What’s eating Singapore? Part 1: Hawker Food

Singapore, a squeaky clean country that bans chewing gum, homosexual activity, and tipping.

Media is repressed; criticism rarely finds its way in the national discourse, save for the efforts of some renegade blogs. Government is a one-man show. National dish is fish head curry. Standard of living is very, very high. Population is low, hence, controllable.

Travel and eating enjoyability is nevertheless high, if you have money to spend.

Saving those Singapoh dolahs is easy, however, if you eat at hawker centers or food courts that house various kiosks selling Indian, Chinese and Malay dishes and snacks for as low as S$2 to S$8 (P76 to P300).

This is Makansutra Gluttons Bay, part of a franchise, at the Esplanade along 8 Raffles Avenue. People come here to eat at stalls like “Boon Tat Street” or “Die Die Must Try!” They’re open up to 2am on weekdays and 3am on weekends.

It’s self-service, so order from your kiosk and come back for your order after a few minutes. Drinks are available at stalls or a food cart. The servings are really hefty, so you can buy for a group.There’s fresh seafood, vegetables, stir-fries, bread, street food and desserts available so you can stuff yourself silly. Dining is open-air.

Chicken feet
Chili crab
Yang Chow Fried Rice
Stir-fried water spinach (very soft and tasty)
Fried stingray encrusted with pepper (you’ll find a lot of these in Singapore)
Chili Squid Rings (very, very spicy!)
Crunchy Baby Squid
(this was the best of the lot. Very crunchy fried squid in sweet and spicy sauce)

The next night, we ate at the Maxwell Food Centre at the corner of Tanjong Pagar Road near Chinatown. The experience was the same as the other hawker stalls, only with more variety.An old guy goes around and sells (or insists that you buy) tissues for S$1 for 5 packets. The servings are also big; I saw a Singaporean guy eating a whole plate of fried rice by himself while his girlfriend ate a big dish of fried noodles.

There are also refreshment kiosks that serve Singaporean beer, which has a stronger taste than I’m used to.

There were so many interesting snacks to eat, and I wanted to try everything. I tried one of Singapore’s famous drinks, Bandung, which is essentially rose milkshake. It tasted like I was eating my St. Therese rosary.

Bandung – S$1.50

Here’s the rest of our feast:

Spicy Stingray (it’s very stringy and full of bones, though)
Yang Chow Fried Rice (there are lots of large shrimps tucked in there)
Beef and Kikiam Stew in Peanut Sauce (tasted like Kaldereta)
Oyster Omelet (remember Orchard Road in Megamall? Still bland)
Hainanese Chicken
(Very lightly salted and seasoned with sesame oil. The meat was very tender and juicy, I loved it. There ate cucumbers at the bottom.)
Good old shrimp paste

You can never go wrong with hawker food. I even saw one hawker center with a Tapa King!So if you really want a food trip that features diverse cuisine (we can argue there is no distinct Singaporean food because it’s an amalgam of various food cultures), hawker centers are the way to go.


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