Singapore, the island country and city state located in Southeast Asia, is defined by its sky touching structures and cosmopolitan culture. An exquisite land that will sway you off your feet by its mouth watering food, rich heritage, bustling nightlife and thriving landscapes. This land is sure to take you one step closer to the nature with its sprawling rainforests and lush greenery. Whether it’s the Palau Hantu located in the south of the country or Kusu Island with its beautiful lagoons, this country is sure to leave you enchanted. From the ethnic spots like Katong, Chinatown and Thian Hock Kheng Temple to exploring the art and handicrafts at Marina Roads and Orchard Road, Singapore has it all. Culture, heritage, arts, entertainment, hip nightlife, natural landscapes and wildlife, you name it and they have it. There’s so much to absorb from this multi-cultural land and you are definitely missing out on a great destination if you haven’t included Singapore in your travelogue.
All said and done, there’s more to Singapore than ultramodern architecture and happening pubs. Yes, I’m talking food. You see, we foodies can never stop talking about gastronomic delights. Cuisine and food habits form an integral part of exploration when travelling. It’s the food that differentiates a place from others. It’s the flavours and the essence that talk about the origin of a place, its diversity and its journey from past to present. Considering the fact that Singapore enjoys the tag of a multi-cultural land, expect a combo of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Thai, Arabian and Eurasian food.
The Food History
Singapore is blessed with a diverse culture. The British ruled this land for a long time and thus brought a lot of their habits in their culture. Infact the name ‘Singapore’ has been bestowed onto them by the English. Originally, Singapore was called ‘Singapura’ meaning the lion city. Since the accent of the English differed from the local, they went onto pronouncing Singapura as Singapore which eventually stuck with everyone and hence came Singapore into being. The ancient land before the times of British was ruled by five kings. It is said that Chinese came her long time back when it were just the Malays living here. These Chinese married Malay women and a new culture and tradition was born that was referred to as Peranakan. A few Portuguese and Arabs also entered the territory bringing in their own aromas, flavours and traditions. Certain Indians, basically from South, also came this side as servants or traders and hence fused into the culture of Singapore.
To conclude, we can quite easily say that this country has welcomed every custom and tradition with open arms and it has definitely used the best of all to achieve a cult status. As you start exploring, you’ll find cuisine being a perfect amalgamation of different cultures and flavours.
The Food Scene
While one might just say that Singaporean food comes from everywhere, we would still argue that it comes from here, just here. You know why? It is because the fish curry may have originated from South India and char kway teow from China, Ayam buah keluak from Pernaka and Tauhu goring from Malay but all of them have their own aroma and a taste to die for, a taste you won’t find anywhere else. Singapore is a country that is probably one of those few places where you get amazing food at even more amazing prices. Moreover, it is one of those countries that live for food, a nation that has its food in the topmost priority and a habitat that you’ll always find laughing and talking over a plate of anything and everything. You won’t be surprised if you find people saying that it has the best food in the world.
Singaporean food is best tasted on streets although there’s no dearth of uptown restaurants in this country. But you see, the true essence of local food and culture is in the streets. Get down on the roads to experience the hues and shades of this beautiful country. Most of the food outlets will have pictures on menu cards and a small description of the dishes too so that a foreigner gets a better understanding of what lays in his plate. No wonder, this city state is called the street food Mecca. A typical routine that follows at such joints is placing the order at counter and then you choose the seat you wish to gorge your food on under the open skies and starry night. Traditional dishes that one can expect on street vendors and hawkers include fish head curry, dim sum, noodles, chicken rice and chilli crab. They are generally quite cheap and atrociously yummy.
Major dishes and recipes under the platter of Singaporean cuisine include usage of different spices of different origin. Sweets are something that the locals would rather not keep on the priority list but they do have some great desserts on menu available on the streets as well as uptown markets. Sweet lovers can try chendol ais (coconut milk blended with various ingredients including palm sugar and cendol), ice kacang (corn, red beans, jelly, etc over grated ice), kueh (coconut based serving), almond jelly, etc. Expect a lot of usage of coconut in Singaporean cuisine and trust me, it’s the only place that brings out the best out of coconut.
The staple food undoubtedly comprises noodles, rice and seafood. Apart from all this of course, you have a lot to explore and imbibe. For street food, venture into the Arab Street, Little India and Chinatown. Moreover there are Hawker Centres which are a kind of open food courts. Some decades ago, the government banned hawking and thus came Hawker Centres in picture where all such outlets are hogged at one place. Even though it’s street food, it is prepared with cleanliness and quality ingredients.
If you are a beverage lover then you’re going to definitely love this place although expect to find a different style of tea and coffee here. While a lot of locals will be found drinking milk tea all across the street, ‘kopi’ is another thing that’ll keep you glued. Kopi actually means coffee, it is Malay word of coffee and that’s how it is referred to at Singapore). Coffee houses are called Kopitiams and offer a different charm to this country. Traditional Singaporean breakfast is also served at Kopitiams that includes coconut-egg jam spread on bread.
Open air restaurants (Cze Chas) and Single-serving outlets form an integral part of the nation’s cuisine arena. Both of them are a little more spacious than hawker centres, offer good food under budget and specialize in certain type of dishes. Singapore has witnessed immense growth and popularity in a short duration of time. So yes, there are a number of indoor restaurants, food courts and fine dining options. Indoor restaurants have a nice ambience with classy services and cuisine of various kinds. The malls of this country are the talk of the town and the world too, it is known for its uneneding structures and buildings and it definitely doesn’t disappoint you with its posh malls. All such malls have food courts that have a unit of certain branded chain of food and hospitality. They are generally priced high and are run by corporations who may or may not serve good food although yes, they promise hygiene, comfort and nice packaging. Fine dining at Singapore is more of influenced by Western culture and the delicious food and services come at a big price tag there.