Singapore – A Foodie’s Paradise

The diversity of Singapore’s foodie scene is astonishing where old school hawker markets are as common as five-star, Michelin rated restaurants.  While Chris and I are pretty adventurous travellers, I must admit we don’t have very adventurous taste buds.  We tend to stick with what we know, and I for one, am quite happy to eat the same thing over and over again.  Needless to say, this presents a few challenges while on the road, especially in countries where English is not commonly spoken and restaurant menus become an intriguing puzzle.  When we are off the tourist track, the likelihood of finding food that we recognize is even further reduced.  

Somehow we managed to feed ourselves during our last trip around the world (and I even gained a few pounds), but I do remember many times woefully dreaming of a having a simple bowl of cereal or some toast and butter – comfort food at its best.  During our last trip, we could have been spokespersons for Snickers bars and single packs of Oreo cookies as these were our go to travel snacks, readily available everywhere we went, and tasting consistently the same as the ones back home. By contrast, we quickly learned that chips, crackers and other snack foods may have looked the same on the outside, but they sure didn’t taste anything like what we were used to.  

This time around, we have challenged ourselves to get out of our food comfort zone and be a little more daring – within reason of course.  For starters, while in Singapore, we focused on eating where the locals eat – the hawker centres.  We learned that most Singaporeans don’t cook at home.  Quite understandable given that the majority live in very modest apartments, and the cost of food is very high, as compared to the cost of food at the local food stands.  Unfortunately, the food in those food stands is not very healthy (too much salt and sugar) and consequently, there has been an increase in nutrition related illnesses. I noticed quite a few billboards related to the rise in diabetes, admonishing the public to eat more nutritious food.

Just an aside, and not to get too distracted, we learned a lot about the Singapore real estate market while standing in line at one of the food stalls, chatting with a local one day. I found this really interesting and hopefully you will too. Singaporeans are very friendly and very inquisitive about our life in Canada (how cold is it? was a common question), and all were more than happy to talk about their life in Singapore too. So, after making his recommendations to us for food, and explaining what some of the dishes were, we went on to talk about more important topics like where do Singaporeans live, how much do apartments cost, and do single family homes even exist, as we had only seen high-rises. He explained that 80% of Singaporeans live in government housing. These apartments cost about $300,000 SGD ($287,000 CAD), and can be mortgaged over 20 years. And, this includes a parking space. This makes them very affordable for the average family. By contrast, private condominiums cost upwards of a million SGD, and the average price for a coveted landed bungalow is about $13,000,000 SGD. Yes, that is 13 MILLION DOLLARS! Land is at a premium, so even a parking space for a private condo will run you about $900,000 extra! He marvelled that Canadians had so much space and the average family could live in a single family home and actually own their own land. Something that we take for granted in Canada was way beyond the grasp of the average Singaporean.

Back to our food conquest. We did some research and boldly ventured into a few hawker centers.  Equipped with the names of some dishes that were highly recommended on various travel blogs, here is a photo summary of some of the dishes we tried. 

Of course, we couldn’t try everything, and let’s face it, there were some things that we just aren’t ready for.  Maybe one day we’ll be brave enough to try some of the following (but I’m pretty sure some of these will never touch our lips!).

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