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Singapore Street Food

"IF YOU LOVE FOOD, THIS MIGHT BE THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH," said Anthony Bourdain, on his popular travel and food show No Reservations earlier this year.
No, Bourdain was not talking about France or Italy—he means Singapore, home to 3.5 million people and more than 40,000 street food vendors, called hawkers, serving an incredible mix of recipes that combine Singapore's ethnic heritage of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Indonesian.
"The cuisine is an amazing amalgam of influences—from the rich, elegantly spiced curries introduced to the country by travelers from the neighboring Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra to the phenomenal stir-fries brought by its Chinese settlers. It is one of the world's most sophisticated and robustly flavored cuisines," explains James Oseland, author of the James Beard Award-winning Southeast Asian cookbook Cradle of Flavor.
The flavors of Singaporean food are robust and frequently spicy. The fare pairs Chinese cuisine with the spices of India—coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom—and those of the Malay Peninsular—fresh root spices, herbs, aromatic fruit skins, galangal, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, kaffir lime leaf, garlic and onions.
Hawker Favorites
Singapore is tiny, about the size of New York City, and owes its culinary traditions to another similarity—a rich history of immigration. In 1819, the British colonizers established Singapore as a port and within five years, the population grew from 150 to 10,000. Migrant workers from Malaysia, southern China, India and Indonesia flooded the island.
These immigrants gave rise to the Singaporean tradition of hawker food. When these men arrived looking for work—and leaving their wives back in their home countries—they depended on the street vendors that would visit work sites selling food. Over time, the recipes became uniquely Singaporean in taste—reflecting a blend of southern China (Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese and Hainanes), southern India (Kerala, Tamil) and the native cuisine of the Malay Peninsular.
In modern Singapore, hawker food is central to the cuisine. It is inexpensive, authentic and can be eaten throughout the day for meals and snacks. It is sold in hawker centers and food courts, with names like Glutton Square. Each holds between 100 and 200 stalls, giving a sense of the variety and bounty available.
Although there's a seemingly endless array of hawker food, some dishes are clearly local obsessions. Laksa is one of these—a spicy noodle soup combining Malaysian and Chinese influences. It is most commonly made with rice noodles, shrimp and cockles, and flavored with coconut curry.
Hainanese Chicken Rice sounds simple—boiled chicken served with rice—but for Singaporeans, its preparation is a topic for endless conversation. It is accompanied by several condiments, including chile sauce, ginger and soy sauce.
Other favorites are: Singapore Chili Crab, whole hard shell crabs swimming in thick chile tomato gravy, and Satay (likely the most familiar of the popular dishes) with diced grilled meat laced through bamboo skewers and served with a spicy peanut sauce.
Traditional Singaporean Street Foods
Some popular dishes for authentic hawker food include:
BEEF RENDANG: Beef slowly cooked in coconut and spices such as lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilies and turmeric
CHILI CRAB: Live crabs in a chile-spiked gravy
HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE: Poached chicken in fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth with ginger and garlic in a chile-lime sauce, ginger purée and a thick black soy sauce.
LASKA: Rice noodles covered in a gravy of coconut milk, spices, dried shrimp and chile, topped with prawns, cockles and sliced fishcake.
ROJAK: Means a "wild mix" in Malay; made with an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables such as pineapple, cucumber, water spinach and green apple and shredded ginger bud. These are added to deep-fried soybean cakes and fried Chinese dough fritters.
SATAY: Sweet-spicy meat, barbecued over charcoal and served with a thick, sweet-hot peanut sauce and sliced cucumbers, onion and pressed rice cakes.

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