Singaporean Cuisine and Restaurants
Singapore was largely unexplored until Sir Stamford Raffles and his group landed on the island in 1819. What they found was a small group of about 1000 people. The people there grew fruits. There was little else and no rice. When people from other countries began to visit Singapore for work and trade, the influences of Indians, Jews, Chinese, Armenians, Eurasians, and Arabs began to change the way the native people ate. In the time since then, the people of Singapore have created a unique food culture.
The native food of Singapore is heavy in Chinese, British, and Indian influences. Singapore has a long history of immigration, so the many different people that have come to the country have contributed heavily to the native foods. Much of the food and produce that people eat are imported, but there are some local farmers who grow fruit, fish, poultry and leafy vegetables.
People from Singapore eat many different kinds of seafood including crabs, squid, clams, lobsters, stingray, and oysters. There are many different types of tropical fruits that can be found all around the year such as mangosteen, longan, jackfruit, rambutan, pineapple and lychee. Some fruits are used in dishes such as sweet and sour pork, salads and iced desserts.
Tutu Kueh – This is a dish of flour pastries with steamed rice that are filled with a sweet peanut and coconut mixture.
Bak kut teh – This is a soup of pork rib that contains many different Chinese spices and herbs.
Char siew rice – This is a dish made of noodles or rice that is served with barbecued pork and covered in a sauce.
Hainanese chicken rice – This dish is made of steamed chicken that is served with rice in chicken stock. It is often consumed with dark soy sauce, ginger paste and chili sauce.
Nasi Goreng – This is a sweet and spicy dish of fried rice that came from Indonesia.
Nasi padang – This meal, that came from Indonesia, is made of steamed rice and a choice of meat and vegetable dishes that can be anything from curried vegetables to fried chicken.
Acar – This is a dish of pickled fruit or vegetables with peanuts, spices and dried chili.
Nasi Biryani – This is a rice dish that has been cooked and served with chicken, mutton, fish or vegetable curry.
Butter Chicken – This local favorite is chicken that has been cooked in gravy made of yogurt, butter, spices and tomatoes.
Drinks in Singapore
Teh Tarik – This is a drink of hot tea that is often found in restaurants and outdoor stands. It is made of condensed milk and black tea.
Bandung – This drink is milk that has been flavored with rose cordial syrup, making it pink.
Singapore Sling – This cocktail is made of gin and Benedictine as well as fresh pineapple juice.
Dining Out in Singapore
The food of Singapore reflects its multi-ethnic society. The hotels contain restaurants that specialize in dishes from all over Europe and Asia. The famous hawker centers, however, are possibly the best place to sample the various Singaporean cuisines. You can taste Indian, Malayan and Chinese dishes all in one night. These food centers can be a great experience and are part of the reason why Singapore is considered by many to be the food capital of Asia. There are very strictly enforced official Public Health controls in Singapore, so it is safe to eat food from any of the restaurants or stalls. Additionally, tap water is safe to drink. It is important to note that smoking is completely banned in all air-conditioned restaurants.
Restaurants in Singapore open and close with amazing rapidity, and key staff, responsible for a restaurant’s success, job-hop with similar speed. Independent establishments pop up everywhere, in everything from restored shops to warehouses, called go-downs. Try visiting one of Singapore’s neighborhood food centers and bazaars with stalls offering food from India, China, Indonesia and Malaysia, all at very low prices. The food centers are either open air, with a common area for diners, or air-conditioned food courts occupying the basement or the top level of shopping centers.
Two enclaves along the Singapore River-Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, offer more than 35 establishments serving international fare. The Boat Quay is an especially lively place at sunset. Most food outlets stop serving dinner by 10 pm, although some hotel coffee houses are open 24 hours. Reservations at most of the restaurants are not required but are recommended for large groups, on weekends and during public holidays.