Singapore, Stomach First

People often talk about Singapore as a place where people are obsessed with food. Before yesterday I hadn’t been to Singapore in a couple years, so part of me forgot about this. Or at least thought it was a little exaggerated, as lots of places are obsessed with food. Italy, France, and so forth. But seriously, Singapore is obsessed with food in a way that I don’t think is comparable to other places. Maybe it’s a consequence of the fact that Singapore is so, well, orderly and boring. There’s no politics to talk about, no real economic woes to talk about (although Singapore is getting hammered by the crisis in GDP terms, unemployment is still only around 3%), the weather is essentially the same all the time (hot and humid, or not quite as hot but more humid, or raining), the traffic is usually pretty OK by regional standards, there’s no really old history (the city was a fishing village until 1800) and so forth. So what else is there to talk about besides what to have for lunch? I think that standard Singaporean day revolves around (1) eating and (2) thinking about where to eat next. There are many, many, many food blogs dedicated to Singaporean food.

This bothers me not in the slightest, of course, because I’ve seen all the tourist things there are to see in Singapore. Moreover, I love to sample local food, and I had two sets of great tour guides to show me where to go. So what did I do on this trip? I caught up with old friends and ate good food. I focused on South Indian food this trip more than Southern Chinese food, which is Singapore’s number one specialty. The problem is often that Chinese food has shellfish in it, so I have to be careful to stick to pork and fish. I can’t eat lots of things like chili crab or prawn whatever or really authentic char kway teow. Plus, this one place that we wanted to try for dumplings was closed for renovations so we substituted banana leaf rice for pork-intensive dumplings. I ignored Malay and Peranakan food entirely because, well, it’s often so close to Sumatran food and that’s normally better here (or in Malaysia itself) anyway. The pics and descriptions are here (they start with my most recent meal in Jakarta, but the Singapore pictures are a few in). Below is the pretty front garden of my friends’ place, which is a great and quiet retreat from the disorganized hustle and bustle of downtown Jakarta.

A Leafy Front Garden in Singapore

5-24-09

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