Curious about what local desserts chefs like the most? We speak to seven patissiers who share their favourite sweet treats.
Everyone knows Singapore is a foodie paradise. Nasi lemak, chicken rice, roti prata, kaya toast… with so many options, it’s no surprise we can’t decide on our “national dish”. That said, we shouldn’t disregard our local desserts. There are plenty of sweet treats available on our sunny island; we can’t choose just one to spotlight. So we spoke with seven chefs who shared their favourite local desserts, where they usually get them, and whether they’d put their own spin on their chosen sweets.
Chefs recommend their favourite local desserts in Singapore
Joy Chiam, co-founder of Patisserie Clé
Her interest in pastries started during high school, when she’d spend countless hours in the kitchen instead of hitting the books. This eventually led to her enrolling in the internationally renowned Ferrandi Paris in 2016. Chef Joy cut her professional teeth creating desserts for one Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Bauledaire in Paris and Joel Robuchon Restaurant in Singapore before co-founding Patisserie Clé in 2018.
Favourite local dessert: Orh nee (yam paste). “It was a must-have on any special occasion. I vividly remember my grandmother spending hours in the kitchen preparing orh nee for the whole family to enjoy,” chef Joy tells us. Her grandmother’s version is fried with lard and topped with fried shallots and ginkgo nuts for a sweet and savoury finish.
Where to get it: “To be honest, I seldom eat this outside of home! My grandmother’s version will always be that source of warm, yammy comfort that I’ll never get elsewhere.”
We asked chef Joy if she’ll put a spin on her favourite local dessert – and she has! Her creation, the Orh Blanc Tart, combines mont blanc, a beloved French pastry, and orh nee. “It has a buttery, crisp tart crust baked with coconut cream, layered with fresh yam and coconut paste, vanilla chantilly cream, and candied ginkgo nuts,” she shares.
The tart debuted in France in 2017, when the Singapore Embassy requested a locally-inspired dessert for an event. It’s now a mainstay at Patisserie Clé.
Mohamed Al-Matin, founder of Le Matin Patisserie
Chef Matin’s always had a sweet tooth. His dream was to open a quaint cafe; with his family’s blessings, he started Le Matin Patisserie after completing his mandatory National Service. He aims to showcase his favourite food from around the world in Singapore and bring something different to the food scene here.
Favourite local dessert: Cheng tng, a clear soup with nutritious ingredients such as pearl barley, dried longan, and red dates. “It can be enjoyed hot or cold, depending on your mood. Plus, it’s not overly sweet, all thanks to the ingredients and the way it’s made. You can say it’s a healthy dessert!”
Where to get it: He used to get his cheng tng from Bedok Corner since it’s near his army camp. Nowadays, chef Matin frequents Teck Kee Hot & Cold Dessert at Adam Road Food Centre.
At this year’s Singapore Food Festival, chef Matin launched a mangosteen and lychee granita; the offering is now available at the patisserie’s outlet in Ion Orchard. The dessert comprises refreshing mangosteen sorbet with mangosteen and lychee segments, white fungus simmered in ginger syrup, and topped with an icy lychee granita and lemongrass scented bubbles.
“While it’s not a rendition of cheng tng, the use of local fruits and white fungus is one of the rare occasions I came up with an Asian-inspired dessert,” chef Matin explains.
Nursyazanna Syaira, co-founder of Fluff Bakery
Everyone knows Fluff Bakery’s story: it started as a home-based business to raise money for co-founder Nursyazanna Syaira’s wedding in 2013. The business became so popular that Syaira and her husband (and co-founder) decided to open a physical store in Jalan Pisang to meet the demands. The bakery is now located at North Bridge Road and serves more than just cupcakes. Not bad for someone who’s not formally trained in making pastries!
Favourite local dessert: Kuih jongkong, a steamed dessert consisting of pandan custard, sugar, and coconut milk. What makes this kuih so amazing, according to Syaira, is its texture. “It’s steamed just right that it melts in your mouth. The contrast between the coconut milk and pandan custards and the gula melaka syrup is so comforting!” Syaira doesn’t eat it often, but when she does, she finishes it in one sitting.
Where to get it: She orders hers from Kuih Muih Daun Pisang.
Even though Fluff Bakery has yet to produce a kuih jongkong goodie, the closest alternative is the putri salat cupcake – a vanilla cake filled with pandan custard, piped with coconut milk frosting, and topped with squares of steamed glutinous rice. Sounds delish!
Johnathan Chew, MasterChef Singapore Season 3 winner
This “battered boy” (that’s the name of Johnathan’s defunct home-based business) auditioned for MasterChef Singapore because it “felt like something [he] had to do”. Who would’ve thought Johnathan would go on to clinch the title? Certainly not him. “I feel super honoured to have won my season and welcome any cool opportunities that come along,” he says. Now in his final year of dental school, Johnathan hopes to open his ice cream shop in 2025.
Favourite local desserts: Kueh salat, a two-layer mini cake with pandan-flavoured coconut egg custard on top and sticky glutinous rice at the bottom. He loves the traditional dessert because of the contrast between the salted rice and sweet kaya custard layers. “One of the best kuehs I’ve had was at Rempapa. You can literally taste the fresh coconuts!” His second favourite dessert is soy beancurd.
Once Johnathan opens his ice cream parlour, he plans to conceptualise renditions of his favourite local desserts, including kueh salat. He’s made kueh salat multiple times and even created a pumpkin version. “It wasn’t perfect though, so there’s that!” he sheepishly admits.
Maxine Ngooi, founder of Tigerlily Patisserie
Prior to Tigerlily Patisserie, chef Maxine was a home baker who learned by research and experimentation. As she worked her way through fine dining restaurants and high-end pastry shops, the self-taught patissier discovered her passion for culinary arts and pastries grew stronger. When the opportunity to start her own business came about, she immediately seized it – and that’s how Tigerlily Patisserie was born.
Favourite local desserts: Putu piring, a round steamed rice flour cake filled with gula melaka, and kueh dadar, rolled pandan crepes filled with grated coconut and gula melaka.
Where to get them: “I used to get them from a Malay coffee shop on my way home from school, but unfortunately, they’re no longer there,” she says. These days, chef Maxine buys from Haig Road Market and Geylang Serai.
Although it’s not on the cards now, she’d love to create a putu piring-inspired cake that “hits all the right spots” once she finds the best gula melaka. Ooh, we can’t wait to try it!
Vincent Tay, co-founder of Wunderfolks
Chef Vincent has always been passionate about baking. After a few years in the navy, he pursued his interest by attending a course at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy. It’d be a few years later – specifically during the Covid-19 pandemic – before he co-founded Wunderfolks. “When people ask how and why we started Wunderfolks, we always say it was by chance,” he says.
Favourite local dessert: Mooncake, particularly the traditional version with lotus paste, which “hits differently”. Biting into the lightly baked skin and velvety smooth white lotus paste brings him back to his childhood.
Where to get it: “People expect me to go for some well-known, high-end mooncake. But truth be told? I prefer the kind you can find in convenience stores,” he shares. Chef Vincent typically grabs a pack or two every few weeks.
Will Wunderfolks come up with a dessert inspired by the mooncake? “Yes, of course!” he enthuses. “When we eventually come up with our own version, you can be sure we’ll let you know!”
Genevieve Tan, Sommer’s pastry sous chef
The first time chef Genevieve made a strawberry cheesecake, it was a disaster. “That’s why I decided to become a pastry chef – so that I can learn how to do it better,” she reveals. In 2021, she joined Sommer after coming across its dishes on social media. Even though she initially had no intention of working at a fine dining establishment, she felt that it would challenge her to be a “more thoughtful chef”.
Favourite local desserts: “I really like kuehs, especially kueh salat and kueh lapis, a multilayered cake originating from Indonesia,” she tells us.
Sadly, kuehs don’t fit into Sommer’s menu. Regardless, chef Genevieve enjoys making all kinds of variations for staff dessert.
Craving something sweet now? Try these chefs’ favourite local desserts.