How to Eat like a Local in Singapore

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Saint Augustine of Hippo once said - "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page". Unless you travel the world and see other cities and towns, you will never have an idea of how diverse life can be! Apply this mantra to Singapore and you'll be ready to dive into the city's rich local culture and submerge yourself in its varied customs.

If you want to explore Singapore, the first rule demands that you leave behind your fancy meals in 5 star hotels. The easiest way to explore Singapore is through its distinct, casual food. The language of food is amazing; by experiencing the food culture of Singapore you can learn much more about the city and its people!

Street food culture is popular across continents, whether you’re in North America, Europe or Asia; in Singapore, it has a reputation of being vibrant and among the very best in the world. Street food here is mainly eaten in large hawker centres and open-air food markets. If you are ready to be a true explorer, you should travel the length and breadth of Singapore to discover the authentic local cuisine, all waiting to be savoured for its real South Asian flavour.

Here are a few tips that will help you discover street food culture in Singapore:

Reach out to the locals if you want to taste authentic Singaporean cuisine

Though the Internet is a great place to read about food reviews and popular restaurants, we would still suggest you speak to a local. In addition to chatting with your local guide, you can try speaking to the room service crew at your hotel or the cab driver who drives you around. Try and understand what is it that he or she would prefer to eat on a day-to-day basis. Ask them for their recommendations. Since Singapore is a melting pot of 4 distinct cultures - Chinese, Malay, English and Tamil, you may get some diverse suggestions depending on who you consult.

No matter which cuisine is recommended, let the inquisitive side out and ask more questions about the history, the origin, etc. Don't limit yourself to asking about meals only – ask about local snacks, sweets and desserts as well. Get a fair idea about the local specialties and gather information about hawkers that sell authentic food wrapped in oodles of tradition, culture and of course, taste. Also, understand whether you can taste all the street food at a particular market like the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, Tiong Bahru Market, Dunman Food Centre, East Coast Lagoon Food or whether you will you have to hop to a few locations. The more you converse with the locals, the better sense you will get about each of the food markets.

Following the crowd is the mantra for a good experience

Once you reach any local hawker food court, tag along with the locals to the most popular stalls. Don't run away from the long queues, as they are proof that great food is being served. There could be multiple stalls selling similar food, therefore, you leave the decision to the crowd and follow them. While waiting in the line, be friendly with the locals and ask for recommendations. Some dishes you need to try out for sure: carrot rice cake, chicken rice, chili crab, roti, laksa, and kaya toast.

Be experimental if you want to get to the roots of Singaporean cuisine

Every hawker has his or her specialty which drives the most traffic to the stall. You may come across a certain type of meat, fish, fruits and vegetables; all of these may be unique to Singapore but you may have not heard about them before. Here is your chance to try exotic Singapore produce. You have to let go of your inhibitions and give the local food a fair chance. We highly recommend you try Yusheng, Chwee Kueh, Lor Mee, Rojak and Popiah!

Wear the local shoes and embrace the local culture

Someone rightly said, "In Rome, do as the Romans do!" The locals are very particular of the way in which you hold and use your chopsticks – i.e. learn your chopstick etiquette before you decide to join the locals for a meal. Try not to point your chopsticks at someone as they may consider it to be impolite.

For a genuine local experience that reflects the true colours of Singapore and moods of the locals, visit the local food hawker centres. They are not only a visual delight but also offer a palate enriching experience!

We had a guest author today! Here's a bit about him:

Ryan is the resident blogger at AsiaRooms. When Ryan is not working he spends his time travelling the globe, drawing on his travel experience and passion for travel to spread the good word. Ryan is also a social monkey and can be found lounging around on Twitter & Google+ and loves to interact with other travel bloggers.
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