Singapore has a vast immigrant population. With diverse ethnic groups, one will often see a blend of different types of cuisines. It is a paradise for anyone who loves to eat. The city has a tropical rain-forest climate, hence its mostly humid. Singapore’s urbanization led to the loss of 95% of its historical forests, hence most of their flora and fauna is present in nature reserves now.
On my visit in 2015, I noticed that Singaporeans while dining out would often visit hawker centers or food courts instead of restaurants. Hawker centers are huge halls with different food stalls serving you everything your heart desires. Relative cheaper prices and a wider range of options to choose from make it a favorite with food lovers. In 2016, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle became the first street food location in the world to be awarded a Michelin star making it the world’s “cheapest Michelin-starred meal”.
Singaporean food can be divided into five types: meat, seafood, rice, noodles and dessert or snacks. Before my trip to Singapore I looked through every blog, post and website for “the places you must eat at”, so I made a check-list and followed just that. Hainanese chicken rice is the most popular dish in Singapore. It involves poaching the entire chicken and cooking the rice in some of its fat and liquid, along with ginger and garlic producing an oily, flavorful rice also known as “oily rice”. Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall at Maxwell food center serves one of the best chicken rice meals in Singapore. I visited the stall on a late Tuesday afternoon and had to wait for about 20 mins to place my order and another 10 mins for it to be prepared. It was the best meal I ever had. The rice was fragrant and the chicken succulent. It was everything Anthony Bourdain said it was in his review when he visited the tiny stall.
Another popular dish among Singaporeans is Chilli Crab. Despite its name chilli crab is not a very spicy dish. The dish is made using lots of tomatoes and chillis stir-fried in a semi-thick, sweet and savoury based sauce. I also tried the Katong Laksa which is a spicy soup, flavoured with coconut milk and dried shrimp, and topped with ingredients like cockles, prawns and fishcake. The noodles are normally cut up into smaller pieces so that the entire dish can be eaten with a spoon alone, without chopsticks or a fork.
Desserts are generally served hot in Singapore. Coconut, along with milk and fruits are often used in recipes. Pisang Goreng (Banana Fritters) are battered and deep fried bananas and is very popular in Singapore. Pure Pandan at Chinatown serves a light chiffon cake flavoured with the juice of Pandan leaves which is one of the best pandon cake places around. Singaporeans are innovative when it comes to food so you may see different kinds of ingredients put together. Chai tow kway (carrot cake) is made with steamed rice flour, water, and shredded white daikon which is then stir-fried with eggs, preserved radish, and other seasonings. There is no connection between this dish and the sweet Western carrot cake that is eaten as a dessert.
The city has lots to offer, especially for the hungry. Many traditional dishes have been included in the ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’ list. The diversity is such, that the Singaporean cuisine has been promoted as a tourist attraction by the Tourism board. My advice to anyone travelling to Singapore is to keep an empty belly and don’t hesitate to try something new on the menu. It is THE place to eat at.