Learning Singaporean: What did you have for lunch = How are you?

I believe that Singaporeans live for food. They seem to love food more than everything. They love to try new fine dining restaurants, to wait in the queue to dine for about two hours, to take the picture of what they have eaten and to share it with the friends in social media. They seem to be ready to do everything for the food. If you say “good morning” or “hello”, they do not even reply you and just look at your face without any emotion if you ask how they are. This does not mean that they do not like you, this is something cultural. You can not start to a conversation by saluting. You should simply ask them what they eat for lunch? Or was it delicious? Isn’t this interesting? Yes, this is the way to start chatting in Singapore. A typical Singaporean may ask your religion or how much you pay for your rent when they first meet you. They may probably not ask how do you feel today but they really wonder what you eat. This felt very weird for me. Then, I get used to this situation and started to ask “Did u go to lunch? Where? What did you have? Was it good?” ☺

You can find many different foods and cuisines in Singapore as I mentioned in my previous post. People from different parts of the world brought their cultures and cuisines. Here, there are many hawker centres (food courts) in MRT stations, shopping malls, universities and nearby the office buildings. There are around 20-50 different stalls in each hawker centre, selling different kinds of foods from Chinese, Malay, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Taiwanese, Vietnamese or Hong Kong cuisines. The only thing you have to do is to decide what to eat within this very rich menu and then order. You may also find yourself deciding based on the length of the queue in front of the stalls. The longer the queue, the more delicious or authentic the food is likely to be. After the payment, your meal will be cooked instantaneously and served within a couple of minutes. You will have your tray and find an empty seat in the middle space to enjoy your meal.

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I almost missed one important point. Here, people usually put their napkins or umbrellas to reserve the seats/tables before ordering their food. You have to do the same if the food court is very crowded. Otherwise, it may take long to find a seat. In food courts, the tissue papers are not free. You have to pay for it or always carry some in your pocket. The food is not expensive, you can enjoy a very delicious meal and feel full only for 5-10 Singapore dollars. If you like Asian cuisine, you will be very happy. I am very open to change, so I have tried a lot of things and I loved most of them.

In food courts, you can also buy hot and cold drinks. It is also possible to find fresh squeezed juices and sliced fruits. There are even some desserts prepared and served in front of your eyes (see the video below).

If you do not like/ do not get used to the Asian food, you should approach to the stalls which sells the western dishes. However, they do not have bread with the food, as you expect they can provide only rice or potatoes as sides. If you are a typical Turkish, it would be the worst thing ever. Still, you can find bread in supermarkets in almost every corners of the city. There are also many very nice Italian/French/Swiss bakeries which provide fresh and delicious sourdough breads, especially on Orchard Road.

If you like to cook at home, you can find a rich variety of ingredients in supermarkets. For cooking Mediterranean/Turkish style foods, you can order online from Turkish supermarket (Straits Marine Supply). If you order from the internet, they deliver to your address. We are very happy to find this website as we can find almost everything from olives to many different types of cheese. Especially feta cheese is a must. Also we can buy artichoke, bulgur wheat, vine leaves, baklava, mineral water, canned green beans, eggplants and many more, even baklava. We are grateful to them. You can also enjoy the delicacies in many fine-dining restaurants of luxury hotels and of famous chefs. The prices are reasonable.

The must-try foods in Singapore are: Chicken rice, chilli crab, curry fish head, Nasi-lemak (actually a Malay food, with chicken, rice, cucumber, egg and nuts, which is preferred for breakfast (!)), bibim bab (Actually Korean, it contains fresh vegetables, cucumber, mushroom, chilli, kimchi, chicken and rice), Biryani (spicy Indian food with chicken/fish/mutton and a special rice), Roti prata (kind of very delicious pastry), sushi, satay (chicken/fish/beef skewers), kueh tutu (dessert with peanuts, coconut and rice) * above video, ban-mian (noodle soup with chicken/pork/beef, egg, chilli and spring onions), agar-agar (gelatinous dessert) and of course dumplings (steamed Chinese pastries filled with chicken/pork/shrimp or etc). You can find many nice restaurants which serves most the foods above particularly seafoods in East Coast, Riverside, Boat Quay and Clark Quay. I will provide more information about the food and dining options in the coming posts.

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Alcohol is expensive and is not served everywhere. You have to pay at least SGD60 for a bottle of low-medium quality wine. You can see the waiters serving the beers with the ice or your glass can be full of foams when they pour your beer. You can find a wide range of alcoholic drinks in supermarkets. Here the prices are cheaper, a bottle of beer is around SGD3 and the price of low quality “Chateau de migraine” wines starts from SGD20. The famous Singaporean drink is Singapore Sling. If you would like to try it, you should try at Long Bar of Raffles Hotel, with lots of peanuts and listening live music. Singapore Sling was first made at this hotel.

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If you come to Singapore, you should try many different tropical fruits like mango, papaya, passion fruit, dragon fruit, coconut or mangosteen. The ‘early campbell’ variety grapes coming from Korea and/or Japan is yummy and you must definitely try if you can find. And also guava from Taiwan is a must.

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And there is durian, which is known as the king of the fruits. We did not like durian in our first try but there are many durian fans here. Between March and May, durian tours are arranged to fill your stomach with durian. The smell of this fruit is very strong and its texture is very different. When we tasted it in Thailand, it tasted like a boiled and sweetened onion. I did not think I will miss it one day until some friends recommended that I try a Malaysian durian. Few weeks ago we tried our first Malaysian durian and our opinion has completely changed. It is now one of our favourite tropical fruits.

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It still smells very strong and not so attractive but the taste is one of a kind. I recommend you to ask for the Malaysian and sweet version of the fruit when you buy. You won’t regret it.

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Besides these fruits, you can find almost any types of fruits and vegetables in Singapore even though the agricultural activities are scarce. This is great.

Many people work long hours in Singapore and most of them eat their breakfast, lunch and dinner in food courts. Therefore, people do not need to cook much at home. Some houses do not even have a kitchen. I have not seen any house with a dishwasher yet. It is very convenient to find almost any type of meal outside. We do not have to cook every day. However, it is not always easy to control your weigh; you have to burn the calories ☺

We are now familiar to a wide range of dishes. If we move to another country, we will definitely miss Asian food. We will probably look for such restaurants and enjoy. On the other hand, among all the alternatives in Singapore (or the world) we could not find a better breakfast than Turkish one. Breakfast is the most important meal and for us, Turkish breakfast is the king ☺