Due to this strong outside influence and the foods that these people brought with
them to Singapore, the foods seems to be more "Chinese"
than anything else to an outsider. However as the country is based on modernization
and technology, nearly every "ethnic" food one can think of can be found
in the country, including Indian,
French, and American
Noodles: noodles are a common base in numerous dishes
Rice: rice is cooked in numerous styles and accompanies most meals
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Hainan Chicken Rice: the national dish is chicken and rice served
with soy sauce, broth, cilantro and chili paste as well as ginger paste for dipping
Satay: simply grilled meats seasoned with local spices
Most of Singapore's population is ethnically Chinese,
but the small country is quite diverse and there are substantial populations of
Hindus and Muslims most of whom are Indian and Malay respectively. Due to this diversity,
be sure you know who you are eating with or who is dining in the restaurant you
are in. If the company is primarily Muslim or Hindu there are a couple specific
rules you must follow.
If in the presence of Muslims you must dress very conservatively, which means your
entire legs and arms should be covered; for women their heads should also be covered.
Muslims don't eat pork or drink alcohol so don't order these items if in
the presence of Muslims. If you are eating with Hindus, cattle are sacred so you
should avoid eating beef. However, if eating with the ethnic Chinese their staple
protein is pork or seafood so be sure you know who you are eating with so you know
what to avoid. If in doubt, or just to be cautious, order chicken, fish (if you
eat fish don't flip it over as the ethnic Chinese believe this will tip over
the boat of the fishermen), or a vegetarian meal.
If meeting locals for a meal punctuality is generally important, especially in business
meetings. Before entering a house or restaurant check to see if others have left
their shoes at the door; if so you should do the same then greet everyone personally,
elders first. If meeting Muslims, don't touch a person of the opposite sex unless
the woman initiates the contact by extending a hand.
Let your local counterpart arrange the seating and in many cases your local host
will order food for the entire table so you have multiple dishes to choose from.
With or prior to the food being served you may be offered a beverage, but don't
take a sip until your host invites you to do so. When you drink try to hold the
cup on the bottom with your right hand and support it with your left hand on the
side. Once your host invites you to drink, you may also begin to eat.
Food is often served family style and accepting all food that is offered to you
is a must. If you are not served by the host, take food from the communal dishes
very carefully. If there is a serving spoon, be sure that spoon doesn't touch
your plate; if there is no serving spoon, pick up food from the communal dishes
with the back end of your chopsticks. Speaking of chopsticks, this is the prominent
form of eating in Singapore; in most restaurants and even some homes, spoons, forks,
and knives are available. Also be sure to only use your right hand to eat and only
bring food to your mouth with your right hand, even if using a spoon or chopsticks.
When you finish eating, leave a little food on your plate (but finish all of your
rice) then place your chopsticks back on the chopstick rest on the side of your
plate. If you are eating in a restaurant, you will probably find that a service
charge has been added, but if not tip about 10-15% of the total bill.
Celebrations & Events
The festivals in Singapore are numerous and fairly diverse
as the population consists of Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. The events
in Singapore are the result of religion, ethnicity, and local culture, but today
it seems everyone celebrates all the events, not matter his or her religion or ethnicity.
The majority in Singapore is Buddhist and their most important
celebration is Vesak Day, which takes place each May, 5. This celebration though
is very mild compared to others in the country as it is celebrated with alms giving
and charity, which often times includes the making and giving of local foods to
the poor and/or sick.
In Singapore, the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr
is commonly referred to as Hari Raya Puasa, which is a celebration that
occurs immediately after Ramadan; Ramadan is a religious holiday that requires fasting
for 30 days. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is celebrated with satays (kebabs),
ketupat (rice cakes), and numerous street foods, including cakes, pastries,
Among the Hindu celebrations, the most important is probably Deepavali,
which is a festival of lights and cleansing. As many of the Hindus are ethnic Indians,
the foods served on this event in Singapore are typically
traditional Indian Foods, but this celebration
rarely expands beyond the borders of Indian neighborhoods so for an outsider, the
foods seem no different than they typically are in the neighborhoods, although more
people will be present.
A couple more food events in Singapore are secular in
origin, but still involve great food and celebration. Chinese New Year is celebrated
by nearly everyone in the country and involves numerous ethnic
Chinese Foods & Drinks. While the Mid-Autumn Festival, also
Chinese in origin, involves the preparation of moon cakes and other
Singapore has every drink you can think of, however they
are best known for their bubble tea, which is tea made with tapioca and some spices.
If you want other varieties of tea, you can get black tea, green tea, tea with sweetened
condensed milk, or just plain with sugar. Juices, coffee, soft drinks, and milk
are also readily available in any one of the country's many convenient stores.
As an international city with a huge foreign presence any alcohol you desire can
be found in Singapore. Not just types of alcohol, but
also specific international brands. Any bar or restaurant will have a selection
of regional and international beers, wines, and hard liquors.
The tap water is generally safe to drink in Singapore.
If you do drink the water (or the ice or salads washed in the tap water), many people
may have trouble adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different
from what your system is used to if you are not from the region.