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Author’s Note: This was made for my SEA-30 group report on the food culture of an assigned SEA country, in our case, Singapore. The formatting is obviously flawed, but heck, we got a 1.0 on this write-up for all its worth.

The cuisine of Singapore is a prime example of ethnic diversity in its culture. It is largely and heavily influenced by Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian traditions, among others, and as such is said to be a classic case of Cultural Diffusion.[2]

Representative Dish: Curry Laksa

Selected in contrast to the more popular Hainanese Chicken, the Curry Laksa is a complete amalgamation of all three major cultural influences. Its basic ingredients include prawns, cuttlefish, tofu, chicken meat, bean sprouts, noodles, curry and coconut milk.[1]

Ingredient Sources

Given that Singapore is a small island country with little land space[3] for expansive agriculture, most agricultural produce and food ingredients are imported from other countries. Tofu was traditionally imported from ancient China, the Curry from India, and the use of Rice Vermicelli and other spices from Malaysia.

Who Cooks & In What Preparation

Each Singaporean believes in “eating to his heart’s content”. This is an indication of the universality of the act of cooking to all denizens of Singapore, with food service providers ranging from relatively cheap Hawker Stores or food courts to expensive restaurants.[3]

Having no restrictions to food access or whatnot, food preparation[3] is significantly rich especially given the prosperous conditions of Singapore’s economy. Hawker Stores are still considered as the main attraction in the Singapore tour scene, even as these are the ones considered ordinary fare, for example.

This dish is prepared by first sautéing the spices and then adding the liquids to boil with the solid ingredients to follow, and is also prepared with a chilli sauce.

Eating Mode

The concept of eating together is given importance, as eating is valued as a social practice[5]. Whether it be a family meal, or an eat-out in hawkers or restaurants, the time and resources are considered well-spent if done so with family or friends, which Singaporeans consider a general Asian characteristic.

Also, as further testament to the synthesis of each race or dialect, no such segregation (with food and/or with eating people) exists anymore as a testament to its cross-cultural temperament.[5]

Geography

Singapore is a small country with a high population density[4], and as such land resource is largely devoted to industrial and housing purposes, limiting its agriculture from being self-sufficient. It thus needs to import its basic food ingredients etc. from other countries.

Its strategic position along the major thoroughfares of international trade however makes it economically powerful, also making ingredient diversity possible. In the ancient times, when China ruled the silk road, Singapore was the other portal to the west as a major seaport.[4]

Neighboring countries have a huge influence in Singapore’s own localized culture. Malaysia as a neighbour country, Chinese trade flourishing, and India’s migration pattern according to winds make them regular proponents of culture in Singapore.

Culture

Ingredient choices are influenced by belief systems[5], however as indicated above, it has already gone beyond racial or dialectical prejudice. In fact, in the greater challenge between Globalization and Singapore’s interest, it has asserted Ethnocentrism in order to offset its blind hegemony, allowing for the localization of foreign food cultures according to need or preference. In general, its food culture is considered to be a national pastime, and even the government stresses upon the importance of Food tourism to their system. [1]

Reference:

1 – “Curry Laksa (Mee) Recipe.” Rasa Malaysia: Asian Recipes and Cooking. October 20, 2008. [http://www.rasamalaysia.com/2008/10/curry-meecurry-laksa-recipe.html]

2 – “Cultural Diversity Definition.” Cultural Diversity Definition | Dictionary.com. Last modified Jan. 22, 2009.

[http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cultural+diversity]

3 – “Food of Singapore.” Singapore Thailand Malaysia. Last modified Jan. 22, 2009. [http://www.singaporethailandmalaysia.com/singapore-tours/food-of-singapore/index.html]

4 – Marimari.com, Inc. “Geography.” Singapore Geography. Last modified Jan. 22, 2009. [http://www.marimari.com/content/singapore/general_info/geography/geography.html]

5 – “Singapore Food Culture.” Singapore Food Culture. August 9, 2005. [http://singaporefoodculture.blogspot.com/]

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