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Chef Willin Low On Mod Sin Cuisine

Stirred by the bursting flavours that shaped his childhood, Willin Low is on a mission to not only reinvent Singaporean cuisine for the modern palate, but bring it to all corners of the world.

June 30, 2021

You are renowned for pioneering the Mod Sin cuisine, often introducing innovative techniques and ingredients when reinterpreting Singaporean classics. What exactly is Mod Sin and what inspired your approach?

Modern Singaporean (or “Mod Sin”) is a term I coined in 2005 to describe my food. All the concepts of my restaurants revolve around that one concept – Mod Sin. Mod Sin is basically a celebration of traditional Singaporean flavours, dishes, and ingredients in ways previously not done before.

I am inspired by food I ate growing up in Singapore with its very diverse cuisines. I am also excited by ingredients and other cuisines when I travel and always seek to find similarities and complementary contrasting flavours and textures to celebrate the flavours of Singapore.

Aside from the beloved Wild Rocket (that closed its doors in 2018), Relish and Roketto Izayaka, your other restaurants in Singapore, are also hugely popular. What are their concepts and must-try dishes?

Wild Rocket was a fine dining concept where we served omakase menus, while Relish is a cheery family restaurant with burgers, rice, noodles, and pastas dishes. Roketto Izakaya is a cosy casual Mod Sin tapas bar. At Wild Rocket, the signature was a multi-course exclusive chef menu that is actually currently available at Roketto Izakaya by reservation only. There, also try the scallop her kiao dumplings, iberico pork satay with pineapple relish and oyster omelette spaghetti. Relish’s signatures include the open char siew soft bone pork burger and hae bee hiam (spicy fried shrimp) pasta.

Can you tell us about the journey of opening your restaurants outside of Singapore?

Having established Mod Sin cuisine in Singapore, I decided to share Singaporean flavours beyond our shores first through a noodle bar concept serving dishes like collagen fish soup ramen in Taiwan. Then in 2018, I opened Roketto Niseko in a new ski resort, The Maples, serving the snow crab broth laksa udon and Hokkaido pork bah kut teh ramen.

How do you see the culinary landscape in Niseko and how did it inspire you?

It’s hard to ignore Japan as a culinary paradise because of its culture and produce. Niseko’s advantage is its access to wonderful seasonal ingredients from the humble potato to uni to venison. Every season brings a different bounty. Diversity of great produce to a chef is like a palette of colours to a painter.

What do you love most about Singaporean food, and what were your favourite dishes and food memories growing up?

Because of our climate and hence produce, our cuisine is usually full of strong flavours and umami. Bring to this mix the Malay inhabitants and the Chinese, Indian, European, American migrants and traders, each with their own culinary identities, and then you throw in the spice trade and you have an exciting formula for a unique Singaporean cuisine.

You previously practised law for eight years before becoming a restauranteur. What spurred the professional change?

Life is too short to just be one thing. I want to embrace as much of it as possible and have been blessed to have lived life twice thus far, first as a lawyer and then as a chef. I am looking forward to the next change! The journey has been nothing short of a miracle. Sometimes I still pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

When creating new recipes and menus, where do you like to find your inspiration and ideas? Do you have any rules?

Only one rule applies when I create a dish: it must taste good. That is my motivation. Then, from that motivation I look for textures, temperatures, and complementary contrasting flavours to pamper the palate.

Can you tell us about some of the most important culinary influences and moments in your career?

There are some career highlights, including being featured in the likes of The New York Times, The Financial Times, Wallpaper*, and Monocle. I was honoured to be included as one of 100 chefs to shape the culinary world from Singapore to Seattle to Stockholm in a Feran Adria cookbook. Other standout moments? Cooking for royal families and state signatories, plus opening restaurants in Taiwan and Japan