A Grand Buffet in a Great Eating City
Food-crazed Singapore is probably the best place on earth for sampling the astonishing variety of Asia’s many cuisines.
There are formal restaurants galore, but what you’re looking for is the city’s wealth of street food, where visiting dignitaries bond with cabdrivers at all hours of the day. And so what if it’s not exactly on the street: This being tidy Singapore, street vendors have been confined to government-regulated “hawker centers.” Locals and visitors alike can take advantage of these concentrated spots, where seemingly hundreds of stalls and booths prepare a staggering variety of food, all under stringent health inspection.
Here among the din of clanging trays, the shouted orders, the tropical heat, and the smells of fermented fish paste, ginger, and curry is a gastronomic and cultural experience that can be had only in Singapore. Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese cuisines are blended and reblended into Pacific Rim fusion at its most glorious. Even Hong Kong runs a distant second.
Every Singaporean has his or her own favorite hawker center, though they’re often located out of town in large housing developments. There have been rumors that the Newton Circus hawker center, the most famous and the most touristy, will be tom down soon, though it remains as popular as ever. The noisy and confusing Chinatown Food Center is essential as much for its sights and smells as for the chance to sample every conceivable variety of Chinese food.