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A ‘Crazy Rich Asians’-Inspired Restaurant Pop-Up Is Coming to Chicago

Rickshaw Republic will celebrate the Singapore street food featured in the movie

The 24th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards - Show
“Crazy Rich Asians” has inspired a Chicago restaurant pop-up.
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

When Crazy Rich Asians debuted last year, it not only showed Hollywood that diversity was a smart business decision, but it also showcased different Asian cuisines including Singapore’s famous street food. A mouth-watering scene in the film shot at the Newton Food Centre highlighted many local delicacies including Hainese chicken, curry laksa, and Hokkien mee (noodles). The film captivated the owners of Rickshaw Republic, an Indonesian restaurant in Lincoln Park, and customers started to ask the owners about preparing dishes from the movie. While the restaurant is known for Indonesian items like its rice table, its owners have spent considerable time in Singapore. That’s why started on Saturday they’ll unveil a special prix-fixe meal inspired by the movie.

Rickshaw Republic’s Oscar Setiawan said his family has a home in Singapore, but it’s not like the extravagant mansion featured in the movie. He noted that much of the film was actually shot in Malaysia. The family often visits friends in Singapore and last year they made their own visit to Newton to experience the various hawker stalls. The movie captured many Asian Americans’s imaginations. In August, the Tribune published a guide on “how to eat like a crazy, rich Asian.”

Decadence is a big part of the film, but the romantic comedy also excelled at portraying different family dynamics, and that resonated with many stateside, including immigrants. The movie starred Constance Wu, Awkwafina, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and it’s based on the book by Kevin Kwan.

Hainan chicken
Rickshaw Republic [Official Photo]

Setiawan and his mother — and Rickshaw’s chef — want to have a little fun. And the family understands hawker culture. Before moving to Chicago, Setiawan’s mother — Elice Sobli — ran a food counter called Jakarta Corner in Boston.

“My mother knows Singapore food inside and out,” Setiawan said.

The menu will feature at least 10 items served family style. The selections will change, but the first version will include ikan bilis (crispy anchovies, roasted peanuts, sambal), chai tow kway (Singaporean carrot cake), curry laksa (noodles in coconut curry broth, shrimp, tofu, fish cakes, sambal), and the aforementioned Singaporean-style Hainese chicken.

The Singapore version of the latter dish is unique. They use boneless chicken, it’s marinated differently, and the chili-ginger sauce also makes it stand out, Setiawan said. The price for the meal, $48, isn’t crazy or rich, but it’s meant to be a tribute to the movie.

The pop-up will start on Saturday and the menu will only be offered on weekend morning and afternoons. They’ll morph back into an Indonesian restaurant at night. Setiawan doesn’t want any of his loyal customers to think they’re turning into a Singaporean restaurant. They’re proudly Indonesian, even working with the country’s department of tourism.

Ais Kachang (Shaved ice with kidney beans)
Rickshaw Republic [Official Photo]

There’s no real word for “brunch” across Asia, Setiawan said. That’s why he’s cautious in describing the pop-up as a brunch menu, conjuring visions of avocado toast and long lines. Besides giving into customer demand and showing love for the film, they’re also trying to boost business. The nearby construction surrounding the former Children’s Memorial Hospital and the polar vortex have slowed business. Crazy Rich Asians hopefully will bring Rickshaw Republic some prosperity.

“We’re bringing an elevated street food food experience from Singapore to Lincoln Park,” Setiawan said.

The decor will stay the same, but they’re debuting new plates. No, they won’t serve items with disposable items to emulate the street market feel. Bookings are available via Tock. Only the first two weekends of the month are available currently, but Setiawan said they’ll add more dates. Check Rickshaw Republic’s Facebook page for updates.

Rickshaw Republic

2312 North Lincoln Avenue, , IL 60614 (773) 697-4750 Visit Website