The array of Singapore’s culinary pleasures include Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian influences. Simple fare hawked by street vendors, haute cuisine of the country's renowned Raffles Hotel and family-owned restaurants of every imaginable nationality line the city streets, and food franchises from around the world have a significant presence in Singapore’s culinary landscape. With its proximity to Malaysia, tropical flavors permeate Singapore cuisine, and seafood from the surrounding waters is abundant. Ingredients such as lemongrass, lime, and ginger are common, as are coconut, chili peppers, and tamarind. Aromatic spices run the gamut, and a full spectrum of tropical fruits are represented in Singapore cuisine.
Singapore is both a city and a country located on an island at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It lies along the Indian, Indonesian, and Southeast Asian trade routes through the Straits of Malaca and the South China Sea. This confluence of Asian commerce and the influx of European trade throughout the Colonial Era have made the food of Singapore one of the world’s most diverse cuisines.
The Malay peninsula has a large Chinese immigrant population, so Chinese cuisine is a strong influence in Singapore. Stir-fry dishes, dumplings, and noodles have all been assimilated into the local cuisine. The foods of India have a significant presence in Singapore, including dishes such as curry, tandoori, and roti prata. The influence of Singapore’s original British founders is also still present in its cuisine.
As part of the Indonesian archipelago, Indonesian style and flavor is strongly represented in Singapore cuisine. Indonesian rendang curry is one of Singapore’s most popular dishes. Fried spring rolls called loempia are also common, as are grilled satay skewers with peanut sauce and nasi goreng, the Indonesian fried rice dish. Fiery Indonesian sambal condiments are also ubiquitous to Singapore cuisine.
Singapore is known for religious tolerance, and religious dietary influences have left their mark. Buddhists make up the majority of the population, and their vegetarian preferences are reflected in Singapore cuisine. A significant Muslim population has also brought its dietary influences to the table.
Amid the kaleidoscope of culinary choices, Singapore’s two most popular dishes are uniquely its own: chili crab and Hainanese chicken rice. Chili crab is a piquant dish of mud crabs in a rich, chili-tomato sauce. Hainanese chicken rice is a plate of boiled chicken and steamed rice with several flavorful dipping sauces.