Singapore: A city-state with the world’s foodSINGAPORE ― One of the first placards visitors see on a highway from the Singapore airport to the city’s center is a proud sign that reads, “Taste the World in Singapore.”
Indeed on every corner of Singapore’s streets you can find just about every popular ethnic food, and it’s possible to sample Indian, Malayan and Chinese dishes on just one street alone. It’s a reflection of the multi-ethnic roots and diverse history, religion and language of Singapore, making an ideal place for “the world’s department store of food.”
Several food-related events take place throughout the year. But the foremost gastronomic events are the World Gourmet Summit in April and the Singapore Food Festival throughout July. These two ambitious food events are hosted by Singapore’s government every year as a way of expanding tourism and shaping the country’s image as a “Gourmet Capital of the East.”
The World Gourmet Summit invites the best chefs and winemakers from around the world to introduce the latest trends and menus. One of the most popular programs is a series of lectures and cooking shows by celebrity chefs. The venue is also a rare chance for chefs to introduce their new recipes and offer samples to audiences.
During the summit last month, famed Italian chef Norbert Niederkofler was given “a Michelin’s star” by Guide Michelin, a famed French culinary guide, for introducing a wasabi risotto with smoked eels.
“When I first tried Japanese food, I was more surprised by the taste of wasabi than sushi,” said Mr. Niederkofler. “I mixed that taste with risotto, which is most familiar to my tongue. It’s a union of Japanese and Italian food in one pot.”
For culinary experts, the summit is a must-see event, as it provides a chance to sample food of the highest quality and taste ― ranging from inventive Fois graise dishes to bird’s nest ― at an affordable price.
If the World Gourmet Summit is on the high-end side, the Singapore Food Festival provides a more popular taste. Throughout July, eclectic food events take place in the city. In “Theme Park Food Party” visitors can sample different food at zoos and public theme parks.
“Gourmet Safari” is a popular program where visitors travel on a trolley bus to four different restaurants in one night to sample a four-course meal. For more information about the festival call Singapore Tourism Board at (02) 399-5570 or contact www.visitsingapore.or.kr
Festivals are one way to taste the city’s wide food culture. But travelers can take a more classic route by walking around and simply trying out different restaurants around the city.
Hotels in the city center have restaurants that specialize in European and Southeast Asian dishes. For a cozy but romantic dinner, restaurants in Boat Quay and Clarke Quay on the riversides just next to Singapore’s financial district offer a trendy scene for a bargain.
But the secret behind the taste of Singapore is on its streets. During lunch hours, thousands of Singaporeans walk out to the Hawker Center, a giant open-air food court that offers seafood, curry, rice-noodles and fresh fruit juice on site.
When you arrive at a hawker center, you first have to look for a table before hitting the stalls to find food.
There are about 100 food stalls in Hawker Center. At every corner there are large signs displaying menu items along with the scores of the kitchen’s sanitary condition and food ingredients as graded by the city authority.
All hawkers are licensed by the government, which enforces health standards. The public health controls in Singapore tend to be fairly strict, so it is safe to eat food from any of the restaurants or stalls.
But to be extra sure, you can safely order at stalls with the score of “A” or “B.” Items usually cost from 3 or 4 four Singapore dollars (1,800 to 2,500 won) a plate.
One of the most popular hawker centers in Singapore is “Maxwell Food Center” located on the edge of Chinatown. Though some travel sites complain about “Newton Hawker Center” in Newton Circus for being overly commercialized and targeted at tourists, it’s a common alternative for a quick bite for many Singaporeans.
If you are new to Singaporean cuisine, you might try from some of the best-known dishes. “Chili crab,” which has been designated as a national food by the government, is a beautiful crab dish in tomato chili sauce. Chicken rice, a style that originates from China’s Hainan region, is rice topped with chicken marinated with ginger and garlic. For a popular breakfast item, try kaya toast: thick toast covered in a mix of coconut, egg and sugar then grilled with charcoal. As a set it often comes with dark coffee with sweet buttermilk. Then of course there is a fried kway teow, a rice noodle stir-fried with seafood and vegetables.
by Shin Eun-jin