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Singaporean cuisine is diverse and contains elements derived from several ethnic groups, as a result of its history as a seaport with a large immigrant population. Influences include the cuisines of the native Malays and the largest ethnic group, the Chinese, as well as Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan and Western traditions (particularly English and Portuguese-influenced Eurasian, known as Kristang). Influences from other regions such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Middle East are also present.
In Singapore, food is viewed as crucial to national identity and a unifying cultural thread. Singaporean literature declares eating a national pastime and food a national obsession. Food is a frequent topic of conversation among Singaporeans. Religious dietary strictures do exist; Muslims do not eat pork and Hindus do not eat beef, and there is also a significant group of vegetarians. People from different communities often eat together, while being mindful of each other's culture and choosing food that is acceptable for all.
Other than Singaporean cuisine, it is also common in Singapore to find restaurants specialising in cuisine from a great variety of countries around the world.
- 1 Hawker centres
- 2 Singapore food internationally
- 3 Background and history
- 4 Food culture
- 5 Types of food and some world popular food
- 6 Common dishes and snacks
- 7 Fruit
- 8 Desserts
- 9 Drinks and beverages
- 10 "Singaporean" dishes uncommon in Singapore
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
When dining out, Singaporeans often eat at hawker centres, coffee shops or food courts rather than restaurants, due to convenience, a wider range of options and affordability. These hawker centres are widespread, cheap and usually feature dozens of stalls in a single complex, with each stall offering its own specialty dishes. Well-known hawker centres include Lau Pa Sat and Newton Food Centre. Coffee shops are non-air conditioned versions of food courts and are commonly found island-wide, usually at the bottom of blocks of HDB flats. Hawker centres are the place where people can experience all kinds of different cultural food in one place. Hawker centres, or open air food courts, have come to define Singaporean food culture. Popular markets like Old Airport Road Food Centre in Geylang, Golden Mile Food Centre on Beach Road and Maxwell Road Food Centre in Chinatown offer the best of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian cooking, wrapped into foods that are uniquely Singaporean.
In 2016, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle became the first two street food locations in the world to be awarded a Michelin star. The former gains the title of the world's "cheapest Michelin-starred meal".
Singapore food internationally
Singaporean food is a significant cultural attraction for tourists and visitors. Some Singaporean dishes have become internationally known. In 2011, four Singaporean dishes were included in the list of 'World's 50 Most Delicious Foods (Readers' Pick)' – a worldwide online poll by 35,000 people held by CNN International. They are Hainanese chicken rice (13th), chili crab (29th), Katong Laksa (44th) and roti prata (45th).
Anthony Bourdain brought international attention to local food available in hawker centres on his show, No Reservations. He featured Tian Tian Chicken Rice and Maxwell Food Centre on the programme. Bourdain has also publicly spoken about hoping to feature four Singaporean dishes in his upcoming food hall in New York City.
Gordon Ramsay participated in a 'Hawker Heroes Challenge' held in Singapore in 2013, and he lost 6% of the overall vote. Losing to Ryan Koh representing 328 Katong Laksa and Foo Kui Lian representing Tian Tian Chicken Rice, he graciously accepted defeat. He mentioned being in absolute awe of the hawkers, and was humbled by how they welcomed him into their kitchens and taught him to cook.
Singaporean cuisine has been promoted as a tourist attraction by the Singapore Tourism Board. The Singapore Food Festival, held every year in July, is a celebration of Singapore's cuisine. The Overseas Singaporean Unit also organises Singapore Day in major cities around the world as a platform for Singaporeans living abroad. One of Singapore Day's major draws is the local Singaporean hawker food, which is prepared on-site by well-known hawkers specially flown in for the event.
Background and history
Singapore is geographically located in between the Pacific and Indian oceans but it also has shape of peninsula and island at same time, where various cultures and trades are flowing. Indonesia is located to the south, Thailand, China, the Philippines and Malaysia are located to the north and India is located to the west. Since Singapore's position is between various Asian countries, there is a diversity in food and culture. "When Stamford Raffles sought to convert Singapore into a trading post for the East India Company in 1819, immigrants from China, Malaya, India, Indonesia, Europe, the United States and the Middle East flocked to the island. The culture of Singapore is made up of diverse influences from different continents and countries. This led Singapore cuisine to be mixed-cultural society food. Like many other Asian countries, Singapore experienced a period of colonisation. Singapore used to be colonised by Britain from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century, and like most of Asian countries did, they were ruled by Japan during World War 2. Colonisation of Japan also influenced Singaporean cuisine. For instance, yee sang, which Singaporean Chinese enjoy eating during the Lunar New Year, includes raw fish. Raw fish is rare ingredient to put in dishes except for Japanese or Korean dishes.
When a person is first meeting with a new person they ask "Have you eaten?" It is one way to express a greeting to another person. It is also possible to assume that this is how Singaporeans think about the meal and food. Since Singapore is a mixed cultural nation there is a diverse range of people who might have different and restricted diets, such as Muslims and Hindus. In Singapore it is common to see Halal food and Muslims who are fasting in time of Ramadan. Since Singapore is influenced by so many different regions, religion, and areas, there are also many events or anniversaries. During the Lunar New Year, people eat nian gao, which is similar to the Korean songpyeon. Singapore's cuisine is as diverse as its culture. It is an extension of Malay cuisine but influenced by the Chinese — not to mention the Indians, Arabs, British and other settlers who have contributed to making Singapore one of the world's most important trading ports.
Types of food and some world popular food
Singaporean food can be divided into five types: meat, seafood, rice, noodles, and dessert or snacks. Singapore is especially renowned for its seafood. Chili crab and black pepper crab are two quintessential dishes that dominate the scene and are greatly recommended to tourists. Another favourite is sambal stingray. In the meat category, Hainanese chicken rice is the most popular dish. Essentially, it is rice cooked with chicken fat, served with boiled chicken, accompanied with chili sauce. Three noodle dishes stand out in Singapore cuisine. “Fried Hokkien mee”, fried egg noodles with prawns, sliced pork and gravy, "Nonya laksa", rice noodles served in a coconut prawn broth and "Char Kuey Teow", stir-fried rice noodles with prawns, Chinese sausage, lard and cockles. In the snack category, kaya toast is the representative dish, primarily due to the use of kaya. "Kaya kopitiams" are a common sight on the island. These affordable coffee shops dish out bread toasts, spread with coconut jam and butter, served with coffee and tea.
Common dishes and snacks
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The dishes that comprise "Singaporean Chinese cuisine" today were originally brought to Singapore by the early southern Chinese immigrants (Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka and Hainanese). They were then adapted to suit the local availability of ingredients, while absorbing influences from Malay, Indian and other cooking traditions.
Most of the names of Singaporean Chinese dishes were derived from dialects of southern China, Hokkien (Min Nan) being the most common. As there was no common system for transliterating these dialects into the Latin alphabet, it is common to see different variants on the same name for a single dish. For example, bah kut teh may also be spelt bak kut teh, and char kway tiao may also be spelt char kuay teow.
- Bak kut teh (肉骨茶; ròu gǔ chá), pork rib soup made with a variety of Chinese herbs and spices.
- Beef kway teow (牛肉粿条; niú ròu guǒ tiáo), flat rice noodles stir-fried with beef, served dry or with soup.
- Beef noodle soup (牛肉面; niú ròu miàn), a noodle soup made of stewed or braised beef, beef broth and vegetables.
- Bak chang (肉粽; ròu zòng), glutinous rice dumplings, usually filled with pork, mushrooms and stewed egg, steamed in bamboo leaves. Although it is Chinese in origin, it is also a favourite in Peranakan cuisine.
- Bak Chor Mee (肉脞面; roù cuò miàn; "minced pork noodles"), egg noodles with minced pork and other ingredients, served dry or in soup. Usually the flat, tape-like mee pok noodle is used.
- Ban mian (板面; bǎn miàn), hand-made flat noodles served with vegetables, minced meat, sliced mushrooms, and an egg in an anchovy-based soup. Noodle variations are common. "Ban mian" refers to flat, long noodles; "mee hoon kuay" (米粉粿; mí fěn guǒ; "rice vermicelli cake") refers to flat, rectangular noodles; "you mian" (幼面; yòu miàn; "thin noodles") refers to thin noodles.
- Chai tow kway (菜头粿; cài tóu guǒ), also known as char kway (炒粿; chǎo guǒ) and incorrectly as carrot cake, is a dish of radish/daikon cakes diced and stir-fried with garlic, egg, chopped preserved radish, and sometimes with shrimp. This dish comes in black (fried with sweet dark soy sauce) or white (fried into an omelette) versions, with a chilli paste sometimes added.
- Char kway teow (炒粿条; chǎo guǒ tiáo), thick, flat rice noodles stir-fried in dark soy sauce with shrimp, eggs, beansprouts, fish cake, cockles, green leafy vegetables, Chinese sausage and fried cubes of lard.
- Char siu (叉烧; chā shāo), also romanised cha-su, cha siu, cha sio, caa siu and char siew, is barbecued pork in Cantonese cuisine.
- Chicken noodles is an egg noodle dish with diced chicken meat.
- Crab bee hoon (螃蟹米粉; páng xiè mí fěn) is a rice vermicelli dish served with whole mud crab. It may be served dry or in soup.
- Drunken prawns (醉虾; zuì xiā), prawns cooked with rice wine.
- Duck rice (鸭饭; yā fàn), braised duck served with rice cooked with yam and shrimp. It can be served simply with white rice and a thick dark sauce, or with braised hard-boiled eggs, preserved salted vegetables, and hard bean curd (tau kua) on the side. Teochew boneless duck rice is a similar, but a more refined dish. The duck is deboned and sliced thinly, allowing the sauces to seep into the meat.
- Fish ball noodles (鱼丸面; yú wán miàn), similar to bak chor mee, except that fish balls are used instead of minced pork.
- Fish soup bee hoon (鱼片米粉; yú piàn mí fěn) is a Singaporean soup-based served hot with bee hoon.
- Hae mee (虾面; xiā miàn), stir-fried prawn noodles cooked in a broth made from prawn heads and pork bones, topped with ingredients such as prawns, sliced pork belly, squid, egg, lard, and served with sambal chilli and lime at the side.
- Hainanese chicken rice (海南鸡饭; Hǎinán jī fàn) is based on the Hainanese dish Wenchang chicken.
- Hainanese curry rice is a dish consisting of steamed white rice smothered in a mess of curries and braised gravy.
- Har cheong gai (虾酱鸡; xiā jiàng jī; "shrimp paste chicken"), chicken wings fried in a batter with fermented shrimp paste.
- Hokkien mee (福建面; Fújiàn miàn), egg noodles and rice noodles stir-fried with egg, slices of pork, prawns and squid, and served and garnished with spring onion, lard, sambal chilli and lime (for adding lime juice to the dish).
- Hum chim peng (咸煎饼; xián jiān bǐng), a deep-fried bun-like pastry sometimes filled with bean paste.
- Kaya toast, a traditional breakfast dish. Kaya is a sweet coconut and egg jam which is spread over toasted bread. Combined with a cup of local coffee and a half-boiled egg, this constitutes a typical Singaporean breakfast.
- Kuay chap / kway chap (粿汁; guǒ zhī), a Teochew dish of flat, broad rice sheets in a soup made with dark soy sauce, served with pig offal, braised duck meat, various kinds of beancurd, preserved salted vegetables, and braised hard-boiled eggs.
- Mee pok (面薄; miàn báo), a noodle dish characterised by its flat and yellow appearance, varying in thickness and width.
- Min chiang kueh (面煎粿; miàn jiān guǒ), a thick, chewy pancake with a ground peanut and sugar filling. Other variations include grated coconut and red bean paste. This traditional snack also is served in blueberry, cheese and chocolate varieties.
- Pig's brain soup (猪脑汤; zhū nǎo tāng), a soup dish comprising pig brain with Chinese herbs.
- Pig fallopian tubes, a dish comprising stir-fried pig Fallopian tubes with vegetables and sambal chilli.
- Pig's organ soup (猪杂汤; zhū zá tāng; "pig spare parts soup"), a soup-based variant of kuay chap
- Popiah (薄饼; báo bǐng), Hokkien/Teochew-style spring roll or rolled crêpe, stuffed with stewed turnip, Chinese sausage, shrimp and lettuce.
- Shredded chicken noodles (鸡丝面; jī sī miàn), a noodles dish topped with shredded chicken, fish dumpling and mushroom.
- Sliced fish soup (鱼片汤; yú piàn tāng), a soup dish consisting of fish and vegetables.
- Soon kway (笋粿; sǔn guǒ), a white vegetable dumpling with black soy sauce.
- Teochew porridge (潮州粥; Cháozhōu zhōu), a rice porridge dish consumed with a selection of local side dishes.
- Turtle soup (乌龟汤; wū guī tāng), a soup or stew made from turtle flesh.
- Vegetarian bee hoon (斋米粉; zhāi mǐ fěn), thin braised rice vermicelli to which a choice of various gluten, vegetable, or beancurd-based delicacies may be added.
- Yong Tau Foo (酿豆腐), a dish that contains a varied selection of food items, including tofu filled with ground meat mixture or fish paste, fish balls, crab sticks, an assortment of vegetables and meat.
- Youtiao (油条; yóu tiáo), also called yew char kueh (油炸粿; yóu zhá guǒ), fried dough crullers similar to those served in other Chinese cuisines around the world.
Singaporean Malay dishes, influenced by the food of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java and the Riau Islands, tend to be adapted to local tastes and differ from their counterparts in neighbouring countries. Although Malays are native to Singapore, most Malays in Singapore today are either relatively recent immigrants from Indonesia and Malaysia, or the descendants of these immigrants. Hence, Singaporean Malay cuisine features a unique set of influences, especially from Minang cuisine. Spices and coconut milk are common ingredients, although Chinese ingredients such as taupok (tofu puffs) and tofu (known as tauhu in Malay) have been integrated. Many Chinese and Tamil Muslim adaptations of the following dishes also exist.
- Acar, pickled vegetables or fruits with dried chilli, peanuts, and spices. Indian and Peranakan versions can also be found.
- Assam pedas, seafood and vegetables cooked in a sauce consisting of tamarind, coconut milk, chilli, and spices.
- Ayam penyet, fried chicken dish consisting of fried chicken that is smashed with the pestle against mortar to make it softer and a relatively new culinary phenomenon of Indonesian origin.
- Bakso, also Ba'so, meatballs served with noodles.
- Begedil, mashed potato mixture that is fried into patties and eaten together with mee soto.
- Belacan, not a dish in itself, but a shrimp paste commonly used in spice mixtures.
- Curry puff, also known as epok-epok, a flaky pastry usually stuffed with curry chicken, potato cubes, and a slice of hard-boiled egg. Sardines are sometimes used in place of chicken.
- Dendeng paru, a dish of dried beef lung cooked in spices.
- Goreng pisang, bananas rolled in flour, fried, and eaten as a snack.
- Gudeg putih, white jackfruit curry.
- Gulai daun ubi, sweet potato leaves stewed in coconut milk.
- Keropok, deep fried crackers usually flavoured with shrimp, but sometimes with fish or vegetables.
- Ketupat, rice cakes steamed in a square-shaped coconut leaf wrapping and usually served with satay.
- Lemak siput, shellfish cooked in a thick coconut milk-based gravy.
- Kway teow goreng, stir-fried flat rice noodles.
- Lontong, compressed rice cakes (see ketupat) in a spicy vegetable soup.
- Mee rebus, egg noodles with a spicy slightly sweet curry-like gravy. The gravy is made from sweet potatoes, curry powder, water, salted soybeans, dried shrimp and peanuts.
- Mee goreng, a fried noodle dish commonly found in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.
- Mee siam, a dish of thin rice vermicelli.
- Mee soto, a spicy noodle soup dish.
- Nasi goreng, steamed rice stir-fried in a wok, often mixed with other ingredients, such as eggs, vegetables and meat.
- Otak-otak/otah, spicy fish cake grilled in a banana leaf wrapping.
- Pecel lele, fried catfish served with chilli paste.
- Rawon, beef soup.
- Rojak bandung, a variant of Singaporean style rojak.
- Roti john, an omelette sandwich.
- Sambal, not a dish in itself, but a common chilli-based accompaniment to most foods.
- Satay, grilled meat on skewers served with satay sauce (a spicy peanut sauce) and usually eaten with ketupat, cucumber and onions.
- Sayur lodeh, a mix of vegetables in coconut milk.
- Soto, a soup dish mainly composed of meat and vegetables.
- Soto ayam, a spicy chicken soup that features chicken shreds, rice cakes and sometimes begedil.
- Tumpeng, a cone-shaped rice dish of Javanese origin. It is served with side dishes of vegetables and meat.
- Appam, a fermented rice pancake.
- Murtabak, an Indian-Muslim dish originating from the Middle East. It consists of folded dough stuffed with spiced minced meat, onions and egg, and is often served with curry.
- Naan, an Indian oven-baked flatbread.
- Roti prata, a local evolution of the Pakistani and Indian paratha. It is a popular dish for breakfast and supper. It is a fried bread pancake that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dough is flipped to attain the right texture, then cooked quickly on a greased stove and served with curry and sugar. A plethora of modern variations are available, including egg, cheese, chocolate, masala, durian and even ice cream.
- Soup kambing, a local Tamil-Muslim dish of spiced mutton soup.
- Soup tulang, a local Tamil-Muslim dish of mutton or beef leg bones stewed in a spicy red sauce. The bones are broken to allow the marrow to be eaten.
- Tandoori chicken, chicken marinated in a mixture of spices and yogurt and cooked in a clay oven.
- Dosa, rice and lentil pancake. Commonly served as a "masala" version that includes spiced potatoes and is served with different types of sambar.
- Vadai, spicy, deep-fried snacks that are made from dhal, lentils or potato.
A number of dishes, listed below, can be considered as truly hybrid or multi-ethnic food.
- Ayam buah keluak, a Peranakan dish of chicken stewed with spices and Southeast Asian black nuts (buah keluak).
- Cereal prawns (麦片虾; mài piàn xiā), stir-fried prawns with sweetened cereal.
- Fish head curry, a dish created by Singapore's Malayalee (an Indian ethnic group from Kerala) community with some Chinese and Malay influences. The head of a red snapper (ikan merah, literally "red fish") stewed in curry consisting of varying amounts of coconut milk and tamarind juice, along with vegetables (okra and eggplant are common). Usually served with either rice or bread.
- Kari debal, a Eurasian Singaporean curry dish with Portuguese and Peranakan influences. Includes chicken, cabbage, sausage, and bacon pieces stewed in a curry sauce.
- Kari lemak ayam, a Peranakan chicken curry with a coconut milk base
- Katong Laksa, a Singaporean thick rice noodles (bee hoon) in a coconut curry gravy with prawn and egg. Sometimes chicken, tau pok (beancurd puffs) or fish cake may be added.
- Kueh pie tee, a thin and crispy pastry tart shell filled with a spicy, sweet mixture of thinly sliced vegetables and prawns.
- Mee goreng, yellow egg noodles stir fried with ghee, tomato sauce, chilli, eggs, vegetables, and various meats and seafood.
- Rojak, a traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish of Indian origin and with Malay/Indonesian influences.
- Sambal kangkong, a dish of water spinach (kangkong) fried in sambal.
- Satay bee hoon, rice noodles served with cuttlefish, fried bean curd puffs, cockles and water spinach in satay sauce.
- Tauhu goreng, fried bean curd with sweet sauce.
- Tutu kueh, steamed rice flour pastries with a sweet shredded coconut/peanut filling
- "Western Food" in hawker centres where 'Singapore-style' chicken chop (topped with black pepper or mushroom sauce), chicken cutlet, pork chop are available. These are usually served with fries / mashed potato, coleslaw and baked beans.
Singaporeans also enjoy a wide variety of seafood including fish, squid (known as sotong in Malay), stingray, crab, lobster, clams, and oysters.
Popular seafood dishes include
- Sambal stingray / hang hir (魟鱼; 魟魚; gōng yú), smothered in sambal and served on banana leaf, also known as ikan bakar in Malay.
- Black pepper crab, hard shell crabs cooked in a black pepper sauce.
- Chilli crab, hard shell crabs cooked in chilli sauce, usually served with man tou, or deep fried buns.
- Oyster omelette, an oyster omelette mixed with flour and fried, served garnished with coriander.
- Sambal lala, soft shell clams fried with sambal sauce
A wide variety of tropical fruits are available all year round. By far the most well known is the durian, known as the "King of Fruits", which produces a characteristic odour from the creamy yellow custard-like flesh within its spiky green or brown shell. Durians are banned on public transport, elevators, certain hotels, and public buildings because of their strong odour.
Other popular tropical fruits include mangosteen, jackfruit, longan, lychee, rambutan, pineapple and mango. Some of these fruits also are used as ingredients for other dishes: iced desserts, sweet-and-sour pork, and certain types of salad such as rojak.
Singaporean desserts have a varied history. A typical food court or hawker centre dessert stall will usually have a large variety of desserts available, including:
- Bubur cha cha, a dish of pearled sago, sweet potatoes, yams, bananas, black-eyed peas, pandan leaves, sugar, and salt cooked in coconut milk and served hot or cold.
- Cheng tng (清汤; qīng tāng), a light, refreshing soup with longan, barley, agar strips, lotus seeds and a sweet syrup, served either hot or cold. It is analogous to the Cantonese Ching bo leung.
- Ice kacang, a mound of grated ice on a base consisting of jelly, red beans, corn and attap seeds, topped with various kinds of coloured sugar syrups, palm sugar, rose syrup and evaporated milk.
- Kuih or kueh, small cakes or coconut milk based desserts that come in a variety of flavours, usually containing fruit such as durian or banana. Pandan is a common flavouring.
- Kueh lapis is a rich, multi-layered cake-style kueh using a large amount of egg whites and studded with prunes.
- Lapis sagu is also a popular kueh with layers of alternating colour and a sweet, coconut taste.
- Orh-nee (芋泥; yù ní), a Teochew dish consisting of taro (locally known as "yam") paste, coconut paste and ginkgo nuts.
- Pulut hitam, a creamy dessert made of black glutinous rice and served with coconut cream.
- Tau suan (豆爽; dòu shuǎng), mung beans in jelly, served hot with dough crullers.
- Cendol/Chendol, basic version consist of pandan jelly strips with coconut milk and gula melaka syrup with shaved iced; other ingredients which could be added are red beans, sweet corns, ice cream and even durians.
Drinks and beverages
Popular Singaporean drinks include:
- Bandung, rose syrup with evaporated milk.
- Beer in Singapore
- Chin chow drink (仙草水; xiān cǎo shuǐ), grass jelly made into a sweet beverage.
- Kopi the local coffee in Singapore
- Lemon barley drink
- Milo, chocolate/malt milk drink. Variations include the Milo Dinosaur, a standard Milo drink topped with a scoop of Milo powder.
- Sugar cane juice, usually blended to order from fresh sugar cane stalks.
- Teh halia tarik, ginger tea with "pulled" milk (tarik)
"Singaporean" dishes uncommon in Singapore
- Singapore style noodles (星州炒米粉; xīng zhōu chǎo mí fěn), an American Chinese dish featuring fried rice vermicelli flavoured with yellow curry powder, is not commonly found in Singapore. The close relative to this dish is fried bee hoon (thin rice noodles).
- Singapore Sling. While the cocktail was invented in Singapore's Raffles Hotel, and is still served at the hotel's Long Bar, it is not common in most Singaporean bars.
- Singapore fried kway tiao (星州炒粿条; xīng zhōu chǎo guǒ tiáo), a dish featuring fried thick, flat rice noodles flavoured with dark soy sauce commonly available in some Chinese restaurants in Canada and the United States, is also not a Singaporean dish. The dish most resembling it is char kway teow.
- List of Singaporean dishes
- Culture of Singapore
- Cuisine of Malaysia
- Hawker centre
- Kopi tiam
- Gastronomy in Singapore
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