Photo: Miriam Wakim
Singapore is one of the smallest and newest states in the world, yet its cuisine boasts an enormous variety and history. In celebration of the republic’s 50th year, and to introduce a US audience to its eatable treasures, The Daily Meal in cooperation with Singapore Tourist Board hosted a Singapore Crab Throwdown party.
The tiny city-state of Singapore sits on the tip of the Peninsular Malaysia. With a busy container harbor as well as a booming financial industry few around the world think of the micro-state to have its own cuisine. It is not as we have heard of Liechtensteinian chicken and nodded approvingly. Yet access to seafood is naturally occurring given Singapore’s location and combined with the city’s past as a trading post various ethnicities have flocked to Singapore making cuisine distinctly Singaporean.
One of these dishes is Chili Crab which is mud crab served in a tomato-chili sauce. Chef Wayne Lieu of Keng Eng Kee Seafood introduced his audience to this quintessential item that has been called Singapore’s nation dish. Interestingly, tomatoes, one of the main ingredients, are newcomers into Asian cuisine brought to the Philippines by the Spanish from their holdings in Latin America. The sweet and savory sauce still gives the prepared crab a distinct flavor far from the European use of the same ingredients. Perhaps uniquely Singaporean, the dish feels like a hybrid with the best of all worlds.
Chef Justin Quek
Chef Justin Quek of Sky of 57 incorporates French cooking techniques into local dishes. At the Singapore Throwdown Party he served a crab vermicelli and a pepper crab. As with the chili crab, these dishes are inspired by many national cuisines, but the result is Singaporean. Speaking to his quests Chef Quek mentioned how Singapore cuisine has developed enormously over the last 50 years. Eating is now considered a favorite pastime activity, and not a survival mode. Perhaps the same can be said about the US, but the freshness and healthy ingredients of Singaporean cooking makes a more salubrious undertaking.
Chef Michael White
Chef Michael White of Marea at Columbus Circle also illustrated the variety of Singaporean cuisine by making crab rise. Although separated by a glass window, the onlooker smelled the aromas that permeated the room, taking the guests from a New York autumn night into the lively alleys of Singapore.
The Singapore Sling
The Throwdown Party also served drinks. I am here talking about cocktails and specifically the Singapore Sling, a national invention. David Augustus Embury, the author of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks said about the drink that he had never seen any two recipes that were alike. Perhaps the Sling incorporates all that which is Singapore, the rapids changes and inventions, yet keeping it distinctly Singaporean. The Singapore Sling is not the easiest cocktail around, so it might best be imbibed after being prepared by a bartender. That was the case in our situation. The Singapore Sling is one of those drinks everyone has had, but often made poorly. When made properly you start to wonder why you did not have more of them.
By the end of the evening The Daily Meal in corporation with the Singaporean Tourist Board and chefs had truly managed to highlight Singapore as more than financial institutions and containers. The next step seems to be a more global recognition of its cuisine.