What does the world know about Singapore?
‘So where in China are you from?’ ‘Wow, you speak English really well!’ Every Singaporean who has been overseas has been subjected to the patronising ignorance of our tiny nation state that we know so well. As much as it is well-intentioned small talk, there’s no pet peeve quite like it – why don’t you know about our prosperity, economy and diversity, but more importantly, our excellent Singapore cuisine?
If you want to talk about good food, fine dining done for cheap with street food that represents an unequalled diversity, a unique, immigrant heritage, and a food culture unlike any other, Singapore is the place to be. Food in Singapore is a cultural treasure – the only thing all of us can agree on. Sure, eating yourself into an early, lard-heavy carb-rich high-cholestrol may not be a healthy lifestyle (and the king of all food in Singapore, chilli crab), but it sure is the most delicious way to go.
Let’s talk about chilli, and all the different variants and flavours across our South East Asian and Asian diaspora. Let’s talk about sambal, sweet and hot and excellent with rice and a runny egg all over the Malayan and Indonesian archipelago, or the Chinese chilli oil that has permeated its diaspora. The exquisite balance of Straits-Chinese/Malaysian cuisine, the food in Singapore that predates our colonial history.
… or all the curries you may have on this little red dot (Curry fish-head, Malaysian chicken curry, the delicacy of North Indian food – a beautiful combination of healthy lifestyle, delicious vegetarian food, and only the most immaculate palate of spices honed by centuries of food-loving, the heavy, soul-satisfying depth of South Indian curries, or the ineffable, dancing heat of Thai green/red/yellow curries, or the poppin’ jalepeno flavours of Mexican food).
The only way you can talk about Singapore cuisine is to talk to a Singaporean, and understand that what makes food in Singapore truly great is that the cuisine embraces everything – from mouth-watering Korean BBQ to the French-Japanese fusion conjured by a private chef in an intimate fine dining experience, to every tenet of South East Asian food, this is all the best food in Singapore – by virtue of being here, crossing cultures and nationalities in search of good food to satisfy your stomach and satiate your soul, home is where the heart is, and it is a universal truth that the way to your heart is through your stomach.
Singapore’s Global Export
In every major city, you can find something delicious that reminds you of home. In London you can have peking duck in Bayswater, or if you fancy yourself a private chef, pick up some soy sauce, Japanese sweet wine and cooking sake, sprinkle some sugar over your meat and make yourself some epic teriyaki anything private dining experience.
In New York, head to Flushing to have your breakfast favourites, from curry noodles, char siew (BBQ pork) rice to Peranakran kuehs – if you manage to beat the early morning bus of Chinese gamblers on their traditional stop en route to Atlantic City. Yes, you can find soup dumplings, Indonesian BBQ and Thai specialties littered across the borough, along with a sampling of food you’ve never sampled like Ethiopian or Caribbean cuisines, or American soul food.
Singaporeans love the best food on the planet, nevermind where it’s from, regardless of whether it is food in Singapore or abroad – they can appreciate different spices, textures, flavours… that is the privilege of being uniquely Singaporean, you eat to live and live to eat, and you will never compromise, on price or quality, where ever you are in the world. Whether you have a private dining experience, using approximations of ingredients garnered from the Asian market or attempting a pasta with organic foods from local markets, dinner in Singapore is a big deal. Nothing less than the best food will do for dinner in Singapore. It is this pride and these principles that unite us as a community and give us a common identity surrounding the food in Singapore and the culture of eating, whether or not we’re from here or just passing through.
World Famous Singaporean Dishes
Food in Singapore is well-documented, exotic and entertaining – on TV or around your dining table, do you dare to try durian, the king of fruits? Anthony Bourdain couldn’t get enough of Singapore in his travels, with chilli crab holding a special place in his heart and stomach. Crab is a beautiful thing, whether steamed, seasoned in pepper, chilli or in butter (garlic optional). Or pumpkin, even!
You can’t talk about food in Singapore without mentioning char kway teow, Hainanese chicken rice, nasi lemak and laksa. Hokkien prawn noodle, oyster omelet, savoury carrot cake – any Singaporean/Malaysian restaurant worth its salt manages a reasonable standard of our local favourites. When we’re far from home, there is nothing we crave like tastes we grew up loving. Even if it falls short of the standard of Singaporean street food, the fact that it is reminiscent of a taste that you know and love well is enough, and makes you remember the loved ones you have shared meals with. Who we love makes us who we are, and what we eat as we have good times and great conversation – that is what makes us love Singapore, even when we are far from home.