Between 1963 to 1965, Singapore was one of the states of Malaysia. But even before then, the island had been part of many Malay Sultanates before becoming a British colony in the 19th century. So it’s no surprise to learn that Singaporean cuisine draws heavily from the cuisine of the Malay Peninsula.
Brimming with vibrant herbs and aromatic spices, Malay-inspired dishes are an intrinsic part of Singapore’s culinary landscape. Flavour-packed ingredients such as turmeric, galangal, tamarind, chilli, sambal, shrimp paste, coconut milk, and pandan leaves are all hallmarks of Singaporean-Malay cuisine.
A palate-cleansing appetiser, achar (or acar) is a colourful combination of pickled vegetables. For the best results, allow the pickles to sit overnight.
Literally meaning ‘sour-spicy’, assam pedas is a Malay-style fish curry flavoured with tamarind, curry leaves, lemongrass, and chilli. Use a firm white fish such as Spanish mackerel cutlets to achieve the desired texture and taste.
A breakfast favourite, curry puffs are tasty little bundles of flaky pastry and savoury curry filling, like a miniature calzone. Perfect for snacking on the run.
Popular across the region, in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, pisang goreng is a wicked street snack made of deep-fried bananas.
Typically served alongside satay, ketupat are cute little cubes of compressed rice, ideal for dipping in the peanut sauce.
When the midnight munchies strike, Singaporeans seek out a bowl of satisfying mee rebus, a mix of yellow egg noodles and vermicelli drenched in a curry sauce.
Dried shrimps and salted soybeans add an umami punch to mee siam, a stir-fried vermicelli noodle dish that’s a hit in Singapore.
Nasi goreng is another Malay-accented Singaporean speciality – eat this fried rice for breakfast, lunch or as a snack.
Don’t let the name, which can be directly translated as ‘brain-brain’, put you off… Otak-otak is a deliciously spiced fish cake steamed or grilled in banana leaves. It gets its moniker from its soft and springy texture.
Served with a luscious peanut sauce for dipping, smoky spiced satay skewers are synonymous with Straits cuisine.
Not only has the Malay culture helped shaped the food scene in Singapore, it has also resulted in another unique aspect of Singaporean cuisine: Peranakan or Nyonya food, which is the marriage of Malay and Chinese cooking styles and ingredients, can also be found in the Malaysian states of Penang and Malacca.
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