Singapore: The island of noms.

Posted on October 1, 2011 by

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Written by Kirsten Han /

No matter what I may say about Singapore, no matter how much I may gripe and complain, there is one thing that I cannot deny: the food is awesome. Apart from family and friends, food is the thing that tops the list of things I miss about Singapore whenever I’m away.

Thanks to our prominence as a seaport during colonial times, as well as our super-lucky geographical placement, Singapore was mainly built up through immigrant cultures. People came here not just from neighbouring Malaya but also from other countries such as China and India. The variety and diversity of the food in Singapore reflects the melting-pot that is our society. I believe that one can find almost every flavour imaginable here: sweet, sour, spicy, salty, bland, tangy, tongue-numbing, sour-spicy, sweet-sour, salty-spicy, sweet-salty-spicy-sour and, from time to time, a flavour that can only be described as “what is that?”

To go into all these flavours would mean endless discussions and posts – much more than this little article can bear. But no fear: Singaporeans are so into food we have even developed mobile apps such as Hungry Go Where to help us locate the best outlets and flavours on our little island. Food bloggers such as Lady Iron Chef and iShootiEatiPost are also immensely popular, not to mention websites such as Makansutra.

Let’s take a look at two of my favourite local dishes…

Carrot cake

Carrot cake, or chai tow kway, is a Chinese dish that doesn’t actually have any carrots in it. Tricky, eh? The main ingredient is actually radish, cut into cubes/cuboids and fried with egg, dried radish (known as chai poh) and spring onions. Sometimes garlic and dried shrimp are also added.

You can get white carrot cake, or black carrot cake (where a dark sweet sauce is added), according to your taste. Personally, I always go for the black carrot cake, with maybe a little chili on the side.

Carrot cake can often be found in hawker centres or in food courts for about S$3 – S$4.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Even though it’s called Hainanese Chicken Rice, this dish is often mentioned as one of the signature dishes of Singaporean food.

Consisting of steamed chicken (in the style of the Hainanese wenchong chicken), white rice cooked in chicken stock and clear soup, it makes a simple yet super yummy meal. One can eat it with chili sauce, thick dark soy sauce and even ginger.

Since it is a popular Singaporean dish, chicken rice can be quite easily found in almost every hawker centre or food court, and even in some more fancy restaurants around the country. One such example of really high class chicken rice would be the “world famous” one at Meritus Mandarin’s Chatterbox, which costs about S$22 (or so I hear, having never been posh enough to go there), about 5 times more expensive than what a plate would cost in a food court.

There are also famous chicken rice stalls in Singapore such as Tian Tian and Boon Tong Kee.

And many many more…

Of course, carrot cake and chicken rice aren’t even close to scratching the surface of all the food Singapore has to offer. Apart from our own “traditional” dishes, globalisation has also brought food from all over the world to our small island; on our shores one can find Turkish, Spanish, French, German, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Brazilian, Korean, Italian, Russian and Indonesian food (just to name a few) by the scores. “Fusion” flavours are also on the up-and-up, which could either be a pleasant surprise or an awkward night out.

At the end of the day, the best thing to do would, of course, be to come to Singapore, and let your taste buds decide.

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Posted in: Food, Singapore