With its history as a seaport, Singapore has a diverse cuisine coupled up with the rich cultural influences and interactions. Ethnic influences include the cuisines of the native Malays, the Chinese, the Indians and the western region forming a diverse culinary scene. Singapore and its citizens are proud of their food heritage, and they see it as a national identity and a unifying cultural thread. Singaporeans perceive food as a national pastime and eating as a national obsession.
History of Singaporean cuisine
Singapore started as a major seaport in the Southeast Asian region and served as a meeting point for traders and marine travelers with most of them settling on the island. All these people came with their different types of food and merged them to form a diverse food scene. Chili and black pepper have survived the culinary world since the 1950s. Other survivor foods include chicken, rice carrot cake, popiah, and fish head curry. Today, Singaporean chefs are integrating their traditional ingredients and styles into the modern food scenery to produce delicious meals and executive and unique dishes.
Singapore is widely known for its seafood. However, the major common types of dishes include; meat dishes like Har Cheong Gai, bak kut teh, and car siu. Rice dishes include chai tow kway, duck rice, and nasi goreng. Seafood comprises of drunken prawn and Assam pedas. Desserts and snacks like curry puff are usually served separately from the main dishes. Noodles are also part of the main types of foods that are offered in Singapore.
Food and culture
Four main ethnic groups inhabit Singapore, and each of them preserves its traditional foods and cooking styles. Each ethnic group prepares their food using different ingredients that are locally available.
The contemporary Chinese cuisine is a heritage from the Chinese immigrants the Hokkien, Teochew, and Hakka. These foods were then adapted to fit the local availability of ingredients and integration of other culturalistic influences. They still possess the Chinese dialects as there was no standard way of writing their names in Latin alphabet. Some of the most renowned Chinese cuisines include
- Bak kut teh; a meat dish cooked in broth.
- Beef noodle soup; soup made of braised beef, broth, and vegetables.
- Ban mian; a dish consisting of handmade flat noodles and are served with vegetables, minced meat or sliced mushrooms.
- Char siu; barbecued pork
- Chicken noodles; a dish made up egg noodles with chicken neat.
- Drunken Prawn; pound cooked with Chinese rice wine.
- Kaya toast; toasted bread spread with coconut and egg.
- Turtle soup made from turtle flesh.
The Malay dishes of Singapore are greatly influenced by the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java and Riau islands. Spices and coconut milk are a common feature of these dishes although other Chinese features and styles have been adopted into the traditional Malay cuisine.
- Acar; a dish made up of pickled vegetables or fruits spiced with chili, peanut, and other spices.
- Ayan penyet; is a fried chicken dish made up a smashed chicken.
- Bakso; meatballs served with noodles.
- Begedil; a potato mixture that is eaten together with mee soto.
- Belacan; belacan is a shrimp paste used in spice mixtures
- Curry puff; a flaky pastry stuffed with curry chicken, potato cubes and a slice of boiled egg.
- Satay; grilled meat served with peanut sauce
- Sayur lodesh ; vegetables mixed in coconut milk
- Rowan; a black beef soup
- Soto; a kind of soup mainly composed of broth, meat, and vegetables.
- Mee Soto; a spicy noodle soup dish.
Some of the Indian dishes include
Appam; pancake made of fermented rice
- Naan; is an Indian flatbread baked in ovens.+
- Roti prata; a third bread pancake that is crispy on the outside and soft on th4e inside
- Dosa; pancake made from rice and lentil that is commonly served with different types of sambar
- Vadai; a spicy deep fried snack made from dhal, lentils, and potatoes.
- Tandoori ; chicken that is marinated in a mixture of spices and yogurt cooked in a clay oven.
The cross-cultural groups usually prepare their dishes by combing aspects from other ethnic groups and the western dishes. These meals are highly hybrid.
- Tauhu Goreng; A dish made from fried bean curd puffs, cockles, and spinach.
- Satay bee hoon; It is a rice noodle dish with peanut sauce accompanied by cuttlefish, fried bean curd with sweet rice.
- Mie Goreng; a dish of yellow egg noodle fried with ghee, tomato sauce, chili eggs, vegetable meats, and seafood.
- Cereal prawns; Prawns cooked with sweetened cereal
- Katong laksa ; a dish of bee hoon in coconut curry gravy with brown and egg.
Main eating points
Restaurants and food hawker sites dominate the streets of Singapore. From the most expensive and sophisticated hotels and restaurants to the most affordable and cheap food eatery points, one can only never miss a place to eat.
Some of the most notable hawker stalls include;
- 5 little monkeys cafe
This restaurant is most suitable for the lovers of peranakam food. They also serve a variety of Western dishes, coffee, and cakes.
- Dong Po colonial cafe
This cafe is a refurbished version of the old colonial cafes. It is a great eatery for those who prefer old-school desserts.
- Long Phung Vietnamese restaurant
It is a favorite restaurant for late-night dinners. It opens till late in the night and serves most Vietnamese dishes
- Wild rocket
It is a beautiful restaurant dedicated to serving modern Singaporean cuisine dishes made from the fusion of western and local flavors.
It is not uncommon to see hawker stalls lining the streets of Singapore and displaying their great dishes to the food lovers. Theses stalls include
- Sungei Road laska
It is a stall for spicy noodle soup with bean curd puffs, fish sticks, and shrimps prepared in a combination of Malay and Chinese cuisines.
These are two adjacent stalls serving delicious hainaness curry rice, braised pork, and fried eggs.
- Da Dong
Da Dong is excellent in the preparation of prawn noodles and soup.
The Singaporeans are proud of their food heritage. Chinese cuisine seemingly dominates the food culture of Singapore. Some of the uncommon dishes include; Singapore-style noodles which are an American Chinese food consisting of fried rice spiced with yellow curry powder and Singapore sling, a cocktail invented by Singapore Raffles hotel.