#3 Taking a Bite Out of Singapore
Singaporeans are renowned foodies who endlessly talk about food, blog about food, and photograph food. They’ll queue for hours at a popular hawker stall for a plate of fragrant chicken rice or a bowl of spicy laksa.
"Food is a national pastime in Singapore, even an obsession, for many. In fact a standard greeting here is, ‘have you eaten your lunch?,’” says Jane Iyer of Jane’s SG Tours.
To understand Singapore is to see, smell and taste its food. It’s a melting pot — a rojak, a masala, a stirfry — of international flavors. There are so many kinds of cuisines in Singapore cooked into myriad hybrids and versions, it’s hard to keep track. More reason to keep eating.
“Our local cuisine benefits from the many cultural influences brought by the diverse people who have settled in our little island state over the past two centuries. Where else do you find Michelin-starred hawker stalls?!” Jane says.
To know a place is to eat its food. The bowls of noodles and the rice and curries scooped onto banana leaves are culinary clues to the Singapore story. The “makan” is the legacy of the island’s many ethnic groups and evidence of the journeys they took to get here — where they stopped along the way and how they adapted to a new land once they arrived.
Doing her part to teach people about Singapore through their stomachs, last year Jane cooked up a new tour idea with one of her guides, foodie Alice Goh.
And so, Jane’s SG Tours’ Foodie Adventures were born.
A Feast for the Senses
Offered once a month on a Saturday morning at the One Farrer Hotel in Little India, a sleek tower amidst the historic shabby-chic neighborhood, Jane’s Foodie Adventures are a wonderful stew of experiences.
“We started our Foodie Adventures programme in mid 2017 in partnership with the One Farrer Hotel, itself an enterprising project. They have a wonderful cooking school and we particularly love their ‘farm.’ The amazing outdoor edible garden on the 7th floor with panoramic views of Little India harbours fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown for use in the hotel's kitchens,” says Jane.
Each Foodie Adventure starts with a mini walking tour led by guide Alice who shares some of Little India’s historic nuggets — from its ornate shophouses to the once thriving horse racing track — on route to Tekka Market. A One Farrer chef then guides the group through the bustling aisles of Singapore’s most famous (and fragrant!) wet market, pointing out exotic regional greens, spices and seafood, and answering questions.
“Singapore’s wet markets are the most sensorially evocative places on the island. Even today when I visit one, the sounds and smells transport me back to my childhood when I lived in Johor and spent so much time down in Singapore,” Jane says.
After Tekka, it’s back to One Farrer for a stroll around the hotel’s edible garden. The main event, of course, is the cooking class in One Farrer’s intimate, well-accoutered TV-show-worthy cooking studio. Each participant perches on a comfy stool along the counter with the chef and his or her assistant right there at the stove, going through the recipes and preparation for three dishes. Savour close-up views of the whole process and participate in stirring, mixing, and of course eating!
Each Foodie Adventure focuses on a particular Asian cuisine, such as Indian, Thai, or Singapore’s signature dishes. The menu for a recent cooking class focused on Singapore’s beloved Rojak salad, Hainanese Chicken Rice, and Chili Crab. People who enjoy cooking will love learning exactly how to prepare these dishes, while armchair chefs will be fascinated by seeing what goes into making a recipe even if they have no intentions of trying it at home.
In 2018, Jane plans to expand the Foodie Adventures to also include classes on Peranakan, Malay, and Chinese cuisine.
So, grab a fork, chopstick, or roti, open your mouth, and feast on Singapore’s culinary traditions by sampling a Jane’s SG Tours Foodie Adventure.