“You’re like a hungry reporter” my colleague commented on my incessant scribbling and questioning about everything we ate. We were at the Geylang Serai Ramadan Market, a cultural cooking pot for foodie enthusiasts and people like me, who revel in the carousel of lights and street scurry.
One of my favorite things about a cosmopolitan city like Singapore is having access to multicultural microcosms such as this. It’s easy, usually free entrance (sans the price of food!) and a commute ride away. While there’s a growing foodie culture in Manila, places like Mercato Market or Salcedo are for people who can afford to indulge. In Singapore, it’s engrained in the daily life of the aunties, uncles and expats.
That’s why in between stuffing my face, I enjoy Googling people, usually my Malay, Singaporean and Indian colleagues about the difference between teh si (tea with evaporated milk) and teh oh (without milk) or prata and naan. In that way I feel like people can enjoy Singapore in bite-sized proportions: just enough to immerse you in its different cultures without having to travel all the way to India, Malaysia or China for it.
It’s also like having a personalized and interactive search engine. With an international group, it makes for some interesting table topics over lunch:
- South Indian cuisine is characterized by banana leaf plates, spicy taste and curry and coconut dishes
- North India is known for butter cream
- While they both have bread-like qualities, naan is fermented dough made on the inner linings of Tandoor clay ovens while prata is pan fried.
- What kind of food is your country particular about how it’s cooked? French: bread; India:curry; Philippines: rice; Chinese: noodles; etc
I wouldn’t mind having a dinner of appetizers in the guise of street snacks. Another one I tried was Keropok Lekor, a fish cracker originating from Malaysia. Imagine a bag of Tempura Crackers, but thicker, chewier, crispier and made from flour.