There are no shortage of landmarks and hotspots for both tourists and locals alike in Singapore. However, if sightseeing isn’t your thing, or if you feel like you've seen it all, you might be looking for a more immersive cultural experience.
If you’ve tasted chilli crab, chicken rice or nasi lemak (a fragrant rice dish infused with coconut and pandan leaf) and wondered what goes into these iconic dishes – why not try and learn how to make them? With its gastronomical melting pot status, Singapore’s food truly resembles its people in many ways – a medley of Malay, Chinese, Eurasian and Indian cuisines, with influences from as far as the Middle East. We can’t think of a better way to get to know and understand a country better than through its food!
From recipes passed down through generations to inventive twists on the classics, this article will start you off on your culinary journey across Singapore. From home cooks to upscale restaurants, old wives’ tales to nutrition science, go beyond trying the food and get to the heart of it all.
Cookery Magic – Cooking in the great outdoors
Our first stop is the home of Ruqxana Vasanwala, a sprightly former mechanical engineer who runs the culinary school, Cookery Magic, out of her home on Fidelio Street. She teaches recipes from her wide repertoire of Eurasian, Chinese, Indian and Malay dishes. With her warm and friendly personality, patrons can expect plenty of conversations and a nice sit-down meal at the end of the lesson.
The highlight of Cookery Magic, however, is its Kampong Cooking Escapade. Get away from the bustle of the city to Pulau Ubin, an island just off the north-eastern coast of Singapore. Home to one of the last kampongs (Malay for village) in the country, the island has resisted much of the urban development that came with Singapore’s rapid industrialisation, giving you a glimpse into what the city looked like in the 1960s.
What to expect at the Kampong Cooking Escapade: Just a 10-minute bumboat (a small boat commonly used as a ferry in Singapore) ride away, Ruqxana holds her lessons in a century-old Malay stilt house. With herbs and spices harvested directly from the wild, she takes guests through traditional Malay dishes like nasi kerabu (a rice dish dyed blue with butterfly-pea flowers) to local desserts like ice kacang (a refreshing combination of shaved ice, syrup and assorted toppings).
This outdoor experience is perfect for families, giving children above the age of three years old a hands-on experience into what goes behind this eye-catching blue rice dish. The island getaway also offers nature walks through its unique mangrove wildlife, just remember to leave before sunset — ferry services only run from 6am to 7pm!
Address: 117 Fidelio Street Singapore 458492
Cost: Classes start from $110 per person and require at least 2 bookings to start.
The Pulau Ubin Kampong Cooking Escapade costs $140 per person, inclusive of the ferry ride to and from Pulau Ubin, transportation around the island, ingredients and refreshments. Lessons run for 5.5 hours with a class size of 20 to 60 students.
Little Green Kitchen – A vegan and gluten-free twist on Asian delights
With iconic staples like chicken rice and rendang (a coconut-based mutton or beef stew) being part of the must-eats in Singapore, those on vegetarian and vegan diets might feel like they’re missing out on the local experience.
Well fret not, the Little Green Kitchen provides animal-free alternatives to local favourites without losing out on taste. A former lawyer turned chef and food consultant; owner Shula Asnani is out to prove that vegetarian food can be exciting too. A graduate of Cordon Vert, the UK’s leading culinary school, Chef Shula brings in nutrition science and creativity to her creations.
What to expect: Classes are themed according to a dish or cuisine from the region. You’ll learn to cook vegan versions of local favourites like mee goreng (fried noodles) and gain mastery over popular meat alternatives like tofu. The Little Green Kitchen also has courses on gluten-free diets. If you or someone you’re cooking for has specific dietary needs, Chef Shula also tailors personalised meal plans for her customers, right down to preferred ingredients and health targets.
Address: 1 Hacienda Grove, #03-05 Singapore 457908 (off Upper East Coast Road).
Cost: Classes last from 2-3 hours and cost $85 per person. Classes are catered to a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 8 students per session.
One Kind House – Go from farm to table under one roof
One of the defining aspects of Singapore’s culture is its “kampong spirit”— a sense of unity that brings neighbours in a village together regardless of ethnicity and religious beliefs. While some would argue that this spirit is in short supply these days with the hustle of our modern lives, family-run enterprise One Kind House is looking to preserve and introduce this spirit to its visitors.
What to expect: The cooking classes are run by Madam Ng Swee Hiah, or Mummy Soh as she’s affectionately known by guests. Embodying the camaraderie of the kampong, the gates to her family house are always open, even to non-patrons who are keen to drop by and have a chat. Mummy Soh’s vibrant personality belies her great age — so don’t be surprised if this old lady bosses you around the kitchen! Guests will learn how to cook staples like chicken curry or pulut hitam (sweet glutinous red rice porridge with coconut milk) to creative twists on traditional dishes like fish with kedondong pesto (a local fruit, also called a June plum).
With its own hydroponics garden, One Kind House also provides a unique ‘farm to table’ experience. You’ll be amazed by how veggies like okra, sometimes shunned for its slimy texture, can take on a crunchy new dimension when plucked fresh and seared over an open flame. One Kind House takes the old ways and brings them into the present day, exemplified by the three generations of the Soh family running the business.
Address: 136b Lorong J Telok Kurau Road
Cost: Classes are $99 per person and held on Fridays and Saturdays. Slots accommodate up to 10 guests ages 12 and up. A minimum of 4 sign-ups is required for classes to start.
Contact: Make your booking or contact them through Airbnb Experiences here.
Food Playground – Hearty dishes just like mum made it
If you’re looking to live and eat like a local, Food Playground opens the dining tables of Singaporeans to visitors. This award-winning social enterprise is run by stay-at-home mothers and active seniors who are interested in returning to the workforce.
What to expect: Instructors share family recipes passed down through generations for a unique flavour you can’t get anywhere else. Lessons start with an introduction to Singaporean food culture and the stories behind local spices and ingredients. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — the instructors are more than happy to share their own personal anecdotes and experiences with guests. Lessons are casual and catered to different skill levels, so even complete strangers to the kitchen feel at home.
Address: 24A Sago Street, Singapore 059020
Cost: Classes last from 3 to 3.5 hours and start at S$99 per person for 2 or more people, or at S$119 for a solo booking.
The Coriander Leaf – Learn the classics from the pros
For those looking to learn in a more professional setting, the Coriander Leaf has you covered. One of the premier Pan-Asian restaurants in Singapore, their cooking demonstrations are conducted personally by head chef and founder, Samia Ahad.
What to expect: Their ‘Streets of Singapore’ and ‘Singapore Classics’ courses take guests through the preparation, cooking and presentation of Singaporean classics like Hainanese chicken rice, lamb satay (skewered meat) to national icons like chilli crab. Don’t worry about needing fancy grills or cooking ranges; their cooking studios are furnished with home cooking appliances to ensure that students can recreate dishes back home. The flavours of the selection of recipes taught are meant to be complementary to each other, rather than just a random selection of dishes – making it perfect to be served together to entertain friends and family back home as well.
Address: #02-01 Chijmes, 30 Victoria Street, Singapore 187 996
Cost: Classes start at $160 per person and last for 3.5 hours. Lesson will be held at Coriander’s Chjimes branch on Victoria Street.
The lessons you take home with you from these culinary masterclasses are more than just recipes, but a behind-the-scenes look at Singapore’s food culture and its creators. You can return home and whip up one of these dishes for your loved ones, regaling them with the history and stories of the local chefs you’ve met over an exotic treat (or if you simply wish to take yourself back to the island with a spoonful)!
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