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Friday, November 8, 2013

Singapore Food for Dummies

If there's one thing that Singaporeans can do well, it's definitely eating, and we owe this ability to the copious amount of good food in Singapore. Due to the large influences from other countries and our ethnic diversity - which mainly includes the Chinese, Malays, Indians and Westerners, Singapore is concentrated with food from all around the world.

At this shiny red dot, the blessed people of Singapore can queue endlessly for hours all across the island in the name of good food, partially due to our kiasu spirit (but that's not the point). I have known people who have migrated or went abroad for work/studies, and most of the time, they miss Singapore cuisine a hell lot.

Skip the expensive and swanky Marina Bay or celebrity restaurants, this issue brings you to our local and much more affordable hawker centers, like Lau Pat Sat, Old Airport Road or Chomp Chomp. Without furthur ado, here are 10 food you definitely should try when you are in Singapore.

Ranked #35 on CNN Go World's 50 Most Delicious Foods (2011), Chilli crab is considered Singapore's national dish. Despite the "fiery" name, it is not spicy at all, as the gravy contains large amount of tomato gravy. The famous dish is usually accompanied by toasted buns (man-tou), which are usually dipped into the semi-thick, savoury sauce. 

Originated from Indonesia, the skewered dish has since gained fame in most Southeast-Asia countries, like Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Choices include chicken, beef and mutton. This dish is usually completed with spicy peanut gravy, slivers of onions, cucumber and lontong/ketupat (rice cakes wrapped in banana/coconut leaves).

Besides chilli crab, chicken rice is also known as Singapore's national dish. The reason is obvious - it is everywhere, from hawker centers to luxury restaurants, from food courts to every tourist attractions. But you know what? We, Singaporeans do not get sick of this dish, which consists of steamed or roasted chicken set atop fragrant oily rice with sliced cucumbers.

Originally a Peranakan dish, laksa consists of thick rice vermicelli, fishcake, prawns and cockles served in a spicy coconut-based gravy. It would be wise to take note of the different variations of this dish, but the rule still stands: If you love spicy food, do not give laksa a miss.

Artery-clogging, unhealthy, high-fat, whatever you want to call it, but I am sure most of the Singaporeans do not mind a second serving of char kway teow. Cockles and pork lard are essential in this all-time hawker favourite, so whatever you do, do not omit them.

6. CARROT CAKE (chai tow kueh)
Vastly different from the Western version of carrot cake, Singapore's savoury rendition consists of steamed rice flour and white radish, fried together in an egg mixture to form an omelette, which is later garnished by spring onions and prawns.

Literally translated as "meat bone tea", Bak Kut Teh is a famous dish which is typically served as breakfast in Mainland China and most parts of Southeast Asian. A standard dish of bak kut teh consists of meaty pork ribs simmered in broth containing herbs and spices for hours. Variations in Singapore include: the most common Teochew style, which infuses more garlic and pepper in the soup, Hokkien style adds more soy sauce which results in a darker soup colour, lastly - my personal favourite, Cantonese style infuses more medicinal herbs which results in a stronger flavoured soup.

If you love satay's peanut gravy, chance is, you wouldn't resist a plate of good satay beehoon. The main ingredients include rice vermicelli, cuttlefish, kangkong, bean sprout, pork slices, prawns and cockles, and of course, drizzled with a good amount of chilli-based peanut gravy. The end-product is nothing less than a satisfying dish of savouriness.

Barbecued stingray is a close equivalent of ordering pho in Vietnam. They are usually grilled with a coat of spicy sambal sauce, and eaten with lime juice and  If hawker centers are part of your itinerary, do not miss out Singapore's BBQ stingray.

Ranking the last on my top 10 list, prawn noodles is one of the classic hawker dishes in Singapore. Served either in broth or dry, the typical ingredients include, yellow noodles, fresh prawns, shallots, served with/in a fragrant broth made with prawn heads.

If there's a #11, it would definitely be durian. I dare you to try.