By Somali K Chakrabarti
Singapore, symbolized by the iconic Merlion is a place where cultures meet and flavours mix.
The Little Red Dot on the world map, Singapore is the fusion of the old and new Asia, merged with influences from East and West. In this melting pot of different cultures, one finds gastronomic delights from many different parts of the world.
You can treat yourself to Chinese specialities, traditional Malaysian fare, Indian meals, Peranakan (Singapore’s oldest fusion cuisine), or try out international cuisine including Japanese and Korean spreads, Thai food, Arab delicacies, Moroccan buffet, Spanish bites, Italian feast, or French banquets.
What is more remarkable is that even for a non-fish and a non-meat eater like me, Singapore has enough to delight the taste buds.
Street food has been an interesting and integral part of the food culture of Singapore, with its origin dating back to the 1800s, when men from China, Malaya and southern India were brought to work in the busy port city.
Many of these men, cooked the dishes from their native place, borrowing condiments, ingredients and learning techniques from each other, and sold them on street corners. In the process, what evolved was the fusion food culture in Singapore.
The hawker markets or food centres keep alive the spirit of old Singapore.
Falafel served in pita or laffa flatbread is my favourite Middle Eastern food. Made from ground chickpeas and beans, and served with hummus, aromatic pumpkin and carrot, baba ganoush (eggplant with onions, tomatoes and seasoning) , and Tzatziki (yoghurt in a preparation similar to raita) it makes for a filling, nutritious and tasty breakfast. .
A variety of south Indian and north Indian dishes are available in Singapore. Appams (fermented rice pancake), sambar idlis, thosai (dosa) and upma make a perfectly healthy breakfast for me. Occasionally I love to indulge in Bhature, samosa and chutney that tickle the taste buds.
An interesting dish is the Indian Rojak, which is served with a hot and sweet chilli sauce. It is a salad of deep fried battered potatoes, eggs and tofu. The Indian version of traditional Malay rojak, though usually a vegetarian food, is also served with seafood to the non-vegetarians.
Tandoori offerings, naan bread, or crispy roti prata (a local variant of the Indian paratha), crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, make a sumptuous meal when served with curry or egg, cheese, chocolate or durian.
Not to forget the mention of sweets- laddu, payasam, halva, gulab jamun and jalebi.
All these dishes go well with kopi (coffee) or teh tarik, a hot, strong, creamy and frothy milk tea that leaves a mouthfeel and a fragrant aromatic aftertaste.
Teh tarik is prepared by skilfully pouring tea and milk from one cup to the other, through the air, till it reaches a rich, frothy texture. The pouring cools the tea and brings out the full flavour of the tea as the mixture is vigorously combined to saturation. Teh tarik is typically served in a clear glass so that the perfect mixture can be seen and appreciated
Vegetarian options are available in Malay and Chinese food too. Meet free adaptations of many dishes exist.
Spices and coconut milk are the common ingredients in Singaporean Malay dishes that render them a spicy taste without being very hot. One such appetising dish is the vegetarian Fried Bee Hoon (Fried Rice Vermicelli), cooked with mock Char Siew (barbecued pork), mixed vegetables and mushroom soaked in sweet gravy.
Vegetarian satay with crunchy peanut sauce, savoury vegetarian wontons, mock chicken rice, fried noodles, vegetables curry, soups and salads are available in vegetarian food centres.
I prefer yoghurt drinks and coconut water to beat the sweltering heat, but what I love most about Singapore food is the variety of desserts available.
Mango pomelo, made with fresh fruit is my favourite dessert.
Chendol, made from shaved ice, coconut milk, green starched noodles with pandan flavouring and palm sugar that has a lingering aroma, is a popular dessert.
Ice Kachang containing jelly, red beans, sweet corn and attap chee (palm seeds), topped with shaved ice, coloured syrups and condensed milk, is another popular dessert. The soft, mushy and sweet red beans almost resemble the texture of jam.
From Hawker centres to cafes and upmarket restaurants, Singapore has all it takes to become a world-class food destination.
Discover more at http://discover.stayfareast.com/
On your next trip to Singapore, do not fret if you are a vegetarian, and be ready to explode the palate while savouring some of these mouth-watering dishes.
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