Singapore— Singapore recently received the distinction of being ranked by CEOWorld magazine as the World’s Best City For Street Food, the first time that the magazine published such a list.
Unfortunately, the list did not go over well with netizens from other countries, or even with Singaporeans themselves, as some wondered how street food in Singapore can even be called as such, when it can’t be found in the streets, unlike in other countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
This is because five decades ago the government decided to move food vendors out of the streets and into “purpose-built hawker centres and markets with proper sanitation and amenities.”
Did they lose some charm and authenticity in the process? Some would say yes, and some would say no.
But for visitors to the country, who consider Singapore to be “Asia Lite” — a painless and gentle introduction to Asia without culture shock, the experience of eating at food courts may be far more palatable than eating in the middle of the street. After all, it was business travellers and corporate travel agents whom CEOWorld magazine interviewed for the survey, which would explain the results.
So—where can Singaporean street food be found?
Writer Nicole Frank wrote an article for CNBC entitled “A 3-Step guide to mastering Singapore ‘street food’” which would no doubt be helpful for first-time visitors from the West, attracted by Singapore’s reputation for having the best street food.
The first place for street food she wrote about is food courts—since they are “clean, air-conditioned and for many visitors, they’re the easiest way to sample local cuisine.”
Ms Frank particularly recommends the Hainanese Chicken Rice at Fitra, Wisma Atria. “A generous helping of rice is cooked with chicken stock, garlic, ginger and pandan leaves and then served with either poached or roasted chicken. Small dishes of dark soya sauce, chili and garlic accompany the dish, with cucumber spears on the side.”
She also recommends Char siew wonton noodles at HK Roast, Food Republic at Manulife Centre and naan at Indian Express, Rasapura Masters at The Shoppes at Marina Bay.
Next up is hawker centers, described as “open-air food markets, usually with covered seating.” Getting special mention are Lau Pa Sat, Newton Food Centre and Glutton’s Bay Esplanade.
At Lau Pa Sat, the author highlighted the satay at Stalls Nos. 7 and 8, whereas at Newton Food Centre, which she terms “arguably the most popular center of all (even before it was featured in ‘ Crazy Rich Asians’),” the carrot cake is the must-try. At Glutton’s Bay, she recommends the prawn paste chicken at Hong Kong Street Old Chun Kee stall.
The third option Ms Frank gives are eateries off the beaten path, in a section she calls “Hidden Gems,” such as Adam Road Food Centre, where she urges readers to try nasi lemak, Chomp Chomp Food Centre, said to be “uber popular with locals” because of the stingray from Hai Wei Yuan B.B.Q. (stall No. 1), and for dessert, she suggests Tian Tian Yuan Dessert House at Tiong Bahru Food Centre.
So does Singapore have street food? Perhaps not in its strictest sense. But one thing is for sure, with the variety of dishes served, you are sure to find something that will suit everyone’s taste./ TISG