Singapore Dishes and Their Complicated Origins

Last week’s trip to Jurong Regional Library was a fruitful one as I found a copy of ‘Singapore Hawker Classics Unveiled’, a book by Temasek Polytechnic in celebration of SG50. It covers 25 popular local dishes, with some information on their origin, variation and even recipe.

In the past few weeks, I have already found out that some dishes are pretty hard to trace their origin as they are not directly link to a certain race – unlike chili crab that is obviously a Chinese Singapore. Some of those dish are mainly Malay/Indian dishes, not just because some of them shares the same religion, but also because of groups such as Peranakan that have cuisine that are a mix of both Chinese and Malayan cooking style.

Another problem for researching them for mapping is that beside the fact most of those dishes are originated from Indonesia, Malaya, Thailand and so on, there are also Singapore variation of those dishes but it is hard to map them as it is hard to tell where they were first sold as the book does not make any mentions of them.

Still, the book is useful as it confirms some information that I have research thus far, such as the origin of Kaya toast, and it also add on additional information of what I have already knew, while also helping me understand more of Peranakan dishes (which is one of the two areas where I lack knowledge of their cuisine).

A sample of the book can be found on Google Books here. More background of the book can be view in Temasek Polytechnic’s website.