Food in Singapore

If I had to describe Singapore in one word, it would not be “clean,” “sterile,” or “strict,” but “yum!” The diversity of cultures and the way its inhabitants prize good cuisine is striking, and it means that there are tons of unique and delicious foods to try. Last night, my friend A.F., who grew up there and now works for the government, and his girlfriend C., originally from San Francisco but now a writer for The Straits Times, took me to Maxwell Food Centre, a hawker center in Chinatown, where we ordered an array of native foodstuffs and incredible tropical juices (soursop, star fruit, sugar cane, and watermelon). I took some photos, but it was dark out so they didn’t come out too well. Still, the first one is of what the locals call Carrot Cake, which is the result of someone’s bright idea to dice up the traditional dimsum treat of turnip cake (my boyfriend P.’s favorite thing to order) and fry it with an egg and chiles. The second is Hokkien prawn noodles, which is a dish beloved of the straits Chinese (Nyonya), who originally left Fujian Province (where Xiamen and Fuzhou are, and where the unusual dialect of Hokkien, different from both Mandarin and Cantonese, is spoken) to settle throughout southeast Asia in the late 19th century.

Earlier yesterday, I grabbed a snack in Little India, at a little vegetarian restaurant called Komala. I couldn’t help but order the traditional roti paratha, which in Malaysia is known as roti canai (and which I’d had at the restaurant Penang in New York a number of times as a kid). It was both doughy and flaky, steaming hot off the griddle, and served with a small cup of delightfully spicy curry. I also(had the joyful opportunity to drink what was in my experience (limited as it is by not having yet made it to India) the best mango lassi in the world.

For breakfast, A.F. met me at my hip and clean hostel, where the in-house restaurant, Wild Rocket has been making a buzz among Singaporean foodies. We ordered mojitos (crisp and well-mixed) and pancakes with strawberry compote and fresh cream (buttery and brown outside and nice and soft within). Since the food took a while to come, the chef, Willin Low, sent out complimentary grapefruit and basil granitas (herby and refreshing). I had actually grabbed dinner there the night before, when I arrived, since it was 10:30pm and I was worried that by the time I found my way to a restaurant outside the hostel anything I found might be closed. Then, I tried a lychee martini and crabmeat linguini in a lightly piquant tomato cream sauce, both of which were spectacular as well. If only Beijing had food like this–and at such affordable prices!

Oh, and at some point, I popped into one of the 25 or so 7-11s I saw around town to check out potato chip flavors and other assorted local snacks. The best one on the shelves was this bag of “Ethnic Flavor” chips.

Posted by on October 3rd, 2005

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