Monday, May 12, 2014

The Foodie Nation

I've almost lived in Singapore for a year at this point, and I now understand how it is known as the foodie capital of the world. There are so many beloved, iconic dishes; diverse cuisines represented; and delicious foods available from the humblest hawker centre to fine dining establishments.

The most famous dish is chili crab - an enormous crab cooked in thick sweet and spicy gravy. It's such a good dish for sharing, but be prepared with lots of napkins! There are quite a number of popular chili crab restaurants in Singapore, especially along the East Coast.  

One of my personal favorite dishes can be found in many food courts and hawker centres. It is called Yong Tau Foo, and it's quite a healthy option to have for a meal. Yong Tau Foo is a bowl of vegetables, various proteins, and sometimes noodles, all boiled in a light and savoury broth. You have the option of picking out all the items you want in your soup, and will be charged per item. I usually like to include seaweed, greens, and eggs. Everything tastes wonderful when dipped into the special chili sauces you can get on the side.

The bakeries here sell pretty ingenious and creative items. My favorite bakery is called Breadtalk. The breads here are baked with lots of milk and butter, with interesting flavors and ingredients. Some of their selections are below: steamed pumpkin cake, tuna stuffed bun, and pork floss roll. 

Seafood food is quite abundant, as you can imagine it would be for an island nation, and can be seasoned with lots of strong and spicy ingredients, like this BBQ stingray covered with a thick chili sauce, cooked on a banana leaf, and eaten with lime juice.

A hearty bowl of porridge is a comfort food for many Singaporeans. It's a thick and creamy rice, mixed in with various toppings such as chopped century egg, slices of pork, green onion and chili. You can easily find porridge stalls at most hawker centers for around $3 a bowl. Portions tend to be generous, making for a filling breakfast or supper. There are some pretty good stalls at the Maxwell Hawker Centre.

As a country with a significant Indian population, you can expect to find pretty delicious Indian food here. Little India is an obvious place to find lots of good and cheap restaurants and coffee shops, but there usually will be an Indian stall at most large food courts and hawker centres, serving everything from naan bread to curries and biryani dishes. 

One tradition I really enjoy is the traditional breakfast at the local coffeeshop or kopitiam. These small neighborhood eateries serve an interesting mix of eastern and western breakfast foods, including soft boiled eggs with soy sauce, toast with kaya spread, and sometimes noodle or curry dishes. The concept of the coffeeshop has become commercialized, so now there are chains of these shops, removed from the neighborhood and put into modern spaces like shopping malls.

Being a very westernized Asian country, Singapore also offers many European and American-type restaurants and cafes. They tend to be a bit fancier and more expensive. For example, eggs benedict for brunch!

Lastly, there are also many American chains that can be found in Singapore, sometimes offering their own unique twist on the usual offerings! Starbucks sold moon cakes during the mid-Autumn festival. They weren't bad! There are also various green tea type drinks. 

As you can see, Singapore has a very unique and diverse food scene. I'll miss it a lot, and I hope you will have a chance to experience it someday!

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