Traveling to a new country is about a lot of things and food is undoubtedly one of the most important among them, especially if one is a die-hard foodie. The idea- when in a new country, eat as the locals do. The best thing about Singapore is the abundance of budget eating out places. You do not necessarily need to step into an expensive restaurant for food; you can find a lot of options at the food courts at any mall or even in the local markets, all of which have a variety of hawker food stalls. Apart from the prices, which at these places are as low as 2 SGD to 5 SGD for a dish, (food courts in malls are slightly more expensive), being Singapore, what you can take for granted is hygiene. In fact, all food stalls have to adhere to strict hygiene guidelines, so you can be sure that what you are eating is safe and clean. On my visit to Singapore I made it a point to try out as many new dishes as possible. Because it is purely cosmopolitan, Singapore has a mix of South Asian cuisine – Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian and of course Indian. You will find American, Italian and other options too, but that is not what you would actually want to try out if you are on an experimenting spree. Being a fish lover I tried a lot of fish and seafood dishes. Here are some that I loved!
Here is one dish that you actually need to try to know how it tastes. You might either start loving oysters or not take to them at all. Oysters are plump and juicy and it actually tastes of the ocean. Fresh oysters are slightly chewy but when fried in batter it acquires a crispy golden coating and a nice crunch. Dipped in cocktail sauce, it is tangy and spicy to taste. I could not make sense of the chopsticks and had to ask for a spoon.
Fish Ball Vegetable Soup
Fish balls are just that- made of raw fish flesh that has been finely minced and beaten. The fish paste is then shaped into balls and boiled. The balls have a springy, bouncy and fluffy texture and you can slowly relish the intensely strong flavour of fish as you take a bite. The soup made of Chinese mustard greens (choy sum) is clear and refreshing. Certainly a much-loved local dish that is light, tasty and healthy!
The seafood rice porridge ( congee) is one dish that takes a bit of getting used to. Served in a large soup bowl, this one was made of dried scallops and shrimps. The strong fishy smell can be overwhelming, but the smooth grains of rice in the silky broth and abundance of juicy seafood, is a delight to the senses. And it is difficult not to make slurping sounds as you feast on it.
Saba Shioyaki With Rice And Miso Soup
This is a typical Japanese dish that I cherished because it came with fish, rice and soup, a lot like we have in the Bengali cuisine, but of the way of cooking and the taste was obviously different. Saba is mackerel and shioyaki means grilling with salt till it turns golden brown in colour. The taste comes from the salt and the fish, which is oily and has a strong fishy smell. Served with sticky rice and miso soup (made out of dried seaweed and dried bonito fish flakes), it is a meal complete in itself. Figured out later that the way to have it is to first take a sip of the soup and then eat the rice and the fish, but I tried mixing the soup with rice and regardless of what anybody who was watching thought, I loved every bite of it!
A Malaysian dish, it is also popular in Singapore. The dish is simple, what you have is some blanched, soaked cuttlefish and some blanched kangkong (water spinach), served with a tangy and sweet sauce. It is seasoned generously with ground peanuts and sesame seeds, giving it a crunchy feel. For someone having it for the first time, the taste was unique, the cuttlefish soft and juicy, the kang kong well boiled, soft, yet crunchy. What seals the deal is however the sauce, made out of plum sauce, sambal belacan ( a condiment made out of chills, shrimp paste and lime juice) and hoisin sauce ( a thick black pungent sauce). The result is a delicious mix of the rather bland cuttlefish and kankong with the sweet, yet spicy sauce that is sure to excite your taste buds.
One thing I realized- if I had to come and live in Singapore, I would not miss my fish!