December 24, 2016
Food can perform different functions…For the connoisseur, a tantalising morsel can light up the taste buds…For the hungry, a full plate can provide much needed energy…And for the foodie, trying out different varieties is an experience in itself.
When it comes to food and Singapore, there is another aspect …One of identity and culture.
More Than Just A Morsel
When you step out to eat in the island city, you are not just consuming food, you are engaging in the rich traditions and cultural heritage that weaves together the social fabric. You can taste one cuisine and one culture for breakfast, then shift to another cuisine and another culture for lunch, and end the day with a third, vastly different experience. The best part is that you will often find all of them under one roof or in one location. and it may even surprise you to find a smorgasbord of dishes on a single table as friends or co-workers belonging to different ethnicities have a meal together.
Food then becomes more than just an identity. It transforms into a unifying force, albeit a sumptuous one.
A Perfect Mix
For an outsider experiencing the uniquely Singaporean cuisine, the sheer variety may leave them wondering how a city-state came to house so many dishes. Well, all they need to do is take a peek into history.
The origins of Singapore as a bustling trade centre led to the arrival of one migrant community after another. The people from China brought their exotic noodles, soups, and fish preparations. The Indians carried their flavourful spices. The inhabitants of the island from the Malay peninsula already had their unique preparations in the form of mee goreng and nasi goreng. And let’s not forget the European settlers. They too left behind their imprint on the local menu with delectable cuts of meat. All of these influences have come together to create a fantasy fusion of food.
There are signature dishes that immediately convey the culture and identity of its cuisine. Just one bite or a sip, and you can probably taste the spirit of that tradition.
The chilli crab is a prime example of Singapore street food that has captivated many palates with its sweet and savoury sauce paired with fresh crabs. Then you have the legendary fish head curry that has added to its legacy by actually scaring a few guests who have tried to eat it!
The main course may take the spotlight, but the desserts have their own ‘sweet’ story. The rich influence of the cultures has found its way to the sweet treats as well. The bright yellow jalebi is as stunning to look at as it is to taste, melting on your tongue with a syrupy Indian nectar. The thick Malay taste is clearly evident when you bite into a kueh, a small cake that comes in various flavour combinations. The ubiquitous dessert stalls in food courts and hawker centres offer local favourites like ice kachang, colourful shaved ice with various toppings and flavours, to beat the heat.
A Deep Bond
The relationship Singapore has with food is similar to one with an old friend. There is comfort, there is history, and there are a few surprises thrown in for good measure as well.