Ask any local Singaporean about their favorite pastime and they’ll no doubt name eating as #1 (with shopping coming in at a close 2nd). Food is king on this small island where the average Singaporean eats out at hawker centers more than seven times each week (click here for a brief history of the hawker center). Meals at hawker centers start at S$3 but range as high as S$25 for certain dishes. Fine dining establishments are plentiful as well, but are far outnumbered by hawker centers and other food courts.
Since food is a cultural obsession here, I wanted not only to sample the local dishes, but also learn to make some of my favorites. Just minutes from my apartment I found a neighborhood Community Center that offers cooking workshops for a reasonable price. I signed up for my first class after we’d been in Singapore just two weeks: Hainanese Chicken Rice and Fried Hokkien Mee.
Chicken Rice is a plain looking dish that packs a lot of flavor. You boil the chicken with herbs and then dunk it in ice water to form distinct layers of meat, fat, and skin. The rice is cooked with chicken stock, garlic, pandan leaves, and ginger. The dish is served with a spicy chili sauce, dark soy sauce, and ginger.
Hokkien Mee is a fried noodle dish with prawns, Malaysian chives, squid, bean sprouts, and a seafood gravy. This can also be served with the chili sauce, but my Midwest US palate prefers it without! I attempted this one at the apartment and it turned out really nice.
I also started a 3-week Japanese Cuisine course at the Community Center. So far I’ve rolled my own sushi (not the prettiest sight, but it tasted great!), and learned to make Salmon Green Tea Porridge and Japanese Green Curry. We also learned how to assemble a bento box, but I didn’t take detailed notes on that as I’m not a huge fan of pan fried pregnant fish or unagi!
For more photos, visit my cooking album on picasa.