World diet’s – Singapore: What They Eat, How They Prepare and Eat It
AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY TOTAL POPULATION: 81.98 years
PERCENTAGE OF OVERWEIGHT ADULTS: 22.0 male; 23.8 female
PERCENTAGE OF OBESE ADULTS: 1.8 male; 1.3 female
MEAT CONSUMPTION PER PERSON (2002): 71.1 kg
I have already mentioned Singapore as a country with a diet and lifestyle that Americans should try to emulate. Ranked fourth on the list of countries with the longest life expectancy, with citizens living an enviable 81.98 years on average, Singapore also has a notable ranking on the list of the world’s fattest countries: it comes in at number 162, with only an estimated 22.9 percent of the population considered overweight. While Singapore’s excellent health-care system, extensive public walking paths, and several government-run fitness programs have played some part in these statistics, the country’s diet is also a huge factor.
WHAT THEY EAT
What don’t Singaporeans eat? A trading port since the British colonized it in the nineteenth century, tiny Singapore has one of the most diverse cultures—and cuisines—in the world. Singaporeans serve up the ultimate fusion food, influenced by Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, Thai, and British cuisine. Without a doubt, from a culinary perspective Singapore is the most interesting place I have ever visited.
The island of Singapore is located due south of China, between Malaysia and Indonesia. The Philippines, Cambodia, and India, are all relatively nearby. Singapore’s location at the crossroads of so many otherwise dissimilar nations has made it a natural melting pot of foods and cultures from all over Asia, as well as Britain. The food modern Singaporeans eat bears the imprint of all the nationalities that have had an impact on the island over the past two centuries. You might have a Chinese porridge (congee) for breakfast, a traditional rojak for lunch, and a Thai curry for dinner. Anything goes in this multicultural nation.
WHAT’S IN IT
Rice: Like other Asian countries, Singaporeans pair rice with just about every other item on the menu. They usually eat this staple carbohydrate three times a day. It’s served boiled or fried, or sometimes even cooked in coconut milk or with saffron and ghee (clarified butter). Singaporeans also eat several different types of noodles, such as rice vermicelli and yellow egg noodles. Malaysian rice cakes are another common food.
Fish: Like so many of the healthiest people in the world, Singaporeans consume a wide selection of fresh fish. Fish head curry is a typical Singaporean red snapper dish that represents a fusion of Chinese and Indian cooking styles. Singaporeans also frequently eat spicy chili crab and black pepper crab.
Tropical Fruits: Because Singapore is situated right on the equator, the island offers a rich profusion of tropical fruits, which are often eaten instead of dessert. The durian, which locals call “the king of fruits,” is probably the most famous fruit native to the island. The rambutan and mangosteen are among the many other tropical fruits frequently eaten in Singapore.
Beverage of Choice: Coffee or Tea
Not so surprisingly given the “anything goes” nature of food on the island, Singaporeans have a taste for both coffee (like Westerners) and tea (like their Asian neighbors). They often add sweetened condensed milk to both beverages—not a habit I recommend adopting unless you strictly follow all the other Singaporean dietary protocols as well.
Poultry: Singaporeans eat chicken in the Indian style, cooked in a tandoor (clay oven), or the Indonesian style, cooked in a spicy broth. They also eat duck in a variety of Chinese preparations.
Spices: Nothing shows the multicultural influences on Singaporean cuisine like the spices its chefs use: the strong flavors are what make Singaporean cuisine stand out. Chiles are one of the most prominent spicy borrowings from Malaysia; tamarind, curry, and turmeric show the influence of India.
HOW THEY PREPARE IT
Stir-Frying: Like Chinese chefs to the north, Singaporeans lightly stir-fry many main dishes, especially meat and vegetables. Also as in China, they usually pair these stir-fries with rice or noodles.
Grilling: Kebabs and other forms of grilled meat have become popular in Singapore.
HOW THEY EAT IT
Street food “hawkers” are the most popular alternative to home cooking in Singapore. “Hawker centers”—Singapore’s version of the American food court—serve up some of the tastiest street food on the island, with Malaysian vendors positioned right next to those specializing in southern Indian, Chinese, and Indonesian food. Because food purchased from hawkers tends to be relatively inexpensive, Singaporeans of every income bracket eat at these centers on a regular basis.
Cooking Oil of Choice: Canola or Sesame
Like other Asian countries, Singaporeans primarily cook with heart-healthy canola or sesame oil. Butter (like other dairy products) is generally scarce.
HOW THEY BURN IT
Singapore is a compact, highly urbanized city-island with excellent public transportation. As a new country, it has an amazing infrastructure and great urban planning, so there are wonderful trails for running, walking, and biking all over the city. The trails are beautiful and welcoming around the clock. Singapore is such a densely populated, efficiently built city that everything is either within walking distance or within reach of public transportation. It’s very easy to go without a car there.
Because so many expatriates from the United States, Europe, and Asia live in Singapore, gyms are also popular. Government-run fitness programs have increased the population’s awareness of the importance of daily exercise. In 1993, the prime minister of Singapore officially launched a national program called the Great Singapore Workout, a low-impact aerobic routine set to local music.
Yoga is popular as well, further proof of the Indian influence on everyday life. It will not elevate your heart rate high enough or for long enough to burn a significant amount of calories, but it’s nevertheless great for improving balance, increasing flexibility, and relieving stress.
Breakfast: Congee, a type of Chinese porridge, is a common breakfast choice in Singapore, as is kaya, a sweet coconut-egg jam, served on toast.Roti prata, based on an Indian dish, is also popular for breakfast.
Lunch: A Chinese-style soup of stir-fried noodles, vegetables, and pork is one lunch option. Others include a plate of curried chicken noodles or some Indonesian-style rice noodles in a coconut curry served with shrimp.
One of the most common everyday foods in Singapore is rojak, a traditional Indonesian or Malaysian dish that has been interpreted many times over by Singapore’s food hawkers. Rojak—a Malay word meaning “wild mix”—comes in both sweet and savory varieties and consists of either fruits or vegetables combined with fried soybean cakes and fried dough, then sprinkled with peanuts and dressed in a sauce of fermented prawn paste, sugar, tamarind, lime juice, and powdered red chiles. No single food could better represent Singapore’s amazingly diverse culinary roots.
Dinner: Dinner in Singapore might consist of chicken grilled in an Indian tandoor and served with chapati, a typical Indian flatbread. Singaporeans also might dine on Indonesian nasi padang, which is steamed rice combined with any number of vegetables and proteins. Another common choice, and as typically Singaporean as rojak, is laksa, a spicy noodle soup (made with either coconut milk or fish broth, depending on the type) that synthesizes elements of Chinese and Malaysian cooking. Dessert might be red bean soup, green bean soup, mango pudding, or watermelon balls—all relatively low-sugar meal closers.
• Take a multicultural approach toward eating. Mix up flavors and influences.
• Spice up your food to keep things interesting.
• Take advantage of your city’s public transportation possibilities, as well as any bike paths or walking trails in your area.
• Experiment with some exotic fruits.