What is Singapore Food?
What is Singapore food? Briefly, It has its origin in Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India. Many claim that there is no such thing as Singpaore food for that reason. They are only partially right. You'll still find the most authentic and tastiest of each of the cusines. What has been happening to the various cuisines since their first arrival a century or so ago is what we now proudly call Singapore Food.
Nonya food has been over publicised it'll be a cliche to say anything more. What I'd like to hightlight to you here are the equally wonderful but less acknowledged cuisines that have their origin in Southeastern China. Apart from Cantonese Cuisine that is famous the World over, what's special in Singapore are these Southern Chinese cuisines not commonly found elsewhere. If you're really into tasting something new, these are the cuisines that I recommend, for you won't find anything quite the same elsewhere, certainly not so convenient anyway!
For those of you who're accustomed to "Wine and Dine", Singapore has a wide variety of fine restaurants to choose from, much like many other cosmopolitan cities. There is no shortage of publicity in that area so I shall not dwell upon that. To most Singaporeans, however, what Makan entails is not the quality of the service nor the presentation of the food, but very simply the quality of the food, the spontaneity, the cosiness, the convenience and most importantly, the affordability. In other words, it's good company and a bit of sweat and noise thrown in without hurting the wallet. It's a hot plate of Char Kway Teow after a half an hour wait in a hawker centre amidst all the screaming and shouting in the middle of the afternoon when even gold fishes find themselves hot in the bowl!
As a large portion of the population are muslims, halal food is available everywhere. There are Malay Muslim and Indian Muslim food, you'll know when you see one as there's always a sign written in Arabic prominently displayed. Nasi Padang, a style of cooking originated from Sumatra and popular in Singapore is a must try for the visitor. See our Muslim food page for some ideas.
While you may find at least one Chinese or Indian vegetarian food stall in every food centre, you're not likely to come across fine elaborate dishes, especially Chinese vegetarian food. Good Taoist/Buddish vegetarian food seems less easily available. One simple reason is the complexity in vegetarian food preparation. Unlike Indian vegetarians and vegetarians in the West, Taoist/Buddish vegetarians do not eat garlic, onion, leek and those related vegetables. Vegetarian food, in this case, does not mean cooking with only vegetables, but rather, the art of shaping and texturing flour into mock meat and fish dishes. it's worth the trouble to give it a try, for good Chinese vegetarian food is rare, even in Singapore. If you're lucky, you may come across a Chinese temple that serves vegetarian food(only on certain days).
Indian Muslim food, or the so called Mamak food, is very popular in Singapore, roti prata, mee goreng, Indian rojak, nasi padang, mutton soup are some of the more popular dishes.
Seafood is of course a social food that tops many people's list. Seafood eaten the local style is a noisy and cosy affair. Chili crabs, black pepper crabs, drunken prawns and deep fried baby squids are just some of the endless yummy dishes that one shouldn't miss. Lobsters, glamourous as it may sound, is not as popular or as fun as Chut Chut(a kind of cone shaped sea shell that has to be sucked) or raw cockles(despite the risk of Hepatities). And eating barbequed sting ray from a piece of banana leaf at a food centre is definitely a truer Makan experience than having Salmon on China at Maxim's. If you do not know where to begin, East Coast Seafood Centre is worth a visit. If you know your way in Johore Bahru, it's definitely much cheaper!!
Before I end, I must not forget to mention Cristang cuisine, or so called Eurasian food started in Malacca of Portugese origin. Unfortunately, no Cristang restaurant exists as far as I know. So if you're fortunate enough to have a friend of Portugese descent, do invite yourself as that will truly be a rare occasion!
Now, what truly constitutes a true great Makan experience? Well, "Shiok" is the word we blab out aloud unconciously when it happens! and in Singapore, that happens very frequently!
Adapted from http://sintercom.org/makan/advice.htm