“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart” – Cesar Chavez
Local dining is just as important as exploring during any excursion abroad. In this area, Singapore really has quite a few things to offer. Many of the dishes I experienced were ones that I’ve never heard of or seen before. With the limited amount of agricultural land available because of the country’s small size, Singapore imports most of its food. Yet with the expat community being so large, there is a wide variety of dishes from many different cultures.
The most remarkable and infamous food item of Singapore is its signature fruit the Durian. This fruit is definitely one to remember, most infamous for its terrible smell, it is a part of the Singapore experience. However the aroma is so strong that it can only be enjoyed in an open air market; it is not allowed in taxis, on the MRT or in airports. And if the smell isn’t offensive enough, the taste, even when dressed up in a sweet dessert (the way I had it) is still pretty bad. But being an explorer I had to give it a try, my best description for the taste would be…hmmm…rotting onions. While I have checked Durian off of my list of things to try once, many of the locals attest to actually liking the taste and there are many local candies and desserts made from it. While some may enjoy the Durian I could not, but it is definitely worth a try.
So while the Durian is definitely one of the more acclaimed signature foods of Singapore there are plenty of dishes and fruits with more palatable appeal. Two popular fruits here are dragon fruit and watermelon; the latter usually accompanies almost every meal breakfast, lunch and dinner. On one of my first days I stopped at the food court in the ION Orchard mall and had the shrimp and pork Shao Mai. Traditionally this is more of a Chinese dumpling dish however it was my first time having it and it was pretty good.
Whether you dine in the upscale restaurants in Singapore City or at the local take out places in Little India, many of the local Indian restaurants provide you with an authentic experience. This includes cutlery, optional plating, and some curry flavors and textures I’ve never experienced. I’m embarrassed to say this was my first time having Nan, which is a traditional Indian flat bread. Additionally, I came to learn that it was customary to serve a boiled egg with certain dishes. I was also able to have my first experience with Satay which is an African dish of rice, meat skewers and traditional African peanut sauce. To seal the deal, I couldn’t leave the country without having Singapore’s most famous drink the Singapore Sling at the home of the best Singapore Slings, the Long Bar.
A signature trait of the Long Bar is the coating of emptied peanut shells on the floor of the bar. It is customary to have a few peanuts when you come in and throw the shells on the floor.
There are some traditional western fast food options there as well, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, 7-Eleven and even Popeyes. Some of the menus were slightly altered to include some of the more domestic flavors. For example, the curry chicken puff sold at the 7-Eleven was pretty good.
With so many options you could spend your entire time in Singapore just eating. But with many other things to do, why would you? I can easily say Singapore with all of its varied cultures, attractions and eats, presents a pleasing experience on the whole.