Asian Concentration: Visiting Singapore Hawker Centers

This is the first time any of the 14 individuals in my class have been to Singapore! Our first impressions were similar—we’re all amazed at how clean the streets are and how pleasant the local Singaporeans have been. The dimension of buildings and architecture were visually stunning, fully grown trees protruding out of the sides of towers is a cultural norm. Palm trees sway and exotic flowers blossom on the side of freeways and the cars travel on the opposite side of the road.Our residences are compact but comfortable and are equipped with a kitchen, two bathrooms, and three bedrooms! The picture above is our first week in Singapore, where we each had the amazing experience of receiving a Singapore Identification Card!

In Singapore, there is no shortage of food. Every street has multiple businesses tailored to the needs of tourists and locals at any time of the day. Even with all of the options in the city, most locals prefer to spend their time at their neighborhood Hawker Center.

My class and I had the opportunity to visit two of the more popular ones, East Coast Lagoon and Chinatown Hawker Center. These centers hold a wide array of different food options like barbeque chicken, Wey tiio, and sambal skate. These three dishes are local delicacies, served at the East Coast Lagoon. Chicken wings is one of the most popular items,and the stalls serve them with a sweet glaze and a small bowl of Thai chili sauce. The skin of the chicken was crisp and differed in texture from the inside, which was tender and juicy.

The second dish is a plate called Wey tiio, which is made up of glutinous noodles made of rice and tapioca flour—accompanied by an array of items like beef, shrimp, bean sprouts, greens and imitation crab. The flavor components brought a sweet and savory umami presence to the dish. The sambal skate was the last local dish we tried. It had a unique flavor and texture that was not tender as it is usually prepared. It had a rather tough skin on the outside and a light and flakey center.

The sauce that accompanied the skate was sambal-based, incorporating the flavors from the dry rub that it was bathed in before cooking.

My fellow classmates and I are taking this opportunity to dive into the many cultures and customs of Singapore and to dissect the key components of each spice or technique used from an emic—an insiders—point of view.

By Brianna Martin Smith