You can try to understand Singapore by eating and making sense of it. The options (at least in cookbooks) are categorized as per ethnic group: Peranakan ( descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in the Straits and married the native Malays), Teochew, Hokkie, Indian, Eurasian ( English influenced or Kristang – the Portuguese variety). As you would expect to happen in a city-state with a big expat community the influences keep criss-crossing all the time: fish head curry (created by Singapore’s Indians from Kerala with some Chinese and Malay influences) or afternoon tea with mooncakes are local favourites. Have one bite and it’s like having watched three hours of BBC documentary.
The options are overwhelming, and the quality usually excellent.
Hawkers in Singapore are sort of national institution. They offer cheap, clean and authentic food and tend to cluster. Besides the well-known hawker-centers you can find them in malls, by the seafront or just around the corner. The most typical hawker center is probably Lau Pa Sat, the old cast-iron market designed by the British in the 19th century. It’s within the central business district, surrounded by some pretty impressive modern architecture that hosts the regional headquarters of banks.
Besides street food and the chilli crabs (the typical dish of Singapore for non-locals) you can choose between some of the most refined restaurants in Asia, with great views to the Singaporean skyline or you can drink overpriced beer in roof bars with equally stunning views. Dumplings with truffle, foie gras macarons prepared by sophisticated sushi chefs to perfection without getting pompous – these are some of the dishes prepared for the demanding local clientele .
You almost feel obliged to have a Singapore Sling in Raffles, a ‘Landmark colonial hotel known for its Singapore Sling cocktails & celebrity guests open since 1887’, where ‘Through the decades, liveried Sikh doormen have welcomed some of the most famous personalities, from writers to celebrities, politicians and members of royalty, such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.’ Add to that description canned cocktails produced for masses of tourists from all over, synchronically moving fans like from a 40’s Hollywood swim musical in reverse, and you will have one of your most funny evenings out in town (at least until you see the bill).
This time we enjoyed Singapore with good local and expat friends.
PS1: I’m not sure it’s mentioned in any of the guides, but a walk on a Sunday evening in the shrines and overcrowded food markets of Little India, followed by fish head curry dinner (above Sam inspecting the service) is definitely worth it.
PS2: I tried again in vain to have durian – the notorious local fruit-, this time as a juice diluted with watermelon.