Ask a group of Singaporeans about their favorite dish or place to eat and you are likely to start a long and spirited debate about the best Hawker Center, the best place for chicken rice, chilly crab, Char Kway Teow. Debating about food is the national sport in Singapore, second only to traveling all over the island for the best [name your dish]. Upon your first meeting with someone from Singapore, don’t be surprised if one of the first comments is, “Have you eaten?” Followed closely by “Do you take Spicy?”
The people of Singapore take their food seriously! And for good reason–its among the best in the world. Just ask Anthony Bourdain or Gordon Ramsey or Andrew Zimmerman ……. or me!
Singapore is an island nation within striking distance of Malaysia and Indonesia and is the gateway to most of Asia. It has an extremely diverse population-Indian, Chinese, Peranakan, Malay, Eurasian and, now, second and third generation Singaporeans. The food has been influenced by all of these cultures into an exquisitely and endlessly evolving cuisine.
There are a lot of very good restaurants in Singapore. Every cuisine and every fusion possibility can be found in the country. I have eaten in many restaurants, but my favorite place has always been Hawker Centers–outdoor food courts found all over the place from city center to the residential neighborhoods. Hawker centers can have a handful of stalls or up to 100. Each stall has their own specialty. Most of the stalls specialize in a certain dish or a certain kind of food. Since there are many stalls, there are endless varieties of meals to select. Some hawker centers are well-known to tourists, while others are located deep within the neighborhoods. All are regulated and rated for food safety by the government.
At lunch with some friends, I recently asked people about their favorite Hawker Centers. During the ensuing heated conversation, I made a list of the places that I wanted to go: the Old Airport Road, Maxwell Food Center, Bedok, Amoy Street, Seah Im and several others. And so, I eat my way through the week.
Tomorrow we’ll start a tour of the Hawker Centers I visited.