Food for your soul: Singapore's feel-good dining spots

If you've been hungry for more than just good food, we have some ideas on how you can do more with your dining dollars.

Singapore may be a tiny city-state, but in terms of her food and culinary culture, she is no small fry on the world stage. 

Her restaurants make it onto “world’s best” lists with regularity, and even the hawker centre format, where stalls specialising in one dish operate under one roof, is being replicated in New York City 

Diners are spoilt for choice when it comes to what to eat, and when it comes to sustainable establishments, they are also able to pick from a great variety of places that are green and responsible in their own ways. 

For instance, there are many restaurants that focus on vegan or vegetarian cuisine, or use organic ingredients on their menus, both of which contribute significantly to the reduction of carbon footprint. 

And with the recent launch of the Building and Construction Authority guidebook, the “BCA Green Mark Scheme for Restaurants and Retail for Dummies”, business owners will now have information on how to sustainably improve their operations at their fingertips. 

It is distributed to all participants in BCA’s Green Mark initiatives to encourage business owners to easily find ways to enhance energy efficiency and conservation in their operations.   

Green-minded diners who patronise establishments with the Green Mark certification, such as Brewerkz, can be sure that their dining dollars are spent on supporting businesses that are doing their part to help take care of the environment. 

But beyond the Green Mark, serving organic or vegan food is just another way to encourage socially-responsible dining. There are also places in Singapore that go the extra mile in fostering environmental and social causes.  

From a hybrid food-truck to a farm-to-table bistro, here is a selection of notable places where you can have a good meal and give back to society.  

Kerbside Gourmet 

location varies | contact: (+65) 9298 4888 or info@kerbsidegourmet.com

Food trucks are all the rage everywhere, but Kerbside offers a substantial helping of social benefits along with their gourmet dishes. They donate one meal for every one sold, and regularly organise outreach excursions with needy and at-risk groups, such as Prison Fellowship Singapore and South Central Community Family Centre. 

Expecunusual interpretations of local cuisine (such as the Bak Chor Mee Hotdog) and modern, seasonal dishes (their Pea Puree with 62 degree Egg is a specialty) that are prepared on-site in the Toyota Hino hybrid truck that has been outfitted with a professional kitchen. Their food philosophy focuses on “sustainability and supporting fresh, local produce”, as evidenced by their menu of dishes made with seasonal ingredients with minimal processing.

You can find out where the Kerbside Gourmet will be parked next by checking out their Facebook page.

Poison Ivy Bistro

100 Neo Tiew Road, Singapore 719026 | contact: (+65) 6898 5001

Poison Ivy Bistro is located in rural Kranji and is part of Bollywood Veggies, a 10-acre lot that also includes a farm, museum and cooking school. As the flagship of the 10-year-old Kranji Countryside Association, Bollywood Veggies offers a way for local farmers to turn their livelihoods into a dynamic and sustainable experience for everyone, while conserving and protecting a fast-disappearing heritage of traditional, small-scale agriculture in urban Singapore. 

Visitors can participate in workshops (including apartment vegetable gardening and rice farming), learn about the farming community and history of Singapore in the museum, and of course, find comfort in the humble, no-frills cooking at the bistro. 

Featuring ‘planet-friendly’ produce (grown without the use ‘chemical fertilisers, pesticides, growth hormones, or genetic modification’), its menu is as colourful and vibrant as any Bollywood dance number with local-centric dishes such as otah omelette and chicken curry. The produce, including several varieties of bananas and other fruit not often seen in the supermarkets (such as Pisang Ambon, crystal fruit and butter fruit) are for sale when in season.

Garçons 

1, Cantonment Rd, #01-01, Singapore 080001 | contact: +65 9297 3285

By the Fire

125, East Coast Rd, Singapore 428810 | contact: (+65) 9185 4824 

Haute French cuisine is typically a white-tablecloth and tuxedoed-waiter affair, but these two establishments feature hard-plastic table tops and there is nary a server in sight. 

The unremarkable setting of these restaurants - in shopfronts and hawker centres - belie the extraordinary stories of each chef behind the food, as well as the hard-earned livelihoods that they have settled into after their brushes with the law. Most are ex-offenders or at-risk men and youths who have found a second chance with E & I Food Concepts, the social enterprise that runs these dining spots.  

Founders Enoch Teo and Immanuel Tee met as co-workers at world-renowned Restaurant Andre, where they cut their teeth in French technique and Singaporean inventiveness. Finding commonality in their checkered pasts and hopeful futures, they established E & I Food Concepts, where culinary training is paired with ex-offenders as a glass of bordeaux is with a rare, well-aged steak.   

For some E & I chefs, their experience and training have enabled them to move on to new career paths at formal dining establishments such as Equina and the Alkaff Mansion. 

New Rasa Singapura 

B1-02 Post Office, 56 Tanglin Rd, Singapore 247964 | contact: (+65) 9818 8102

Located at what used to be the Tanglin Post Office just outside of the Botanic Gardens, New Rasa Singapura is an al fresco restaurant that doubles as a beer garden. 

The menu at New Rasa Singapura is a collection of all the local hawker favourites: from fish head curry to laksa, it is a veritable culinary blueprint of the Singapore hawker centre experience. In addition to showcasing local food heritage, the restaurant also strives to create a positive impact by employing and training those from the fringes of society. 

From single mothers and the destitute elderly to the hearing-impaired, the restaurant aims to turn unskilled (and often ostracised) individuals into productive members of society. By training them in the different aspects of running a restaurant, these individuals can find a sense of purpose and a livelihood.

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