Singaporean Food: Singaporean cuisine is known for it’s ethnic diversity and is influenced by different cultures from different countries. For example – the native Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Sri Lankan, Thai, Filipino, Middle-Eastern and also the English and Portuguese cuisines (the last two due to Singapore’s colonial history with these two countries) influence the local food. Eating joints at hawker centres or food courts are more attractive than regular restaurants!
Food is a national pastime here – a national obsession. What weather means to England, Food means to Singapore. It is the most discussed topic of conversation and an opening first in any social introduction – ‘Did you try this at such and such place?’ So much so that the Singapore Tourism Board organizes the Singapore Food Festival in July to celebrate Singapore’s cuisine and promote it alongside Singapore’s shopping experience. Our experience at Newton Food Centre – a very popular food court (not the food court variety that we are used to in shopping malls but rather a conglomeration of hawkers) was enough to make us realise that foodies like us were at the right place – a food paradise. Another food court that is also popular is Lau Pa Sat. Singaporean hawker stalls are famous for multi-cultural fusion dishes – like Chinese dishes with experimental Indian touches of Tamarind, Turmeric and Ghee!
Our exotic culinary journey in the Newton Food Centre is as follows:
Singaporean Black Pepper Crab – Here, hard shell crabs are cooked in a black pepper sauce. This is by far the most popular seafood dish in Singapore, followed by the Singaporean Chilli Crab. We experienced the latter on our visits to the Chinatown much later. Wherever we went, everybody seemed to be ordering these two dishes to start with!
We also tasted the Tiger Prawns (above) and the Honey Chilli Chicken (below).
Chinatown: Whatever is written about the Chinatown in Singapore is never going to be enough. The Chinese are the largest ethnic group in Singapore. Chinatown reflects their heritage and their ethnicity. Located within the larger district of Outram, large sections of it have been declared National Heritage Sites for conservation by the urban authorities. Chinese restaurants – small and big, throng the entire Chinatown. And specially interesting are the dishes they serve – the authenticity of the Chinese dishes diluted and fused by multi-cultural influence!
Our unbelievable food trips at Chinatown:
Singaporean Chilli Crab, is a kind of a celebrity dish where hard shell crabs are cooked in a thick tomato and chilli-based gravy.
Asam Curry Fish-head, a dish created by Singapore’s Malayalee (an Indian ethnic group from Kerala) community with some Chinese and Malay influences. The head of a red snapper (ikan merah; literal meaning the ‘red fish’) is stewed in a curry consisting of varying amounts of Coconut milk and Tamarind juice with vegetables (lady’s fingers and brinjals are common used). This is sually served with either Rice or Bread.
The other dishes that we tasted were Crispy Chilli Honey Squid (above) and the Sambal Mussels. Though Sambal is not a dish in itself, but a common chili-based accompaniment to most foods, here it has been added to the Mussels to make it a tasty Singaporean dish with Malay & Indonesian influence.
And now comes the part which is Not for the faint-hearted…
Most of the seafood sections have an array of live crabs which one can select and then order. They are kept tied up in plastic ribbons (above). The sizes of the crabs are enormous. Well, we chose a particular crab (I didn’t, but S did!) and the crab that went into the preparation of the Chilli Crab that we had ordered is shown below!
Clarke Quay: If the street food in Singapore is to die for, then the food offerings from the exclusive restaurants lining up the Clarke Quay will also take one straight upto heaven – if not for the taste but for the hole in the pocket the restaurant bill creates. Definitely not gentle on the wallet, the food served in the restaurants here can be mind-boggling. Clarke Quay is a historical riverside quay in Singapore, located within the Singapore River Planning Area. Five blocks of restored warehouses house various restaurants and nightclubs. Our food experience in one such Japanese restaurant is still lingering on. I haven’t managed to click pictures of the food itself – I was clicking so many pictures before the food arrived that once the food arrived, my fingers were already exhausted! Later, when my blog sense came back, I did click their menu cards. – These were the best Sashimi and Prawn Tempuras that we have ever had in our lives.
Some Singaporean Food regrets:
- There were lot of other dishes that went out off focus in my sheer food excitement and hasn’t been captured by the camera. For example – Laksa – thick rice noodles (Bee hoon) in a Coconut curry gravy with Prawns, Eggs and sometimes with the addition of chicken, Tau Pok (beancurd puffs) or fish cake. Peranakan in origin.
- Didn’t taste the Singaporean Sambal Kangkong, a dish of leafy green vegetables (water spinach) fried in Sambal. The Kangkong or the water spinach had been one of our most favourite vegetables when we were staying in Srilanka a decade back [Srilanka articles - Living by the water with sunset as prop – Colombo and the Indian Ocean; Red Tuk-Tuks and Triumphant Rides – Colombo, Srilanka].
- Didn’t taste the Singaporean version of Nasi Goreng, a spicy and sweet fried Rice dish which originated from Indonesia. We have tasted the Srilankan version of this dish and we were quite besotted by it.
- Didn’t taste the Nasi Biryani. Nasi Biriyani? Yes, Nasi Biriyani is a flavoured Rice dish cooked or served with Mutton, Chicken, Vegetable or Fish curry. We were so used to the Mughlai/Hyderabadi/Sindhi/Pakistani Biriyani with me being a bit partial to the Biriyani cooked in the Awadhi style [ode to my love for Awadhi Biriyani - From Lucknow to Kolkata to Dubai… In Search of Shiraz].
- And a host of other Singaporean dishes.
Well, all I can say is that there is always the next time! Or else find good Singaporean food in Dubai itself! (Updated this line much later – yes, I’ve found it!)
Unblogging it all… Ishita
The opinions stated here are my own and are independent. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. Please do not use any material from this post. For more pictures of my travel and food journey, visit here.