Food Paradise, Singapore Lifestyle by Kelvin Kong

Food is the “buzzword” in our Singapore Lifestyle!

You shouldn’t diet in Singapore. Eating is said to be the second national pastime of Singaporeans. Singaporeans live to eat and while you’re here, you might as well join them!

Singaporeans love to Eat and their preoccupation with culinary matters means that finding good food here – at the right price – presents no problems. The variety of foods available in Singapore is simply astounding and staggering! There are venues to suit all budgets and tastes, ranging from the popular hawker centres and coffee shops to swish, contemporary restaurants.

Few places in the world can offer as diverse, exotic and thoroughly appealing a food scene as Singapore. The city has every imaginable cuisine, for every imaginable budget. Within a few hundred metres, there might be a hawker stall selling S$4 Indian, Peranakan, Chinese and Malay food specialities, a food court with Japanese, Korean and Thai cuisine stalls, a coffee shop serving up barbecued seafood and laksa, an Indian shophouse making wafer thin “roti prata” and “chicken curry”, and an air-conditioned french restaurant where a bottle of Wine costs more than a maid’s monthly wage. And that’s not counting the endless tidbits and snacks. No wonder that Singapore is often touted as “The Food Paradise”!

After all, Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-cultural society. As a multi-ethnic country, Singaporean food comprises a multitude of cuisines which can be broadly categorised according to the main cultures present here. It is not surprising therefore that the favourite local food comprise the melting pots of the richness, tastes and peculiarities of each unique culture. Singapore is a cornucopia of different cuisines and the variety of dishes available is enough to keep one eating all the time. Whether you fancy haute cuisine, ethnic foods, vegetarian or spicy local dishes, you are sure to find many great food choices.

As a large proportion of Singapore’s population is Chinese, it is not surprisingly that Chinese cuisine (in its many varieties) dominates, but the main cuisines include Indian cuisine and Malay cuisine. For more uniquely Singaporean food, you have to try the local hybrid Peranakan cuisine (or Nonya) food, a blend of Chinese cuisine and Malay cuisine that is hugely popular and widely available. Do note however that some of the local food is spicy, as Singaporeans are known to have a fondness for spice and chilly.

The food of these cultures began as dishes from the various motherlands, but over time, these culinary delights have evolved to take on a Singaporean identify after being exposed to regional and other ethnic influences. Indonesian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, Thai cuisine and Vietnamese cuisine are also well represented.

As a major crossroad in Asia, Singapore’s food culture has evolved as successive waves of migrants moved, settled and adapted to their new environment. Without distinctive produce of its own, local varieties of homeland staples have been slower to develop, but there are dishes that can truly be called Singaporean; chilli crab, fish head curry and “yu sheng” (Chinese raw fish salad) are three prominent examples.

The huge variety of cuisines marks Singapore as a truly international city. Everything is available, from the familiar Thai cuisine, Japanese cuisine, Korean cuisine, Italian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, French cuisine and Middle Eastern cuisine to the more unusual African cuisine or Russian cuisine. Some cuisines have their own geographical epicentres, like the Golden Mile Food Centre for Thai cuisine, or the Arab Street area for Middle Eastern cuisine.

In the Colonial District and the Quays, expensive restaurants hold sway and here you’ll find the greatest concentration of international food. Eastern Singapore is well known for its seafood and its Peranakan cuisine.

Everywhere, from the city to the heartlands, you will find countless hawker centres, food courts and coffee shops, where the majority of ordinary Singaporeans spend an extraordinary amount of their time.
Whether you hunt down the finest hawker food or prefer flipping your credit card in fancy restaurants, if you don’t leave Singapore puffing your cheeks and rubbing a full belly, you’ve missed out!

It’s hard to know whether this multitude inspired Singapore’s food obsession, or whether the obsession inspired the multitude. Either way, Singaporeans are obsessed with eating. They think nothing of driving right across the island to sample a renowned Sambal Stingray, and whenever a new food fad hits town, they will happily queue for an hour to get their hands on it. Food is a major topic of discussion and debate; everyone has an opinion on what’s the best this and where to get the best that. Maybe it’s a substitute for politics (just kidding!) – but then if you had this much fantastic food on your doorstep, you’d probably be serious about it too.

For Singaporeans, what’s on the plate is far more important than the quality of the china (or plastic, for that matter). The smartest-dressed businessman is as comfortable sitting down on a cheap plastic chair at a plastic table wading into a S$3 plastic plate of “char kway teow” as he is eating S$50 crabs in an air-conditioned restaurant. Combine this unpretentiousness and you have the best eating opportunities in Southeast Asia, if not the whole of Asia.

It’s not all superlatives, though. If your taste buds have been surgically removed, you’ll have no trouble locating one of the many fastfood chain outlets dotted around the island.

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