Being an entrepôt sure has its advantages and for Singapore, it has translated into the evolution of a unique culinary trend which, like the tiny nation, has a distinct personality of its own. Add to that a local population which loves to eat and you have in your hands a delicious confluence of several cultures that is served on the plate with the intention of appealing to human senses.
Whether you are in Singapore as a tourist or a resident, eating at a hawker’s stall must feature on your to-do list because many of the creations served in these outfits are local delights. To this effect, the following are some of the culinary delights which will give you a fairly good idea of Singapore’s local palate.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
A Chinese adoption courtesy of the influx of immigrants from the Southern Chinese province of Hainan, Hainanese Chicken rice is actually representative of most of the countries in south-east Asia. On placing an order, you will be amazed to find that this dish is an assembly of several individual preparations wherein rice and chicken are the main elements accompanied by sauces and dressings to tingle your taste buds. Not only is the aroma of pandan leaves most relaxing but the softness of chicken without being overcooked renders it easy to have even while standing by the road.
While travelling around Singapore, a sight that you would get used to on your first day itself is people of all age groups and from varied walks of life enjoying soupy noodles irrespective of the time. Probably the most versatile snack, Laksa or noodle soup is savoured by locals owing to its spicy flavour and wholesomeness and is a must-have for tourists who are intent on exploring the local culture.
Carrot Cake/ Chai Tow Kwai
Christmas is the time for cakes and if you happen to be in Singapore, a preparation that is bound to amaze you is the local version of carrot cake. Known as Chai Tow Kway, the only similarity it shares with its western counterpart is the name and probably the health factor.
In contrast to the ‘quick bread’ method used in western countries for making carrot cake, the Asian version which you can sample on the streets of Singapore is prepared by blending rice flour, water and shredded radish, liberally seasoned with natural ingredients like preserved radish and stir-fried with eggs.
Bak Kut Teh
If there is a slight chill in the air and you are truly famished, then a bowl of Bak Kut Teh is exactly what you need to re-energize yourself. A Chinese expression that translates into meat bone tea, Bak Kut Teh is a soup full of pork ribs and flavoured with herbs and spices. Owing to containing a copious quantity of meat and being accompanied by noodles or rice.
What is Nasi Lemak doing in Singapore? Globetrotters who are familiar with South-East Asian countries are sure to pose this question when they see it listed on the menu and being served in the roadside stalls. Nasi Lemak, meaning ‘rich rice’ may be a Malaysian legend but is equally popular in Singapore, thus giving you a good reason to try it out.
No matter what its style of preparation might be, the basic essence of Nasi Lemak is that of rice flavoured with pandan leaves, anchovies, sambal, cucumber, eggs and peanuts. Add fried drumsticks, fish cakes and chicken franks and the Nasi Lemak assumes a Chinese touch. Since both carry their own charm and make a heavy meal, do ensure that you are sufficiently hungry so as to be able to relish every single bite.
Be sure to try these recommended Singapore local delights when you're in the city!