Singapore food in the media limelight

It’s been a good couple of weeks for Singapore food in the international media. First, there was the Newsweek interview with local food blogger Chubby Hubby, “Dishing On Asia’s Food“. Here’s a taste:

Q: What is the philosophy behind the Chubby Hubby blog?
A: Live to eat, of course. Second to that (and boy am I going to catch hell for saying this comes second), love your spouse.

Then there was the New York Times‘ round-up of local fine dining, “A Repressed City-State? Not in Its Kitchens” (free login required).

Interestingly, while both articles make a relatively big splash about, respectively, foodie culture and good eats in Singapore, neither refers to the more plebian dishes and dining opportunities that typically leap to mind when “food” and “Singapore” are mentioned in the same breath. There’s no coverage of our dearest hawker centres, with their humble stallholders (who would hardly call themselves “chefs”!) and reasonable prices. There’s hardly even a mention of what most Singaporeans would consider local food. (If you need a primer, I heartily recommend My Little Rascal‘s Visual Guide to Singapore Food.)

Pan-fried dory over veggies and wedges No, instead both articles focus on fine dining in Singapore, a topic that would have hardly have merited more than two sentences in a footnote of such articles ten years ago. Today, there are enough places serving fancypants food, as I like to call it, all over town, not to mention enough affluent people to keep such places afloat, that even long-established chain cafes like Olio Dome (right) and TCC The Coffee Connoisseur have revamped their menus and food presentation to keep up with the times.

I’m not complaining. If all this means there’s more good food to eat at every restaurant, that’s great.

But anyone who read either article and assumed that was the be-all and end-all of Singapore food would be sorely mistaken. To quote Anthony Bourdain, “Fast food — which traditionally solves very real problems of working families, families with kids, business people on the go, the casually hungry — can be good food.” In Asia, it’s everywhere on the streets; in the case of Singapore, thanks to government hygiene requirements, it’s been moved off the streets and into hawker centres, but it still tastes all right. All it takes is fresh ingredients, a tested recipe and a deft hand at the pan.

I love me my fine dining, but when you can’t afford it or just aren’t in the mood for cloth napkins and candlelight, it’s good to know there’s always a yummy hawker meal (at any time of the day!) that you can still count on.

Edited to add: How did I miss this? Anthony Bourdain did more than fair justice to our street food scene in the New York Times in September: “Off the Eatin’ Path” (free login required).

1 Comment so far

  1. liangcai (unregistered) on October 9th, 2006 @ 1:48 am

    yep. nothing beats the simplicity and convenience of the hawker meal. Definitely an experience in itself!

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