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Singapore’s Iconic Food

A quick guide on the local hawker fare

8/1/2016 4:02:23 PM
written By : Shobha Tsering Bhalla Print

As national treasures go, the United States has its Lady Liberty, China has its great wall, Britain its Tower of London and India its Taj Mahal. 

But Singapore scores one above them. Instead of lifeless monuments, its national treasures are alive and thriving or cooking rather. They are the hawkers who have been keeping the home fires burning. In a country where very few cook at home, Singapore’s hawkers have been feeding its citizens and tourists and keeping alive the delicious culinary traditions of the country.

From the time I first set foot in Singapore almost 30 years ago I have been in love with its mind-bogglingly diverse and high quality hawker food. Not surprisingly, Singapore’s hawker food has attracted the culinary world’s highest award – recently two hawker stalls were awarded the one-star rating by Michelin, in the first Singapore Michelin Guide.

While the island-state has a plethora of award-winning fine dining establishments, nothing quite defines the place better than its traditional foods which are derived from the cuisine of its peoples – Chinese (Hokkien and Teochew speakers being the majority), Malays, Indians (South Indians being the majority) and Eurasians.

Sitting at the cross-roads of the fair trade winds over the South China Sea, Singapore has drawn people from all over the world but it is the Peranakans, Chinese, Malays and Indian settlers who have left their strongest imprint on the cuisine of this food haven.

Over the years, some of these hawker foods have worked their way into my sub-consciousness in the way the foods of one’s childhood - nursery food - do. Taking top spot are these five dishes that have become staples for me and my family.

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