We ask nine worldly chefs about their favourite international dishes and where to find them in Singapore.
Our food scene is a veritable pot of local and global cuisines. Where else can you find Indian, Japanese, Mediterranean, and many more restaurants in one buzzy country? Only in our Little Red Dot, of course. That’s why we got nine well-travelled chefs to share their favourite international dishes and where they usually find them in Singapore.
Chefs recommend their favourite international dishes in Singapore
Ryan Nile Choo, head chef at Marcy’s
What were you doing at 17? At that age, chef Ryan worked part-time as a server at the defunct Per Se Bar and Kitchen, a modern Thai restaurant in Singapore. He was thrust into the kitchen when the chef walked out of the restaurant after an argument; that’s where chef Ryan found his life calling. He enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, and now, he’s the head chef at Marcy’s, a seafood bistro on Duxton Road.
His favourite international dishes: Beef bopis (a spicy Filipino dish made of cow’s lung and other innards that are cooked in onions, garlic, and chilli peppers) and sisig (another Filipino dish typically made from pork jowl and ears, pork belly, and chicken liver). If you’re wondering about chef Ryan’s selections, he’s half-Filipino by blood. “The two dishes take me back to my mum’s hometown in Pampanga,” he explains. The balancing of salty, sour, and spicy flavours in a sisig dish is what chef Ryan finds most appealing.
Can we find them in Singapore? Absolutely! Kabayan Restaurant, located on level 3 of Lucky Plaza, is the chef’s top Filipino restaurant to get his favourite dishes.
Despite not replicating his favourite dishes at Marcy’s, chef Ryan affirms that he still leans towards their flavour profiles when creating new menus for the restaurant. “I imbue the seafood dishes with welcome hits of acidity and subtle spice, and I always balance my sauces with a touch of sugar,” he shares.
Daniele Sperindio, chef-owner of Art di Daniele Sperindio
Before landing in Singapore, chef Daniele was making waves overseas, working with Michelin-starred chefs in Genova, Chicago, and Tokyo. His search for new culinary horizons led him to the Lion City in 2012, where he assumed leadership roles in various establishments before launching the highly acclaimed Art di Daniele Sperindio at the National Gallery Singapore in 2020.
His favourite international dish: “I know it’s stereotypical, don’t judge me,” chef Daniele warns us, before continuing: “Although I’m absolutely obsessed with a variety of dishes, my favourite food is pizza.”
No judgment here, chef! He’s tried countless pizzas worldwide, but the one that struck him the most was during a trip with his wife to Naples, where they discovered Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Chef Daniele waxes lyrical about the pizza: the dough is soft and easy to digest, with simple, fresh ingredients that pack an unforgettable punch of nostalgic flavours. “I believe it embodies the quintessential Italian pizza experience,” he opines.
Can we find it in Singapore? Like chef Daniele, most of us are into pizzas too, which is why it’s easy to find this Italian flatbread here. Of the many pizza places in Singapore, chef Daniele recommends Publico Ristorante and Amò (“both very good options”); his favourite can be found at La Bottega Enoteca, an Italian restaurant in Joo Chiat.
Chef Daniele recently proposed a “special occasion pizza” that skillfully blends flavours from the Italian peninsula. The dough was made from a special flour comprising ancient grains sourced from Mulino Sorbino, while the base featured roasted potato cream seasoned with a few drops of Colatura di Alici (Italian fish sauce made from fermented anchovies), baby potato slices, Stracciatella cheese, Sicilian swordfish ham, and pickled rainbow-trout roe from San Daniele. That sounds absolutely delish!
Felix Chong, culinary associate director of Monti
Chef Felix Chong is a firm believer in food having a unique ability to bring people – even strangers – together. “It allows people to share their stories, [it’s] a form of cultural exchange and helps deepen emotional connections,” he muses. His culinary journey has taken him to many Italian restaurants around the world, before eventually leading him to Monti at The Fullerton Pavillion.
His favourite international dish: Focaccia di recco (cheese-stuffed Italian flatbread). Chef Felix learned about the dish while working in an Italian restaurant in Singapore; his chef recommended he travel to Liguria to try the real deal. What’s the difference between this and regular focaccia? “Unlike the soft, chewy dough synonymous with yeasted focaccia, this version is thinner and crispier,” he elaborates.
Can we find it in Singapore? Unfortunately, the answer is no – chef Felix hasn’t found a place here that authentically serves the dish like they do in Italy.
As a purist, chef Felix thinks focaccia di recco can’t be replicated easily. Regardless, he has tried to recreate it, though he admits “it was definitely a challenge to come up with a comparable rendition”.
Muhamad Hosni bin Abdullah Konali, chef at White Shades
Despite being in the industry for over 25 years, chef Hosni almost didn’t become a chef – he chose nautical studies when he was at Singapore Polytechnic. “When my nautical pursuits didn’t pan out, I decided to work my way up in the kitchen,” he says. This included stints at Employees Only and Revolver. When Jiawei Bai, co-owner of Stay Gold Flamingo, decided to start White Shades, he approached chef Hosni with a fantastic opportunity… and the rest is history.
His favourite international dish: As someone of Javanese and Indian descent, chef Hosni deeply loves Asian flavours. His top favourite? Malay and Indonesian food, particularly nasi padang (steamed rice served with various pre-cooked dishes). “The flavours are truly exceptional, especially when it’s prepared in Indonesia,” chef Hosni says.
Can we find it in Singapore? While you can easily find nasi padang anywhere here, the jovial chef highly recommends going to Hjh Maimunah as it’s “the most consistent in terms of flavour profiles”. It helps that his wife enjoys the meal too, which adds to their collective happiness. He quips: “After all, a happy wife means a happy life!”
Even though White Shades’ first menu, which chef Hosni helped curate, doesn’t feature his rendition of nasi padang, it is heavily influenced by Indonesian flavours. The beef tartare incorporates sambal matah (Balinese raw sambal), while the tagliatelle with bebek spice ragu combines sambal tomato with ragu sauce and is cooked with duck legs.
Iskander Latiff, executive chef at Coriander Leaf
After being crowned the champion of CNA’s reality cooking competition The Perfect Meal, chef Iskander travelled across Asia and worked in countries such as China, Sri Lanka, Burma, and the Philippines. Upon returning home, he was headhunted to become Coriander Leaf’s executive chef: “They wanted me to look into elevating their current menu and branding.” Today, besides being the restaurant’s executive chef, he oversees its two outlets’ operations.
His favourite international dish: This gastronomer loves all kinds of food (“I eat anything!”). “Food needs to be tasty and hit the right spot,” he tells us. Chef Iskander particularly enjoyed mohinga, a Burmese-style laksa, when he was living in Myanmar. The broth is made of roasted catfish meat and thickened by banana stem. The dish is “sweet, savoury, spicy, and umami, with loads of textures and complex flavours”, according to the chef.
Can we find it in Singapore? There are a few shops in Peninsula Plaza that sell the noodles. However, chef Iskander professes it’s hard to find a good bowl in Singapore.
Chef Iskander quickly shut our question down when we asked if he’d ever tried recreating the noodle dish. “I wouldn’t want to try and make my own rendition. It’s somewhat different and not what I’ll do.”
He did, however, attempt a different dish: a tofu dish made from chickpeas, which originated from Myanmar’s Shan State. His version comprises soaking the “tofu” in a light coconut curry spiced with housemade roasted chilli pesto. It’s now one of the best-selling dishes on Coriander Leaf’s vegan menu.
Hirofumi Imamura, chef-owner of Imamura
Chef Imamura has always dreamed of opening his own restaurant. After working (and cooking) in Las Vegas, Macau, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, he finally settled in Singapore and established Restaurant Imamura in Sentosa. Why did he choose to set up his business here? “The choice was strategic: it has a thriving market for Japanese cuisine and a deep appreciation for Japanese culture,” chef Imamura explains.
His favourite international dish: Of course, it has to be… sushi! One reason the dish holds a special place in chef Imamura’s heart is its ubiquity in Japanese culture. “It’s a dish that you can find and enjoy in your everyday life, providing a sense of comfort and familiarity,” he tells us. “Whether you’re savouring it at a high-end restaurant or enjoying it as a quick snack at a local eatery, sushi always delivers a delightful culinary experience.”
Can we find it in Singapore? Absolutely. Chef Imamura’s preferred restaurant for sushi is Sushi Ashino, which he frequents once a month. The main factor why he’s drawn to the restaurant is chef Ashino’s exceptional techniques in preparing sushi.
It’s no surprise that chef Imamura has included sushi dishes in Imamura’s menu. However, his creations follow the ancient Japanese culinary principles of “gomi, goshi, gohou” (five flavours, colours, and cooking methods); chef Imamura incorporates them by focusing on the rice used in the sushi dishes and customising the soy sauce to match the fish he works with. “The soy sauce and vinegar are both derived from rice, which adds a unique dimension to the flavour profile,” he highlights.
Nicolas Tam, head chef at Willow
Chef Nicolas’ illustrious culinary career began at The Cliff in Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa. From there, he worked in the kitchens of Ocean Restaurant (with his mentor Yew Eng Tong), the now-defunct Sorrel, and Restaurant Zen, before becoming head chef at one Michelin-starred restaurant Willow. Fun fact: chef Nicolas was part of Singapore’s representative team which took top honours in the Asian round of the 2012/2013 Bocuse d’Or, a biennial world chef championship. Wow!
His favourite international dish: For chef Nicolas, a comforting bowl of XO fish head soup hits the spot every time. “It’s good for a light and clean meal, and I don’t get bloated or too full from it,” he tells us. He has it at least twice a month.
Can we find it in Singapore? His go-to stall is Holland Village XO Fish Head Bee Hoon at Dover Crescent.
Of course, chef Nicolas has come up with his own version for Willow, though it isn’t exactly the same. “It’s more of a hybrid of its namesake, fish soup, and chazuke (a Japanese dish made by pouring hot liquid over cooked rice),” he clarifies. This dish can be enjoyed in two ways: by having the rice with fish on its own and topping the broth over midway through, or pouring it straight on to have it as pao fan (poached rice).
“What our diners love about our version is that it has a familiar taste, except it’s done in a more refined and flavourful way; hence the dish being a menu staple since day one,” he proudly shares.
Fernanda Guerrero, pastry chef and partner at Araya
ICYMI: Araya, a new South American restaurant at Neil Road, is opening its doors later this month. While counting down the days, we speak with chef Fernanda Guerrero, one-half of the powerhouse duo helming the fine dining spot. The esteemed pastry chef practised her trade in her family’s restaurant before working in feted establishments such as Alegre in Chile and Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen in Shanghai.
Her favourite international dish: “Oh, this is a difficult question!” she exclaims. Chef Fernanda has had the pleasure of sampling all kinds of cuisines; the one dish that holds a special place in her is tres leches (sponge cake soaked in evaporated, condensed, and whole milk). “I like [it] because it brings people together, makes you smile, and allows you to enjoy the moment,” she says.
Can we find it in Singapore? Chef Fernanda is a new transplant to Singapore and hasn’t gotten around to looking for the sweet treat on our shores. Nonetheless, she believes homemade tres leches cake is the best: “The personal touch it carries is always appreciated,” she notes. Despite its simple appearance, it takes two days to make the cake.
There’s no mention of tres leches being part of Araya’s menu, though we’re optimistic it’ll make an appearance eventually… perhaps during the summertime?
Alexandre Alves Pereira, chef de cuisine at La Dame de Pic
Chef Alexandre always had a curious palate – he remembers wanting to taste everything when he was just three years old! He has climbed the ranks at Michelin-starred restaurants such as Laserre and Epicure in Paris. When offered the opening to helm the kitchen at La Dame de Pic, the French chef said yes without hesitation. “Coming to Singapore is a great opportunity for me to discover new cultures and flavours and to grow as a chef,” he says.
His favourite international dishes: Chef Alexandre generously shares his four favourites, which are pho, stuffed cabbage, jiaozi (dumplings), and mapo tofu (a Sichuan tofu set in spicy sauce). He explains that pho has the perfect soup: a clear, flavourful broth infused with spices and herbs for their strength and freshness, and rice noodles for comfort.
Can we find them in Singapore? As the Frenchman only arrived in Singapore recently, he has yet to find the best places that offer his favourite dishes. In fact, he’s “currently on a mission to try all the places [he] can to find the best one in Singapore!” That said, he enjoys Claudine’s stuffed cabbage.
For the French restaurant’s summer menu, chef Alexandre came up with two creations inspired by his love of Thai curry: a pigeon dish that’s marinated with kaffir lime and served with green curry made of laksa pistachio, and a green gyoza filled with confit pigeon leg and offal. According to the chef, the two dishes are interpretations of his memory of Thailand. He states: “Although the dish is prepared quite differently due to the use of French cooking techniques, I’m very happy that the essence of the recipe remains.”
If you’re in the mood for international cuisine in Singapore, be sure to try out these chef-approved dishes!