In Singapore, the current population is five million plus. The majority of people are Chinese, followed by Malays, then Indians. The rest come from other countries. This makes Singapore a country of mixed cultures, races, religious beliefs and food.
Singapore, in fact, is also known for diverse food. Tasty food. When I first came here, I was not only interested in the whole island. I was also asking what local delicacies are found in food courts. There is something more about the distinct taste of each dish. More than the ingredients is the wonder of how the food is prepared. And by who?
Surely trying them out is a great experience. I’ll learn more about the country and people. So when you’re visiting, one more exciting, delicious way to know the lion city, other than the spectacular tourist magnets, is through the food.
I’ve tasted a handful of these dishes. I have some of them in mind. When I started this site, I was, however, more eager to find the places and structures, thus missing out a lot of the local menus. So, to detour from my usual course, I’ve turned my eye to another direction. Food and travel always go together. See, I’m starting to understand this.
I’m not a food buff. I can merely share my gustatory experiences in places I’ve been to. Yes, it’s an essential part of cultural immersion to understand more about the life and people of a particular place.
Okay then, have a seat, and let me serve Singapore’s popular Food delights.
1. Yong Tau Foo.
NO PORK. NO LARD.
The above is a standard warning posted on every wall of food stall offering Yong Tau Foo.
This turf is good for those who are on diet. A variety of chunked food items is neatly prepared on the trays: shiitake mushrooms, carrots, bitter gourds, cuttlefish, lady fingers, cucumber, kangkong, petchay (Chinese white cabbage), radish, red or green chilli stuffed with tofu, crab sticks, and other fresh produce. Some recipes include chicken meat in short tubes, fish balls, squared tofus and other assortment of bite-sized food.
Before picking anything, there are some procedures. A minimum of six or seven (depending on the mall or hawker) food items is required. Get a bowl, a clipper, then collect the ones you like.
Upon giving the bowl with food fritters, I’m asked if I want some rice or noodles that will go with Yong Tau Foo. The noodles are either white or yellow. Then they are cooked in a big container of boiling consommé that will also serve as the soup.
The food items are boiled half-cooked. If I prefer rice, I’ll have a separate bowl of rice. If noodles, I’ll have noodles mixed into the bowl of Yong Tau Foo.
To spice it up, I can grab the pepper dispenser and sprinkle some pepper on the soup. The meal comes with spicy chili sauce and sweet bean paste.
The soup tastes bland. This is okay for me since I’m monitoring the level of my salt and sugar consumption. Well, a dip on the chili sauce and/or sweet bean paste can add flavor to the soup. Stirring the soup with these additives is equally tasty. Heated lightly, the vegetables are fresh, crunchy. The fish ball is also delectable. Usually, I save it for my final bite.
Prices: seven pieces at S$4.20, additional rice/noodles 0.60 cents, laksa gravy 0.70 cents.
Laksa is a spice produced from laksa plant. Indians like it.
Yong Tau Foo is a Chinese soup dish.
2. Chicken/Pork Bao.
Bao is pronounced as Pao.
I was supposed to have a quick bite at an eatery on the fifth floor of Far East Shopping Center. The eatery, however, was already closed. It was past mid-afternoon. Upon hearing this, the secretary bolted. “Have! Basement. Pao! Pao!
An old Chinese lady was attending another customer and so I scanned the tall glass compartment. Inside, small and big sizes on layers were heated. To simplify my orders, I pointed to their spots.
Right after I handed the payment, I asked the auntie what are the names of the food I had for my snack. In a surprised tone of a voice, she said, “What!? Yam Cake, Chicken Pao”.
The chicken or pork meat, combined with a chop of boiled egg, is stuffed into the fluffy white bun. They call it chicken or pork bao. The savory sauce soaked deeply into the meat and egg making the bao so good. Even the egg yolk is tastier.
Chicken/Pork Bao is Chinese dish.
In the Philippines, we have a version of this, the Siopao. The way it sounds I’m sure it is also of Chinese origin. A meat is inside a soft white bun, the same as the bao, but the size of the bun is bigger. The stuff is flavored with sauce, which is also tasty. When served, an extra sauce in a tiny plastic comes with it. So when I take a bite off the bun, I can still squeeze some sauce into it. I enjoy doing this.
3. Yam Cake.
Spilled with deep brown sauce, it is served in cubes on a small plate sprinkled with tiny aniseed. The cake is plain, flavorless until I tasted the sweet flavor of the sauce. Relentless with my careful bites as if mumbling, I moved on to the remaining yam cubes. This time, the tasteless yam cakes turned spicy when the liquid dressing became relished with curry. The liquid poured all over the yam cakes is actually a blend of sweet and curry sauce.
Price is S$1.80.
To warm my hungry stomach, I normally order a cup of Kopi O kosong with my snack. This is a bitter coffee devoid of sugar or condense milk. It’s definitely a kick in the ass.
Enjoying the bites? More servings to come.