If you are a fan of Anthony Bourdain, you are familiar with the presence of KF Seetoh every time Bourdain does an episode in Singapore. Seetoh is the founder of the quintessential Singaporean eating guide and web site, Makansutra. Seetoh is currently in New York City as a part of the SG50 Festival: a 50th anniversary cultural celebration of Singapore as a nation. The SG50 Festival ran from September 18th-27th, 2015. The heritage of Singapore is the most unique within the Asian continent. Three distinctive ethnic groups make up Singapore: Malays, Chinese and Indian. It’s well known the multicultural cuisine of Singapore are world famous. Seetoh is a passionate piper of hawker culture: high quality street food that is accessible for everyone. He wasted no time in exploiting his country’s delights. illi Box, an upscale canteen located within Madison Square Park in New York City’s Flatiron District, partnered with Seetoh for the food component of the SG50 Festival. The illi Box team served up some distinctive Singaporean hawker delights under his culinary direction of. Seetoh himself is on premise by 7:00 am, prepping the pork stuffed fried tofu, cooking up the broth for Laksa and mixing the ingredients for the pork meatballs. He wanted the locals to experience Singaporean fare, the way his fellow countrymen do.
Sink you teeth and taste buds into these offerings.
- Laksa Yong Tau Foo
Tofu stuffed with minced pork and vegetables in Laksa curry broth
Spring roll with braised jicama salad, egg ribbons, Chinese sausage, shrimp, bean sprouts and crushed peanuts
- Ngoh Hiang Balls
Minced pork and shrimp balls wrapped in crispy bean curd skin served with sambal molasses sauce
- Kaya Toast
Pandan coconut jam on toasted brioche with butter
- Milo Dinosaur
Iced rich chocolate drink topped with cocoa
Like his food, Seetoh is very approachable in person. Many Singaporean ex-pats and locals stopped by just to meet him. The man never gets tired of talking about food. He is interested in all aspects of the New York City food culture: ethnic cuisines, demographics and how outrageous rents are now driving ethnic eateries to the outer boroughs. The latter is an immediate concern for him as commercial real estate prices are proving near impossible for start up restauranteurs to open shop.
Seetoh partnered with Bourdain to open the Bourdain Market by the piers along Hudson River in midtown Manhattan. This will be the first project of its kind in the United States. Both Seetoh and Bourdain firmly believe the introduction of Asian hawker culture will be a game changer for the American culinary world. With the popularity of food trucks on the rise, they feel the next logical step will be a hawker market where each stall specializes in a limited menu with an emphasis on quality. This will also prove to be an economically sound plan for start ups who want to introduce their fare to the general public. In America, food courts are usually a wasteland of mediocrity and despair. They want Americans to experience hawker culture by spending a day there, trying different foods from each stall and enjoy its jubilant atmosphere. Singaporeans often get a bunch of their friends to spend a day at their favorite hawker centers or hop from one hawker center to another. An average American would say it’s a waste of time just spending a whole day eating. Let me tell you, it is not. It’s the food, the variety, the people and the atmosphere of a hawker center that makes time exciting.
As Forrest Gump would say, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You’ll never know what you’re gonna get.”