Food in Singapore is, just like the population, very diverse and multicultural. No matter what kind of food you’re looking for, you can be sure to find it somewhere in the city-state, with prices ranging from cheap street food to high end restaurants. However, the most important influences in the local cuisine come from Malaysia, China, Indonesia and India, and many dishes have acquired a unique Singaporean touch over the years.
As a student, I mostly eat at the food courts and canteens on campus. Another option for a low budget are the many hawker centres all over the city, where you can choose from numerous options at different stalls. During my first week in Singapore, the resident assistants of my accommodation took us to one of the most popular hawker centres.
Here we got to try many famous local dishes, such as Orh Lua (fried oyster cake), Char Kway Teow (fried flat noodles), sugarcane juice and some Asian desserts such as Tau Huay (soya beancurd). My favourite was Chai Tow Kway or fried carrot cake (in the bottom of the picture next to the juice). It has nothing in common with the Western dessert, in fact it doesn’t even contain carrot. The name stems from the Chinese word for radish – the main ingredient – which happens to be nearly the same as the word for carrot. The dish itself originates from Teochew cuisine and is popular in parts of China, Malaysia and Singapore.
A very different yet just as interesting experience related to local cuisine was when a Singaporean friend of mine took me prawning. On a Friday evening, we drove to a remote prawning facility, which is open 24 hours and consists of artificial basin-like ponds. Every few hours, live prawns get thrown in which the visitors can then fish out. Locals seem to enjoy this activity especially because the prawns you catch are very fresh and supposedly taste best. My friends showed me how everything worked, from how to attach the bait (chicken heart) to how to catch the prawns and how to unhook them from the rod. Although I struggled at first, I felt that at the end I did quite ok and I managed to catch 5 prawns in total (to be improved).
After nearly 3 hours of prawning, we drove to a park with barbeque pits and had an improvised BBQ at 2am. I am not sure if it was the freshness or the hard work we put into getting them, but to me those prawns with chili garlic sauce (which we got from McDonald’s along the way) tasted amazing!