Can’t get enough of the Sarawakian dishes we all know and love, namely kolo mee and laksa?
You can now explore the flavours of Sarawak, but with a modern twist, at Singapore’s first Borneo-inspired restaurant, Kantin at Jewel Changi.
It is located on level 5 of Jewel Changi Airport, which provides the open-concept space with plenty of natural light. Coupled with rattan furnishings, “tribal” motifs and lush greenery, the restaurant really does evoke a “rainforest” feel.
Fun fact: Kantin is helmed by the team behind the popular Kantin at The Granary in Kuching, Sarawak (this is their first overseas outlet), so you can expect a well-curated menu that celebrates Borneo’s legendary rainforest culture.
If you’d like to dine like a headhunter, go for the Kantin’s signature Headhunter Pansuh Set (S$32) a remastered classic steeped in tradition. As its name suggests, it is a type of pansuh, dish cooked in bamboo tubes, comprising chicken and wild vegetables — tapioca leaves, lemongrass, and bunga kantan (ginger flower).
The chicken itself, served in a herb-laden brine, was aromatic and tender, with gelatinous skin akin to that of the chicken in Hainanese chicken rice.
This platter, which serves two or more, also comes with keropok lekor, purple rice (+S$5), and a rotating assortment of side dishes that take inspiration from Dayak, an indigenous community.
We were served Rebung (bamboon shoot, U.P. S$12), Paku (wild fern, U.P. S$12), and Umai Jellyfish (U.P. S$12), jellyfish dressed in a traditional Melanau sauce consisting of calamansi juice, ginger, vinegar, shallots, and chilli, reminscent of both Thai and Japanese flavours.
For something more approachable, the crowd-pleasing Rainforest Fried Rice (S$18) is a medley of textures, with shiitake mushroom bits, deep-fried cauliflower nuggets, and a scattering of fried tapioca leaves.
The rice was fragrant, though I did expect it to taste a lot more “green” and herbaceous. And of course, you can’t go wrong with fried cauliflower!
But if there’s one dish you cannot miss, it is the iconic Sarawak Laksa (S$18), which boasts an incredibly rich and fragrant broth prepared using coconut milk, tamarind paste, and a dozen aromatic spices. It was creamy, but not too creamy, just how I like it.
It is also generously topped with beansprouts, prawns, chicken (not shredded, and with skin), and egg omelette strips, making for an incredibly satisfying meal.
Pair it with the accompanying sambal and a squeeze of calamansi juice, and you’re all set. Now we know why the late Anthony Bourdain described it as “Breakfast of the Gods”!
You can also find Western-insipired options, or “Tropical Mains”, such as the Jungle Pasta (S$23), which is tossed in a special Bornean herb pesto blend and topped with smoked duck.
As for dessert, the Coconut Dream (S$7) — coconut ice cream with crispy dried sago, calamansi jelly, and grated lime — may make you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation.
Get your caffeine fix in the form of either the Kantin Kaffeine (S$10) or the Sarawak Teh C Special (S$10), a refreshing and concentrated three-layered tea with authentic gula apong syrup, a less sweet and “slightly more fragrant” version of gula melaka.
As a lover of all things sour, I couldn’t stop sipping on the slushy-style Three Sour Crush (S$12) composed of zingy lemon, calamansi, and asam boi (sour plum).
In the evening, you can also treat yourself to Borneo-style cocktails featuring local herbs and unconventional ingredients, like the enchanting Cloud Forest (S$24), crafted with rum and tuak, the fermented rice wine of the Dayak tribe, a sweet and mildly dry concoction with botanical notes.
If you prefer citrus-y tropical flavours, the Borneo Sling (S$26) incorporates gin with potent Borneo rice wine and fresh pineapple.
Regardless of whether you’re planning a date, family dinner, or simply just a chill catch-up with friends, you can count on Kantin at Jewel Changi Airport for a unique dining experience. All I can say is, I need to plan a trip to Sarawak, stat!
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