Wild Thyme by Xusan Teo:The Multi Cultural Singapore Cuisine28-11-2011 Comments (3)
In this 3rd column, I shall bring you to the world of food heaven - Singapore. Being born and lived my first 20 years in Singapore, I was fed with endless choices of dishes from different local cuisines. Being used to good quality and all the different herbs and spices, it is not easy to satisfy any Singaporean when it comes to food. They live to eat!
This buzzing and modern city has countless open air hawker centres, indoor food courts and varieties of restaurants ranging from simple to fine dining. In Singapore only the quality restaurants survive the demands of the people. They are used to have sample food stalls everywhere, even in the residential areas, never more than 5 minutes drive; usually you can get a meal within 5-10minutes by foot. Since the food from the stalls are of good quality and reasonable in price, most singles, couples or for those who work they rather eat out or take home. It is also normal to eat at least 3-5 meals a day; breakfast, lunch, tea time, dinner and supper.
Singapore races consist of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Indonesian, Peranakan as well as the Eurasian or the mixed. Therefore, some typical local food is actually a combined cuisine from these races and that make it so special that you could not find it anywhere else in the world. Just the Peranakan race for instant, local born descendants of early China-born settles in the British Straits Settlements, Straits Chinese man were also known as Babas and females, Nonyas, therefore the so called Nonyas cuisine is influenced mostly by the Malays and the Indonesian, the Indians, Thais, and even Portuguese. What we called now the new Fusion Cuisine. Some of my favourites are Popiah, Mee-Siam, Otak-Otak, Mee Rebus, Laksa Lemak and many more.
The temperature of this country allows the people to eat in the open space almost throughout the year. With regular food inspectors around, it is very safe to eat in any of the hawker centres (open air food courts) or indoor food courts, where you have a food selection from 20-40 stalls of different cuisines. From each stall itself, you have also a selection of dishes to choose from, so it is common that you a big selection of dishes and share them with your family or friends. Besides the typical Singaporean stalls such as Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and Nonya in the food court, it is also common to find Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese stalls as well. If you love seafood, the open air East-coast Seafood Park on the beach will be the place for you too; there you can find live seafood cooked according to your choices. A few popular dishes are Chilli or Black Pepper Crabs, Freshly steamed fish of your choice, the Drunken Prawns with Brandy or Grilled/BBQ Seafood in general.
We have one of the most 5-star hotels in a little city like Singapore; therefore the selection of fine dining is also endless, or a stylish afternoon high tea at the famous Raffles Hotel just to name one. Besides the hotels and private restaurants, there are also Club restaurants. In Singapore, there are many exclusive private clubs, common for the expats, business people and of course the rich and famous. In all these top class places, you can find the finest local and international cuisines. I am often impressed by the delicacy and the presentation of the dishes from such restaurants. When comes to local desserts, it is difficult to choose which one for today. The dessert selections from the Malay, Indian and Nonya alone, even if you try one or two a day, it will take you many weeks before you tried it all!
Singaporean food consist of a lot of mixed herbs and spices, unfortunately in Europe, we can’t always find the right ingredients that you could get from the Far-East. So, in order to make it possible for you, I suggest these 2 local dishes below. Simple, healthy and tasty!
(1) Steam Fish of your choice with Spring Onions, Coriander and Ginger
1 fresh Sea Bass, +/- 500gm
25g of fresh Ginger, thinly sliced and shredded
A hand full of finely cut Spring Onions and Coriander
2 table spoon of Sesame Oil
1 table spoon of Light Soy Sauce
Place the clean the fish on a deep plate and stuff the belly with some finely sliced Ginger
Sprinkle the Sesame Oil and Light Soy Sauce over the fish
Optional, sprinkle some finely cut Red Chillies
Steam it for 10-15 minutes
Once ready, sprinkle it with Spring Onion and Coriander
Ready to serve, accompanied with a bowl of steamed fragrant Jasmine Rice or add another dish of Vegetables. That makes one complete healthy meal!
(2) Grilled/BBQ Stingray wrapped in Banana Leaf
If you can find Banana Leaves and Stingray, known as Skate in the West (or replace it with another fish such as Sea Bream/Dorada), you can make a delicious Grilled or BBQ dish!
1 fresh Stingray/Sea Bream +/- 500gm
1 big piece of Banana Leaf, enough to wrap the fish
2 table spoon of think Dark Soy Sauce
1 table spoon of ground Black Pepper
1 tea spoon of Sugar
½ tea spoon of Salt
1 lime cut into halves
Sambal Chilli sauce (you can get it in any Chinese shop if you can’t make it
-Wash the Stingray, removed the skin, if Sea Bream, skin can remain. Pat it dry
-Mixed and rub the Stingray/Sea Bream all over with Dark Soy Sauce, pepper, salt and sugar
-Wrapped it with Banana Leaf, and ready to be Grilled or BBQ
-Turning once, for 4-5 minutes per side/ 6-8 minutes per side for Sea Bream
-When ready, open the Banana Leaf, place it with or without the leaf on a nice serving plate
-Sprinkle the Lime juice over the fish with Sambal Chilli Sauce served on the side for those who desire.
-If you can handle spicy chilli, you can spread a bit of the Sambal Chilli on the fish before you wrapped it for grilling/BBQ
By: Xusan Teo
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