ICYMI: Our Little Red Dot is on the world stage again. Come Oct 1, our island nation will be proudly presenting the Singapore Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai aka our version of what sustainable living in the future could look like. The Singapore Pavilion was conceptualised based on the theme of “Nature. Nurture. Future.”.
And nurture it does – especially our people (undeniably Singapore’s most precious resource) and our culture. As such, visitors to the Singapore Pavilion can expect all sorts of local goodies by various retailers helping to cultivate our Singaporean culture abroad.
Local brands, ranging from heritage ones to up-and-coming labels, will be on display so that visitors are able to bring a piece of Singapore home.
This laojiao, a heritage brand with over 80 years of history, will offer visitors a taste of their special brew which blends their own coffee beans and tea dust, while still using the traditional method of sock-brewing.
As part of the brand's commitment to sustainability, Coffee Break has, over the last six months, spent time and money on research and development to develop and perfect sustainably-sourced, Nespresso-compatible coffee capsules for visitors to taste a cup of Singapore coffee in the pavilion.
Gardens You Tiao
Deep-fried you tiao almost always hit the spot, and they've been elevated by two young owners who left their corporate jobs to embark on their simple dream of starting their very own goreng pisang stall in an open-air food court.
Visitors at Expo 2020 Dubai can savour Gardens You Tiao’s sweet potato fritters, tapioca fritters, and green bean fritters - each one a staple snack enjoyed by Singaporeans from all walks of life.
In the months since they took that initial leap of faith, the brand has expanded and now own three more outlets - despite the Covid-19 situation okay!
This is a storied satay brand right here: It was started in 1910 by a Javanese immigrant who came to Singapore. Two generations later, his grandson inherited the business and brought it into the modern age.
From pioneering innovation in satay manufacturing and product development, automating the process and perfecting the recipe, the award-winning Jumain Sataysfaction went global, and remains one of Singapore’s favourite satays.
At Expo 2020 Dubai, visitors can try their traditional chicken, mutton and beef satay, served with fresh cucumber and their signature peanut sauce.
The name is pretty self-explanatory. Dubai-based Sedap brings a unique Singaporean spirit to their local dishes, with the sheer diversity in street food that draws from the myriad cultures that make up our island city.
Visitors at the Singapore Pavilion can look forward to trying quintessential local fare. Think: Singaporean Fried Rice, rojak, otak-otak (spicy fish cake), salted egg fried fish skin, and other delectable dishes that are responsible for making eating our national pasttime.
The Kettle Gourmet
Proudly made in Singapore since 2017, this popcorn will offer visitors local flavours such as their classic Nasi Lemak Popcorn, which melds the pleasantries of coconut milk with a spicy kick at the end, and the melt-in-your-mouth Kaya Butter Toast Popcorn, glistening with buttery goodness and sweet coconut custard jam - just like having a typical Singaporean breakfast, but as a snack!
The Kettle Gourmet has also made the commitment to being a sustainable brand, using biodegradable and environmentally-friendly packaging for their products.
Sin Mui Heng (SMH)
SMH started in 1961 as a humble family-run business and has since grown to become Singapore’s leading producer of quality dim sum, shipping to over 15 countries.
At Expo 2020 Dubai, visitors will be offered a variety of dim sum customised to showcase uniquely Singaporean flavours. Beyond the traditional Chicken Siew Mai, visitors can also enjoy Singapore’s "national dish" in bun form - the Chili Crab Pau as well as the Kaya Pau and the Salted Egg Custard Pau.
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A souvenir from sunny Singapore
The Art Faculty
This social enterprise by the Autism Resource Centre (Singapore) is dedicated to showcasing and honouring the unique talents of artists on the spectrum.
These talented artists have crafted items inspired by and in response to the Singapore Pavilion’s narrative, giving us a glimpse into how they view the world around them.
For Expo 2020 Dubai, they will be showcasing "The Shophouses Design Trio Vase Set", illustrated by artist Selena, featuring our iconic, ornate shophouses that line the streets of our heritage districts as well as "The Orchids Design Trio Vase Set", comprising three vases embellished with the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, our national flower, as illustrated by artist Amirah.
Candles of Light
Former public relations executive Daphne Tan started Candles of Light while on sabbatical, becoming one of Singapore’s very first luxury candle brands.
The brand's uniquely created candles and botanical perfumes are naturally harnessed from spices, herbs, essential oils and natural aromatic materials in the region.
Four scents were specially created just for Expo 2020 Dubai, with the intent to take you across Singapore’s landscape through these unique aromas: According to Daphne, After Rain is meant to "evoke an urban tropical landscape just after a monsoon downpour", while "Spice Route" is "a tribute to Singapore's importance in the spice trade, as the biggest re-exporter of black pepper at one time, and the nutmeg plantations which used to line Orchard Road".
"There's also Urban Rainforest, a really fun and bright scent with kaffir lime and tropical fruit notes," she adds.
Co-founder Ora Lim set up Mononos with three other partners in 2014 and Mononos has since expanded to operations in Singapore and China. Mononos has even worked on large-scale events such as Singapore Fashion Week and the Southeast Asian Games, and counts international brands such as Toyota, Hyundai, and Chanel among its clients.
When asked what makes a great Singapore souvenir, Ora said: "Being able to utilise natural and man-made elements is only half the equation. It is the ability to reproduce the colours and vibrance of one’s experience that makes the souvenir wholly Singaporean."
And nothing encapsulates this better than enamel pins and key chains featuring designs by local illustrator Lee Xin Li and embroidery brand Pew Pew Patches - all of which Mononos will be showcasing at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Onlewo draws inspiration from its Singapore roots to create patterned designs with stories through contemporary renditions of heritage, places and culture in Singapore and Asia and putting them on home, fashion and lifestyle goods.
At Expo 2020 Dubai, visitors can expect two silk scarf designs, "Peranakan Story" and "Naturally Dazzling Singapore", that celebrate our multi-cultural, multi-faceted heritage.
"Peranakan Story" features auspicious Peranakan cultural elements, and pays tribute to the culture's exquisite fabrics, homeware and arts preserved at the Peranakan Museum.
"Naturally Dazzling Singapore" honours the city's natural heritage of flora and fauna and is designed with the Pavilion’s architectural features harmoniously weaved in.
Building on the Pavilion's theme, Onlewo has put together sketches by founder Mike Tay and children from a local charity to create an exclusive Expo-edition fabric notebook to embody the Pavilion’s theme of "Nature. Nurture. Future.".
Pew Pew Patches
Established in 2014 by Dawn Bey, Pew Pew Patches is a Singaporean brand that creates unique embroidered collectables such as iron-on and sticker patches.
At Expo 2020 Dubai, Dawn will be paying homage to some of Singapore’s most recognisable landmarks, from the Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre to the Singapore Peranakan Houses, showcasing designs of our national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim as well as a piece inspired by the Dipterocarp Seed art installation in the Singapore Pavilion.
These patches are not just a cute throwback to the ‘80s - they are a testament to Singapore’s rich cultural heritage and history, each one a nostalgic call to quite literally wear a chapter of the nation’s story on one’s sleeve.
Lee Xin Li
Illustrator Lee Xin Li captures the textures and cultural heritage he finds in local landscapes as a means to remain connected with this place he calls home. History, architecture and nature collide in his depictions of richly detailed landmarks and districts, made all the more significant by the likelihood that they will not look the same in a couple of years.
For Expo 2020 Dubai, Xin Li will be illustrating some of Singapore’s most iconic sights - from the glistening Jewel Changi Airport and the sci-fi Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay, to the unforgettable Marina Bay skyline.
Fun fact: Xin Li has also illustrated the interior of the Singapore Pavilion on the labels of the drinking water by Mon Viso.
Started In 2014, by Mark Tay and his partner Yap Hwee Jen, Sunday Punch ships out small batches of bottled cocktails made with love and skill.
Using local herbs and ingredients, the team was approached by the Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Airlines to produce alcoholic mixers for them, with every tipple innovatively bringing together quintessential Singaporean flavours in a fresh new drink.
At Expo 2020 Dubai, they will be presenting three non-alcoholic limited-edition flavours for the Singapore Pavilion:
- The Pandan Green Tea mix, which brings to mind (and palate) local kueh and other desserts, all utilising the signature taste and aroma of pandan.
- The Hawthorn Hibiscus, which takes its cue from dried haw flakes, a common childhood snack in the old days, mixed with a floral hibiscus syrup.
- The Ginger Black Tea, which calls to mind a typical teh halia drink you can find at almost any local kopitiam, and often used to dispel colds with its sharp, spicy taste.
Co-owned by husband-wife duo, Edwin Low and Mei Ling, Supermama was created as a one-stop gallery store to showcase and garner support from fellow Singaporeans for our local designers, as well as to recognise the creative talent that the nation has on its shores.
Since then, Supermama has evolved into its own lifestyle goods brand. And talk about putting the "good" in "goods": Here, you can expect good stories, good design, and good quality coming together to make good gifts.
This comes through most strongly in their President’s Design Award-winning "Singapore Icons" series, embodied in a signature cobalt blue and white porcelain collection. This dstinctive ceramic has long been a feature of Singapore’s history, taking us back to our country's origins as a thriving trade hub between the East and West.
At Expo 2020 Dubai, Supermama will be showcasing its Singapore Architecture Porcelain Plate, featuring the landscape of the city, as well as the newly-designed Botanica Porcelain Plate, featuring the greenery of the Singapore Pavilion.
"We are known mainly for our contemporary take on blue and white porcelain and I think that really represents Singapore. Blue and white porcelain is a very traditional material, yet our approach is always about looking for something new in the old," Edwin explains.
"It is the fine line between the contemporary and the classical, the present and the past, the strangely familiar mix of visual cultures that excites us - I think that's the 'Singaporean-ness' in our designs."
Uncle Wellie aka 95-year-old Ang Kum Siong has won the heart of just about every customer who has stepped into his batik clothing shop over the last four decades.
He began in 1955 by peddling his goods at pasar malams till he finally settled down with a permanent store at Holland Road Shopping Centre in 1978. You can still find him every day, busying himself at his vintage 40-year-old sewing machine. His clothes are a mark of status and refinement, and are often donned by local dignitaries.
For Expo 2020 Dubai, Wellie Batik has designed and produced a limited-edition Gardens Notebook, featuring a batik cloth cover embellished with orchid prints.
Paying homage to Peranakan heritage, the striking design was inspired and influenced by the grand combination of European, Chinese and Malay aesthetics during the colonial era, with various flora and fauna depicted on the pattern - a testament to how our multicultural heritage is and always has been an essential element of our social fabric.
This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.