Not only has Singapore transformed itself in the last 150 years from a fishing village to one of Asia's most dynamic cities, it's also a centre for some of the best food in South East Asia. Settlers and traders from China, India and Malaysia have helped make the cuisine the unique mix it is today along with a strong determination from Singaporeans to eat very well. Food is the national obsession, a constant topic of conversation and for many, eating out is standard practice.
Singapore is renowned for its hawker centres, the ultimate destination for experiencing the variety of the cuisine. These are collections of small stalls often specialising in one or two signature dishes from Chinese to Indian to Malaysian to Peranakan or Nonya style cooking. This is a distinct cuisine which developed when local Malay women married Chinese merchants and labourers and is the fusion of Chinese-Hokkien ingredients and Malay herbs and spices. The dishes are often hot and spicy and many dishes start with a rempah or spice paste made with a combination of chilli, spring onion, lemongrass, candlenuts, turmeric and belachan.
Singapore has many distinctive dishes which include otak-otak or fish cooked with coconut milk, chilli paste, galangal, and herbs, wrapped in a banana leaf; a fresh crunchy salad called rojak;pohpiaor soft spring rolls; fish head curry, often eaten from a banana leaf; and the renowned Singapore chilli crab stir fried with garlic, sugar, tomato sauce, soy sauce and chilli.
Tropical fruit is a great way to finish a Singaporean banquet, but a food obsessed country has many of its own recipes as well, including bubur cha-cha, a colourful mix of tapioca, sweet potato, beans and coconut milk.