Chinese Cuisine in Singapore

Category: Food Heritage

The wide variety of Chinese cuisines available today were originally brought to Singapore by immigrants from the major dialect groups such Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese, amongst others. These cuisines evolved over time and some incorporated ingredients that could be found from the Southeast Asian region.

Steamed PomfretSteamed pomfret at Hung Kang Teochew Restaurant. Intangible Cultural Heritage Survey Project, National Heritage Board

These traditional Chinese cuisines, with their culinary techniques and representative dishes, form an important part of the cultural heritage of the respective dialect groups. They continue to be prepared and enjoyed by many families, especially during festive periods or family reunions, and their recipes are often passed down from one generation to another. These traditional Chinese cuisines can also be enjoyed in Chinese restaurants that often specialise in the cuisines of specific dialect groups.

Hokkien

Hokkien cuisine was brought by immigrants from the Fujian Province in China. It plays special emphasis on freshness and taste, and common culinary techniques include braising, stewing, steaming and boiling. Seafood is a common ingredient used in traditional Hokkien cuisine, due to the abundance of seafood in Fujian. Notable Hokkien dishes found in Singapore include braised Hokkien noodles, fried five-spiced pork rolls (ngoh hiang, 五香), braised pork buns (kong bak pau扣肉包), fresh spring roll (popiah薄饼), and oyster omelette (蚝煎).

Teochew

Teochew cuisine was introduced to Singapore by Teochew immigrants from the Chaoshan region in China. As the climate is often humid and damp, the preferred method of cooking are poaching and steaming. It emphasises on the importance of fresh ingredients which include fish sauce, salted plums, preserved radish pieces and pickled mustard green. Notable Teochew dishes found in Singapore include Teochew cold crab, Teochew porridge (teochew muay潮州粥), Teochew yam paste dessert (orh ni芋泥), pork trotter jelly (猪脚冻) and goose or duck slices in braised stock (卤鹅或卤鸭片).

Cantonese

Cantonese cuisine originates from Canton Province, and it pays special emphasis on using the freshest ingredients and bringing out their flavours. Common ingredients associated with Cantonese cuisine include ginger, garlic, spring onion, sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, corn starch and oil. The culinary techniques popularly associated with Cantonese cuisine include steaming, stir-frying, braising, stewing and smoking. Common dishes of Cantonese cuisine include barbequed meats (e.g. char siew叉烧), soya-sauce chicken and congee. Dimsum (bite-sized portions of food), an icon of Cantonese cuisine, is also widely available at restaurants in Singapore while home-style cooking often features soups.

Hakka

The Hakka in Singapore hailed from southern China, and arrived in Singapore in the early 19th century. The Hakka settled in various parts of Southeast Asia, and brought with them dishes that reflect the cultures and lifestyles of their ancestors. Hakka cuisine emphasises the texture of the food, and common culinary techniques include stewing, braising or roasting. Popular Hakka dishes in Singapore include abacus seeds (算盘子), Hakka yong tau fu (客家酿豆腐), preserved vegetables with pork belly (mei cai kou rou梅菜扣肉), thunder tea rice (lei cha fan擂茶饭) and Hakka-style salt baked chicken (盐焗鸡).

Hainanese

The Hainanese were among the later groups of Chinese to make their way to Singapore and Southeast Asia. Many Hainanese found work as cooks in British military camps, and homes of British expatriates during the colonial period, and learned western techniques of cooking. The most famous dish associated with the Hainanese is Hainanese chicken rice, which was adapted from a well-known Hainanese dish called Wenchang chicken (文昌鸡). Other notable Hainanese cuisines include Hainanese pork chop, Hainanese curry rice, Hainanese mutton soup and stir-fried chives, squid and glass noodles (鱿鱼韭菜炒冬粉)


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