You often see them making final touches to immaculately-plated dishes at the kitchen counters or ensuring every ingredient is prepared and cooked precisely, but where can you find these chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants after they hang up their aprons for the day?
After an intense shift in the kitchen, many of them unwind over comfort food in restaurants or hawker centres, indulging in fuzzy childhood memories and reminiscing about happy moments as they dig in. We ask chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants in Singapore to spill the beans on their top spots for comfort food.
1. Keng Eng Kee Seafood
Who: Han Liguang, Chef-Owner, Labyrinth
"Over the past four years, I have been visiting Keng Eng Kee Seafood every one or two months, mostly with chef-friends and overseas visitors as the place serves unique Singapore-style zichar dishes. As a chef, you work with high-end produce everyday, and sometimes, you just want something that is quick, tasty, and cooked well. I always order dishes such as the Moonlight Hor Fun, which has a consistent wok hei. The deep black colour of the hor fun showcases nice and rich flavours and it is topped with an egg yolk that adds creaminess to the dish.
Another favourite dish is the Mingzhu Roll, fried tau pok stuffed with salted egg yolk, prawn, mushrooms and parsley, which has a crowd-pleasing and tasty combination of ingredients. The Claypot Liver is so well-cooked — there is a nice fragrance when you open the lid. The liver is not overly gamey and there is a harmony of flavours when it is eaten with rice and spring onions. The Liew family, which runs the restaurant, is very hospitable and is always happy to make food recommendations. Dining there feels like visiting a friend’s place.”
2. He Jia Huan Ban Mian Mee Hoon Kway Stall
Who: Manjunath Mural, Culinary Director, The Song Of India
“The one thing that attracted me to this noodle stall in the hawker centre at Toa Payoh Lorong 5 is how it draws a queue even at 1am. I am usually there twice a week for supper after dinner service.
I always order a bowl of dry yee mee (Cantonese egg noodles) with minced pork and prawns to my bowl. I love how this noodle dish is light enough for a late-night meal after dinner service. I love the bite and texture of the lightly-blanched noodles tossed with soya sauce and oil. I can finish an entire bowl by myself. This is the perfect comfort food.”
3. Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant
Who: Martin Foo, Group Executive Chef, Crystal Jade
“I first visited Yong Kee Seafood Restaurant at 43 Jalan Besar Road more than 10 years ago upon a recommendation from my kitchen staff. It is a convenient spot for chefs if we crave for simple comfort food at a fuss-free joint after work. The joint opens from 6pm till 3am.
My must-have dishes include the Burnt Vermicelli or chao ta bee hoon. The chefs use a flat frying pan to brown the vermicelli till a crust forms and the base becomes golden and crisp. It is topped with pork lardons, beansprouts and spring onions. Other favourite dishes are Mee Sua Guo, Deep-fried Prawn Roll, Prawn Paste Chicken, Curry Fish Head, Diced Chicken With Salted Fish Fried Rice, Stir-fried Baby Cabbage With Dried Shrimp and Sambal Petai. These dishes are simple yet delicious and very affordable.
At Yong Kee, the setting is very relaxed and they have an alley behind the kitchen where they set up some tables as well. I usually prefer to have my meal there with my friends or friends from overseas as it is more cooling and we can just enjoy some food, drinks and just relax after a long day of work.”
4. Common Man Coffee Roasters & Luke’s Oyster Bar And Chop House
Who: Kirk Westaway, Chef de Cuisine, JAAN
“My mum used to make me a quintessential English breakfast on Sunday mornings so the smell of toast and baked beans always remind me of England. That’s why I enjoy the Full English Breakfast at Common Man Coffee Roasters at Robertson Quay, which has free-range organic eggs, back bacon, pork sausage, pesto tomatoes, vegetable rosti, minted sour cream, portobello mushroom, house-made chorizo baked beans with toast.
For dinner, I like going to Luke’s Oyster Bar And Chop House in Orchard Road. I always order a dozen mixed American oysters, Dover sole, Old-Style hashbrown with boursin cheese and spring onions and the kale salad. The oysters at Luke’s remind me of the times when I hung out with friends back home — we would order a dozen oysters and some beer, and just have a great time. I love how no-fuss these places are and how I can head down in casual T-shirt and shorts and still get a delicious meal.”
Who: Chen Kentaro, Executive chef, Shisen Hanten
“My career requires me to travel quite a bit, so I don’t necessary get to eat Japanese food as much as I would like. When I find myself craving for the cuisine in Singapore, I go to Takayama Japanese Restaurant in OUE Downtown Gallery. The restaurant celebrates seasonal ingredients with dishes that make me feel closer to home.
I like the Foie Gras Monaka, which is a playful take on the classic dish. Instead of the usual red bean filling, chef Taro Takayama uses a