Singapore: Diversity through Food

31 10 2008

While I was in Singapore, my friend P sought to expose me to all different quintessentially Singaporean foods.  The best and most direct way to understand a culture is often through its food.  Reflecting its diverse Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultural heritage, in Singapore fusion is the rule and ethnic variations of the same dish are very common.  Even in restaurants that specialize in certain cuisines, the local Singaporean flavor can often be tasted. Spices are are used more regularly and with higher complexity and curry use is common.

Knowing me very well, the very first place P took me when I arrived in Singapore was to a food hall, where I had a delicious Chinese fish ball soup with spicy noodles.

Chinese Fish Ball Soup

Spicy Dry Noodles

Although the soup and noodles were very Chinese, they tasted different to me.  I could tell even from the first taste that the people of Singapore take their spices very seriously.  The spices in the soup were much more complex and spicy hot than I was accustomed to in typical Chinese cooking.

For brunch the next morning, we visited another coffee shop/food court.  In Singapore, these food courts are abundant and are called coffee shops.  I don’t know why, as it didn’t look a bit like a Starbucks.  LOL!

As you can tell from the different signs, the choices were many and reflected the cultural diversity of the city state.

The stands in the photo below include: Chicken Rice, Vegetarian, Noodle Village, and Local Delight.

The Indian Muslim stand is just across from the Tim Sum (dim sum) stand.

Dessert stand featuring Chinese, Malaysian, and other southeast asian varieties of cool, light refreshment.

Chinese inspired food.

P and P’s mom ordered for all three of us and it was delicious!  We had a combination of Hokkien and Indian food for breakfast.  Hokkien is a Chinese dialect that originated in the Fujian Province of China.  It is equivalent to Taiwanese and is also common in many overseas Chinese communities in southeast Asia.

Hokkien Bee Hoon (mifen in mandarin) with fried bean curd and sauteed vegetables.

The famous Roti Prata (Indian).

Hokkien Chwee Kway is a steamed rice cake topped with preserved radish.

On the day after, we had dim sum for brunch.  This meal was much more traditionally Cantonese, of course.  While I’ve never had dim sum in Hong Kong or Canton, it was at least very similar to the best dim sum I’ve had in the United States.

Shu mai and steamed shrimp dumplings

The dessert cart

That night, after spending a few hours in Little India, we had dinner at an Indian restaurant.  I have always loved Indian food, but I felt that this food was much more intense and flavorful than usual.  Yum!

The wonderful menu made me drool.

Nasi briyani with mutton.

I forget what this dish is called, but it was a flat bread stuffed with a spicy paste that you dip in three kinds of curry.

We also had some chicken masala and topped off our meal with a mango shake.  Perfect!

On my last day, we had brunch at another coffee shop near a mall, where I had some more Malaysian flavors, including the famous Laksa.

The menu at the Malaysian food stand.

My delicious and spicy Laksa.

Mee Siam


My culinary journey through Singapore really opened my eyes (and teared them up too!) about the many cultural influences in this interesting country.  As a souvenir, I brought home a couple spice packets for Singapore’s famous bak kut teh and can’t wait to make it!




4 responses

31 10 2008

hehe, that indian dish is called thosai masala. 🙂

3 11 2008

The pictures are making me hungry! I want a taste of those noodles and dumplings!

12 11 2008
Singapore: Clarke Quay and Little India « Travels with Sandy

[…] India with a delicious meal at an Indian cafeteria/restaurant called C.M.K. 2001 (see prior post, Singapore: Diversity through Food, for photos). It was the perfect finish to our exciting adventure in Little India. Possibly related […]

7 02 2009

~ Burp ~
I’m drooling along as I read yr culinary adventures, Sandy.

U’re smart. One of the best ways to savour a location’s culture is certainly thru its foods & cuisine.

Thumbs up for another delicious (oops, pardon the pun) post! 🙂

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