Celebrating Local Food in Singapore
This National Day looks a little different, but even with the pandemic, lockdowns and travel restrictions, there is one thing we can always celebrate — local food. From Char Kway Teow to Chilli Crab, local food has a special place in every Singaporean’s heart.
It’s always most apparent when you’re overseas for work or holiday, where there’s no warm bowl of bak chor mee anywhere to be found. And where else can you get a full, hearty meal for hawker centre price?
In the spirit of National Day, we find out from 5 overseas Singaporeans what local food means to them, and what they miss the most. See if you’ll miss the same foods as they do!
1. “Chicken Curry soothes the soul”
Many people say Singapore only has two seasons — hot and hotter. But for overseas Singaporeans like Jerome who stays in Croatia, they experience the 4 seasons, including chilly winters.
And when the cold hits, we all long for something warm and fragrant, like Curry Chicken. “It’s a dish that requires a lot of patience and effort to prepare,” Jerome says. “While I’m in Croatia, I don’t have the ingredients to make rempah from scratch, so I use store bought rempah for convenience.”
And poetically, he says, “Chicken curry soothes the soul during winters and is a much needed reminder of Singapore’s warmth”. BRB, crying.
– Jerome (@jerome_chee), Croatia.
2. “Chaipo is hard to find!”
TBH, chaipo is perhaps one of the most underrated delicacies ever. As Yumei, living in Slovenia, found out, hardly anyone appreciates it until it’s nowhere to be found. “The one I miss the most is fried white carrot cake,” she says, “it’s my go-to dish every time I come back to Singapore.”
“It’s savoury, spicy, and I like the combination of the soft bounce of the radish cake + the slightly crisped egg,” she shares. And of course, “the umami and crunch of the chaipoh”.
But the most nostalgic part? Watching hawker uncles and aunties display their skills on huge woks and metal spatulas, scooping up the greasy goodness on the plate.
– Yumei (@feetonheat), Slovenia.
3. “I do dream about it some nights”
Being away from home is hard, and for Nicole, it hits hard when she reminisces about the Sunday mornings spent having Nasi Lemak with her family. “The fragrant coconut rice with that spicy chilli is the best,” she says.
Her next favourite would be none other than Hainanese Chicken Rice with Otak. “Definitely can’t find this anywhere in Sydney,” she says, “it’s my stable in Singapore and I do dream about it some nights.” We’re sure those are sweet, savoury and umami dreams indeed.
– Nicole (@Nicolikinz), Sydney.
4. “I MISS YONG TAU FOO THE MOST!”
We kid you not, the quote is exactly what Jane, living in Croatia, typed out when we asked her what she missed. “It’s comfort food,” she says.
Like many of us, Jane could eat YTF anytime, any day. “I always ate it during recess at school, also as breakfast at the Tiong Bahru Market, also for supper at the YTF stall at Henderson that only opens after midnight.”
“I can cook a lot of SG food on my own,” she shares, “but YTF is by far the hardest to recreate.”
– Jane (@janetoryl), Croatia.
5. “The dish I miss the most is Rojak”
Singapore is a huge melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, and no dish represents that quite as well as the humble rojak. “There really isn’t anything like it in Japan,” Myer shares, “It’s something that just really reminds me of home.”
The best part of rojak is the crispy fried youtiao, but he misses it with the fruits, too. “After that one time I tried a Rojak that was just youtiao, I realised how important the other fruits are,” he shares. He’s right, every little ingredient of the dish counts, and will be dearly missed if we ever have to go overseas.
– Myer (@akizoraa), Japan.
I am so proud of Singapore’s food, and fully relate with how these Singaporeans carry love for these dishes even though they’re miles away. From the humble Chaipo to the hearty Nasi Lemak, I’m sure that if you open a Kopitiam anywhere in the world, Singaporeans will flock to it as it’s really something that unifies and connects us. Food, and standing in long queues, too.
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