Taste of Southeast Asia: Dining in Singapore
Dempsey Restaurant in Singapore. Image: Visualhunt
Welcome again to Taste of ASEAN, our blog series about the cuisines of Southeast Asia. For those just joining us, we are traveling through the ASEAN region and learning about the cuisine that has become part of the culinary landscape of Southeast Asia. Bursting with tropical bounty, after a single taste, you won’t be able to resist taking a country by country tour across ASEAN.
Get ready for your summer vacations by joining our food tour and plan your holiday meals ahead of time. Who says you can’t have a real culinary adventure while on the go during your vacation?
Today, we are headed to the small but developed country of Singapore. This island city-state to the south of the Malay Peninsula carries a proud tradition of multiculturalism. Due to its diversity, residents of Singapore can enjoy amazing Chinese, Malay, or Indian food any day of the week. Somewhere in between these separate cuisines, an entire menu of uniquely Singaporean dishes has developed that combines the best of all worlds. Singaporeans, regardless of background, are passionate about food. The unifying factor of this modern city is that all its residents can meet around the table to enjoy a Singaporean meal.
Kaya Toast & Kopi Breakfast
A traditional Singaporean breakfast spread. Image: Shutterstock
Nanyang coffee is a traditional style of cafe that became popular in Singapore in the 1960s. Serving simple breakfast fare like half boiled eggs, kaya (a jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves) on toast, and freshly roasted brewed coffee.
A Look Inside Nanyang Old Café. Image: Singaporean Tourism Board
Order the standard spread and dress up your eggs with pepper and dark soya sauce. Enjoy your freshly brewed kopi slowly. Places worth stopping include Good Morning Nanyang Cafe, Ah Seng Coffee, and Tong Ah Eating House, all located within the Chinatown area. If you are staying in another area of Singapore, keep an eye out for various popular coffee chains such as YaKun Kaya Toast, Toast Box and Wang Coffee.
Sugarcane juice, satay skewers, sambal kangkong (stir-fried morning glory), Singapore chili crab, and fried mantou buns. Image: Visualhunt
You can’t go home from your vacation in Singapore until you’ve tried Singapore’s chili crab. The crab is divine, but the sauce is the star (sweet yet savoury, and slightly spicy) and supremely satisfying.
The sauce is built up by layering shallots, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, chili paste, fresh red chilies, salt, and a pinch of sugar in a hot wok. The crab goes back in to soak while the whole mixture is topped with corn starch roux and freshly beaten eggs to add a thick, smooth texture in its final moments.
Order up some fried mantou buns and a side of sambal kangkong and you have yourself a complete meal. This is a decadent, get-your-fingers-messy, spicy pile of fun to share with a table full of friends. Look for large Sri Lankan crabs and the seafood lovers in your group will be appeased. Some hawker centers that serve chili crab include Lau Pa Sat, East Coast Lagoon Food Village and Newton Food Centre. To enjoy your chili crab in air-conditioned comfort, you may visit Jumbo Seafood or Long Beach Seafood Restaurant.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Hainanese chicken rice. Image: Visualhunt
Hainanese chicken rice is an everyday meal, but the preparation of each element is laborious enough to earn the respect of diners. The rice is cooked in chicken stock with ginger and pandan leaves, served with boiled chicken or chicken braised in soya sauce and a spicy chili and ginger paste. Served with crisp cucumber for some crunch, this is a dish that is so unassuming and yet so complete that it can be enjoyed multiple times in one week. One of the most famous spots in the city is Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice in Maxwell Food Centre. I also like Hawker Chan with their soy sauce chicken rice.
As a whole, Singaporean cuisine is hearty. Dishes that seem simple have complicated flavor combinations and delicate balances hidden just beneath the surface. It reflects the coming together of many different people and the acceptance of each other’s ingredients to create something harmonious. When you are traveling to Asia with your friends, create a table of harmony for your meals and see what Singapore is all about.
Are you going to join us for the rest of this incredible food journey? Watch out for more of the Taste of ASEAN blog series as we visit each country in Southeast Asia to discover delicious food.