurant’s next culinary adventure. Their latest menu features a variety of Singaporean favourites that are reimagined for a European palate while remaining anchored to the original spirit of the dish.
“Singapore always had something mysterious for us; the country has only been around for 200 years and is known as ‘the melting pot’ of Asia,” says Kin. “[On this] amazing culinary trip to Singapore…we were able to truly experience the country’s diverse, tasty and much-discussed cuisine, as well as its culture. We will gladly take our guests on this wonderful journey through our menu in the coming months.”
Here are three innovative takes on Singaporean classics to try when you’re in Amsterdam.
A delicate take on chilli crab
When it comes to Singapore’s most iconic dishes, chilli crab is often the one that comes to mind. Unlike chicken rice and laksa, chilli crab is more of a celebratory dish, usually enjoyed during special occasions. It’s a messy affair where utensils (save for a nutcracker) are abandoned to allow diners to get at every last morsel of sauce-drenched crab. An essential accompaniment to the dish is crispy fried mantous (small fried pieces of steamed dim sum buns), best eaten when piping hot.
The NOMADS rendition of the dish is a deconstructed one that, while certainly less messy, remains true to the spirit of the dish. Here, a single portion of deep-fried soft shell crab is served atop a generous portion of sauce and a bed of fennel, tarragon and olive salad.
Pair with: A frosty mug of Tiger Beer, an award-winning Singaporean pilsener that goes down well with spicy Asian food
A coconut-heavy spin on chicken rice
Ask any Singaporean where to find the best chicken rice stall and you’re bound to spark passionate debate. The dish is a lunchtime staple and you’ll find many of the more popular stores develop snaking queues even before noon. The dish is a simple one, but the magic is in the sum of its parts: poached chicken served cool, rice boiled with ginger and chicken stock and the requisite chilli sauce – a thin but punchy sauce made with chilli, lime juice, garlic and ginger.
This timeless classic is transformed by NOMADS into a dish that maintains the traditional elements while adding some interesting new textures. The dish comprises a portion of chicken that’s crumbed with crispy chicken skin along with candlenut. It’s served alongside a bar of fried coconut rice topped with pickled cucumber and a kimchi cream.
Pair with: NOMADS Mary, a Singapore-inspired Bloody Mary that adds miso, chilli and shiitake – a substitute for the chilli element that’s normally present in the chicken rice dish
Where to try it in Singapore: Singaporeans will passionately defend their favourite eatery as serving the definitive chicken rice, but Boon Tong Kee, Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice all serve excellent versions.
A deconstructed bowl of laksa
Another Singaporean favourite, laksa is a rich noodle dish that consists of rice noodles, cockles, slices of fish cake and prawns in a spicy, savoury sauce. When done “Katong-style”, the noodles are cut with scissors so the entire dish can be eaten with just a spoon.
The NOMADS iteration of the dish consists of a smooth sauce made with laksa leaves and fish cooked in oil from the laksa paste, topped with a generous halibut filet and fresh beech mushrooms.
Pair with: The Spicy Coriander Cocktail that’s made with chilli and coriander and lightened with the addition of cucumber and lime for a refreshing finish
For the next six to nine months, take a culinary trip to Singapore through NOMADS’ Lion City-inspired menu. To make a booking at NOMADS, visit www.nomads-amsterdam.nl