Singapore the Food Haven by Victor BP Lee

It is a well established fact that eating and shopping are often recognized as the national pastimes in Singapore. Singaporeans are spoilt for choices when it comes to eating and visitors to Singapore have never failed to be amazed by the extensively selection available. It is not the national pastime for nothing, Singapore has a population of around 5 million and these 5 million people are served by over 6,500 restaurants, 4,000 food courts, cafes and coffee shops, as well as over 17,000 food stalls.

The variety available will stumped you. With the many races, nationalities and cultures in Singapore comes with a huge selection of food available. Many of the cultures also have a history of affordable, ready-to-eat food. This could be due to Singapore’s history of immigration, as most immigrants were male and lived in dormitory-style housing, preparing meals are difficult.

In the good old days, you can find food stalls along streets operated by Chinese, Malays and Indians, providing a wide range of choices to anyone who is interested. Malays were good with fruits; Indians were good with cakes and different kinds of nuts and Chinese with a mixture of all sorts. Malays and Chinese almost always carry their wares on a stick, balanced on their shoulder, with loads suspended at both ends. Indians generally carry their wares in a try, balanced on their head. The most interesting would probably the Chinese. They carry “cookshops” along with them; it was literally restaurants on the move. They will suspend on one side of the stick a box which contains a small fire and small copper cauldron for soup, while at the other of the stick, they will carry a load of rice, vermicelli, cakes, jellies and condiments.

It was also fast-food-on-foot, food was served within a short notice. It was said a substantial meal of three to four dishes costs only 3 cents and locals swear by the great tasting food served by these hawkers. With the modernization of Singapore, these forms of hawking came to a close for hygiene purposes. Many of these kinds of stalls were moved into hawker or food centres or coffee shops, and you cannot find such operations anymore.

At coffee shops you can find hot and cold beverages sold. Breakfast was usually coffee or tea with boiled eggs, and toasted bread. During lunch, the permanent stalls inside the coffee shops will start serving all sorts of local delicacies, providing the very first generation of fast food in Singapore. Unlike many cities around the world, where to big eateries are usually restaurants; you can get food of excellent quality and at cheap prices from these hawkers.

There are over 120 hawker centres in Singapore, and lots of coffee shops still operate. In the past decade, there was the emergence of food courts, or air-conditioned coffee shops. The food courts are much larger than their coffee-shop counterparts and offer a wider range of food stalls. It got popular as places were brightly lighted and was commonly fully air-conditioned, providing consumers with a comfortable environment while enjoying their food. In the food courts, there are free seating arrangements, so you can choose to sit anywhere you please, not necessary near to the stall you are ordering food from.

Business minded Singaporeans have also brought the concept of food courts to other countries, offering Singapore’s version of Chinese, Indian and Malay food. Similar food court settings can now be found in countries as far as some major cities in China, offering Singapore’s local food to the people overseas. Even Chinese in China would find dishes like char kway teow (fried rice noodles), chicken rice and noodle soup which are commonly known in Singapore as Chinese food, different from their traditional Chinese food.

To enjoy the huge variety of food, local or international, you should choose a Singapore hotel that is near to office or residential area. These are far more affordable than those in the central business district or shopping belts. There are many Singapore hotels central business district, which are good choices for your stay as they are more affordable than those in the prime areas.

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