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Singapore is a small island nation in South-Eastern Asia with a vibrant history and blended culture. Their unique cuisine is a delightful influence of Asia, Europe, and indigenous people. In ancient times, the island was called “Sea Town,” because it was surrounded by the sea and fishing was the main trade. No wonder Singaporean dishes are renowned for their fresh seafood.
Thanks to the influence of their Asian neighbors, traditional Singaporean cooks incorporate rice and homemade noodles in many of their dishes. While beef, chicken, and pork are sometimes used for protein, Singapore’s cuisine takes advantage of the abundant fish and other seafood.
Most of the herbs and spices found in Singaporean kitchens reflect inspiration from China, Japan, and India. Ginger and garlic are always at home in the pantries of Singapore, and favorite dishes are often seasoned with cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and a kick of spicy dried chili flakes.
Dishes in Singapore often feature Chinese five-spice, which is a flavorful blend of Chinese cinnamon, fennel seed, dried Sichuan pepper flakes, and ground star anise. While this aromatic mixture is readily available in American grocery stores, most Singaporeans prepare their own with a mortar and pestle.
Like most nations, Singapore has different cooking styles according to region and influence. When large groups of Chinese settlers came to this island nation in the 1800s and married into indigenous Malayan families, the two cultures created a unique cuisine. Locally, it is called Nonya, or the “cuisine of love."
Nonya fuses classic Chinese ingredients like noodles and soy products with delightful Malayan flavors, such as coconut milk, turmeric, and tamarind, as well as notes of lemongrass, chilis, green onions, blancan, and candlenuts. Yams, corn, or tapioca are often featured in their vast array of sweet desserts and drinks.
For the residents of Singapore, food and cooking are lively topics of discussion. They express a national pride in their cuisines and are continually creating innovative dishes. No matter the style, Singaporean dishes are usually served at once instead of in separate courses.
Food is served family-style, with individual bowls of steamed rice. Unlike most Western restaurants, those in Singapore usually feature homemade food instead of processed meals. Dining out is a frequent treat, as well as an opportunity to patronize favorite street vendors.
One of the prized dishes of Singapore is their tasty Singapore Chili Crab, featuring succulent chunks of crab meat stir-fried in a sweet and savory sauce; they also have delicate spring rolls called popiah, and a mouthwatering seafood dish of spicy fish wrapped in fresh banana leaves. Singaporean cooks often serve local tropical fruit for dessert. Beverages may include Asian-style coffee, tea, or other regional flavored drinks.
Although there is carrot in the name, this famous Singaporean street vendor snack contains no carrots. Instead, it is a savory cake made from shredded white radishes. The cake is cut into cubes that are wok-fried to a golden brown with garlic and chilis. Chai Tow-Kway is usually topped with toasted chilis and fried shallots. The delightful treats are crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.
Here is a classic Nonyan-style dish that combines their signature seafood in an Indian-inspired curry. The dish gets its spicy goodness from a traditional blend of curry spices, including garlic and turmeric. The flavorful “gravy” is enhanced with fragrant lemongrass, coconut milk, and sweet pineapple. When the ingredients are sautéed and thickened, the fresh prawn is added and cooked to perfection. Pineapple Prawn Curry is delicious over a bed of steamed rice.
What would a lovely Asian-style meal be without noodles? Singaporean cooks enjoy pairing rice or tender noodles with seafood. For this dish, fresh prawns, onions, peppers, and snake beans are sautéed in a wok with a spicy curry powder. This stir-fry also features a freshly cooked omelet, crunchy bean sprouts, and savory rice vermicelli noodles. Serve with a garnish of cilantro and a wedge of lime.
Laksa is a traditional street vendor dish made with seafood and noodles. It can either be curried laksa (with coconut milk and curry spices), or asam laksa (made with chubb mackerel and thicker noodles). This curried laksa is a tasty broth of curry paste, lemongrass, evaporated milk, and coconut milk. It is loaded with tender prawns and yellow noodles. Top it with sliced boiled egg, bean sprouts, and a sliced fish cake.
Just about every international cuisine has its version of sweet or savory hand pies. This easy recipe uses store-bought puff pastry. The filling includes chicken that is stir-fried with curry powder, garlic, onions, and other flavorful spices. Each triangular “puff” is stuffed with yummy filling and brushed with an egg wash. They bake quickly to a lovely golden brown in the oven. These puffs would be an excellent quick dinner or snack.
Vegetarians will delight in the many vegetarian-friendly dishes that Singaporean cuisine offers, like Mee Goreng. After stir-frying hokklen noodles with onions, tomato sauce, curry powder, and chili sauce, cubed tofu provides the protein. This dish also features cucumbers, diced chilis, and spring onions. Adjust the heat by adding a little more diced chilis. Mee Goreng makes an easy, complete meal.
The spicy secret to this quick Nasi Goreng recipe is homemade chili sauce, that is easily made in a blender. Nasi Goreng is stir-fried rice with fresh prawns, anchovies, onions, garlic, and other savory spices. Chili Padi, an Asian spice, can be tweaked to make this dish milder or scorching hot. The rice goes on individual plates, with the prawn and spring onions as a flavorful garnish.
Singaporean beef sates are comparable to Arabian kabobs. The cubed ribeye steak is marinated in a savory blend of brown sugar, Asian spices, and fish sauce. After it marinates overnight, grill the sates until medium-well. Serve with cucumber relish and fried garlic peanut sauce.
In Singapore and other parts of Malaysia, roti prata is a traditional flatbread prepared on a grill. It is a delicious snack that can be paired with savory or sweet ingredients. Singaporean cooks often serve roti prata with spicy curries. They are simple to make with flour, water, butter, and a pinch of salt.
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