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Singapore - Local Gastronomy

Because of its central position in Southeast Asia, all kinds of Asian food can be enjoyed in Singapore. Many restaurants specialise in cuisines from Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia and from different parts of China. Southern Indian food based on rice, lentils and coconut is very popular, especially the large thin pancakes, stuffed with vegetables, called dosa.  

When they eat, Singaporeans celebrate their diverse cultural backgrounds. Most of the time they choose to eat in casual style at a hawker centre or food court.

According to The Straits Times newspaper Singaporeans spend more money eating out than eating at home. In fact many Singaporeans never cook and eat at home. They will patronize the local ‘food court’, ‘hawker centre’ or ‘kopitiam’ – all local words for the very casual dining environments that you will find all over the island on street corners and in the basement of shopping centers. A ‘food court’ or a ‘hawker centre’ is a number of stalls under one roof, selling cooked meals of a variety of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines. They share an area of communal tables and chairs.

Hawker centres are not air-conditioned and usually have a roof but no walls. Lau Pa Sat and Maxwell Rd hawker centres in Chinatown have more than 60 stalls under one roof. Newton Circus hawker centre near Newton MRT station is a popular 24 hour eating place. Food Courts are the same thing, indoors with air-conditioning and smarter décor. Most department stores and shopping centres have a food court in the basement. Examples include ‘Picnic on Scotts’ at 6 Scotts Road, and …….. at Takashimaya department store,…..Orchard Rd. Kopitiams are old style coffee shops.

The following are some popular local dishes that are often a combination of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines. To find out more about these local dishes go to . Makan means meal or food in the Malay language.

Bee hoon - fried thin rice noodle
Chilli crab
Fish head curry
Hainanese chicken rice- Singapore’s national dish
Beef Kway Teow – rice noodle soup with beef slices
Laksa- noodles in a spicy coconut chilli curry thick soup
Mutton curry
Nasi Padang – rice with a selection of spicy Malay –style dishes
Cheese prata or Roti prata - Indian style fried bread stuffed with cheese or accompanied by a curry sauce
Popiah – non fried spring rolls
Rojak- fruit and vegetable salad tossed in spicy peanut and prawn paste sauce
Chendol- shaved ice dessert with coconut milk and brown sugar
Tropical fruit - freshly squeezed juice or a plate of your selection of fruit
Kaya - egg and coconut custard jam on toast.  On the menu in Kopitiams (old style coffee shops), that serve strong dark coffee with a layer of condensed milk in the bottom of the glass.

Cooking Classes

  • Academy at Sunrice
    Fort Canning Park
    Fort Canning Centre
    Tel: + 65 6336 3307
    Fax: + 65 6336 9353
    There is a Spice Garden walk and morning and evening cooking classes for many Asian cuisines. On Saturday mornings a Farmers Market class focusses on organic produce.
  • Asian Cooking Classes by Vida Berry
    65 Shelford Road
    #03-03 Shelford Regency
    Tel/Fax: + 65 6468 2764
    Classes in Indian, Indonesian and Thai cuisine with Wet Market tours. There are special holiday classes for children.
  • Sumptuous Indian Fare by Kirti Dayani
    Tel: + 65 6254 6627
    Email: [email protected]
    Classes in Indian cooking and tours of Little India’s market and spice shops. Special summer classes for maids.
  • Coriander Leaf Cooking Studio and Bistro
    76 Robertson Quay
    #02-01 The Gallery Hotel
    Tel: + 65 6732 3354
    Fax: + 65 6732 3374
    email: [email protected]
    Coriander Leaf and Cooking Studio teaches South Asian, South East Asian, Middle Eastern and fusion cooking. It also provides guidance on food and table presentation and sells exotic spices. Day and evening classes start at approxiamately S$100 per lesson.
  • Raffles Culinary Academy
    328 North Bridge Rd
    #02-17 Raffles Hotel Arcade
    Tel: + 65 6412 1256/7
    Raffles Culinary Academy offers a range of cooking and lifestyle classes to suit the palates and tastes of discerning gourmets, food hobbyists and amateur chefs. Classes are conducted by award-winning chefs. Day and evening classes for many types of cuisines start at approxiamately S$70 per class.
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