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The Singaporean Chef Reinventing Modern Heritage Cuisine

Jun 16, 2023

The Singaporean Chef Reinventing Modern Heritage Cuisine

Encouraged by Chef Mano–the owner of Singapore’s fine dining restaurant Thevar–to reinvent contemporary Malay food, Chef Asyraffie combines his years of experience in the industry with his knowledge of the cuisine to prepare them with a modern twist.

Beginning his career at European restaurant Iggy’s, this SHATEC graduate also embarked at many more noteworthy restaurants like Corner House and Gaggan in Bangkok before pursuing Thevar for two and a half years, where he ran a pop-up serving his versions of contemporary Malay food.

Chef Asyraffie puts a fancy, modern touch on traditional Malay food like the Kuih Bakar Barlauk. Instead of minced beef, chili, and coriander, he uses mud crab meat, creme fraiche, uni, and caviar. The chef maintains the traditional way of cooking it–using brass moulds and covering the lids with charcoal–to present it as authentic Malay cuisine. Asyrafie has also developed his version of a Kelantanese staple, Nasi Kerabu. The chef swaps out the butterfly pea flowers–that dyes the rice blue–with ghee, coconut milk, and aromatics to create yellow rice instead. Asyraffie serves it with sides like pomegranate, pomelo, and short rib rendang, instead of coconut and fish.

The chef now runs his own private dining “Arang”, and believes that Malay food has a lot of potential of being elevated. He is currently exploring and using regional ingredients to fuse Malay flavors into contemporary dishes. 

More restaurant trends in Singapore this year

With more young chefs exploring their roots and identities to create modern heritage dining concepts, Singapore’s food industry is expecting to see more contemporary versions of the country’s classic dishes. 

While Chef Asyaffie is cooking up sophisticated versions of Malay food, Chef Mano serves modern Indian cuisine using premium ingredients and French techniques at his 2-Michellin-starred restaurant.

Chef Malcolm Lee who owns the Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant Candlenut has also made some notable modern heritage dishes. Last year, the chef created a classic burger with a Peranakan twist–The Buah Keluak or pangium burger–which was a limited edition, one-day-only item. The fruit is loved by Asians residing in Singapore and Malaysia. Lee explores its earthy and rich flavors to pair it with the burger’s Angus beef patty.

Meanwhile, alcohol-free alcohol (yes, you read that right) is becoming more popular in 2023. Health and wellness became an increased public awareness after the lockdowns and people are changing their opinion on alcohol. Besides, the younger generation drinks less alcohol and is more interested in exciting, creative alternatives. 

Chefs are using locally-grown produce that is far more sustainable. Vertical, aquaponic, and artisanal farms are providing them with ingredients like organic vegetables, wild heirloom rice, honey, and even unique salts and sugars. 

This new wave of young chefs, wellness eats, and sustainability is driving the Singaporean restaurant industry to far more exciting opportunities. With such remarkable talent and dedication, the future of culinary is in good hands.