Think Singapore is the best city for food? So do the rest of its food-savvy population, and a growing number of the food-obsessed who are also unabashedly opinionated about it.
Get with the program - we show you how you can blend in with the restless makan-centric (‘eat-centric’) denizens and where you can give your two cents’ worth in less than ten steps:
1. Do not leave home without a packet of tissues
This – and two cameras – make up the arsenal of a Singapore foodie. By that we mean at least one packet of tissue papers (see point number 2), a pocket-sized digital camera (or phone camera) and an SLR camera. Do not panic if you’ve left your wipes at home – hunt down the tissue auntie, or uncle, at the hawker centre and beat the rest of the chope-ers.
Tip: The going rate for tissue papers is three packets for $1; bargain only if they’re peddling three for $2 – any price lower and you’re cheap and uncouth.
‘Chope’. For the uninitiated, it’s a Singlish term for ‘hold a seat’ and has to be pronounced and done with some aggression; wishy-washiness will leave you hungry, literally. Start by getting to the hawker centre or food court, hone in on an empty seat, and swiftly leave your tissue packet on the table. You have now chope-d your seat and can roam the stalls to your stomach’s content. Hawker centre and food court diners know to abide by this code and you’ll be able to come back to your unclaimed seat with your tray of hot piping food
Tip: Chope-ing is most efficiently done solo, never try to chope a chope-d seat, and don’t do this at restaurants.
3. Wear comfortable shoes
See next point.
Tip: Floors do get slippery so for once Crocs may actually apply.
4. Always join the long queues
Long queues equals good food – that’s a formula that almost never fails. You might doubt your ability to gauge the quality of a stall, but the dozens of hungry and eager Singaporeans can’t be wrong. If the food is bad, at least you have fodder for points numbers 5 and 8.
Tip: Get a conversation going with a fellow queue-mate so you suss out the secret special by the time it is your turn.
5. Social media before eating
Contrary to what mother says, do let your food get cold. There are a few social media points Singapore foodies need to hit before tucking in: at the most basic level, you have to tweet, update your Facebook status and post one, or more, mouth-watering photo(s) of the dish on Instagram (these can be linked so one post will update all three outlets simultaneously). We like the ‘Hefe’ filter on Instagram, but hey, whatever looks most enticing. At the intermediate level, whip out the digital SLR and take close-up high-res shots for further documentation to be posted as Facebook notes, on the personal food blog or website.
Tip: Instagram’s black and white filter tends to kill hungry desires - do not use.
6. It’s okay to talk with your mouth full
Singaporeans are so passionate about food you can’t shut them up, even when they’re supposed to be enjoying the food. So don’t try to beat them, join them, and learn to use the right words: ‘delicious’ is passé – ‘shiok’ (Singlish expression for happiness and pleasure), ‘sedap’ (Malay for ‘delicious) and ‘jelak’ (Malay for ‘bored’, also a Singlish expression for the feeling of monotony and heaviness a dish brings about) are good starting points. It also helps that you know the ingredients in the native language. For example, fermented prawn paste is ‘belacan’ in the Malay language. Another important term to know is ‘dabao’ (Mandarin for ‘takeaway’) – for busy mealtimes during which you can’t find a seat and need to eat at the desk. Don’t forget to post on your social media accounts before you tuck in, and try not to project(ile) your chews.
Tip: If all the above foodie vocab isn’t impressive enough, just let out a loud burp – it’s considered polite to do so in India, China, Canada and Germany.
7. Be generous, show off
Singapore foodies are competitive, but they’re also a generous bunch and fortunately these qualities do meet in various outlets: aside from talking about makan achievements over the dining table, stunning, saliva-inducing pictures, reviews and comments of restaurants and dining establishments can be posted on community websites.
Tip: HungryGoWhere.com is our choice (for obvious reasons), and it’s not simply for sharing reviews – our sister site and app give us accurate, on-the-ground recommendations on where to eat.
8. Do stare
At the food on the next table – this is a sure-fire way to find out what you should order. But please, if you have questions, ask the diner – they won’t bite (you); most locals are friendly and will give you more ordering tips than you ask for.
Tip: Be friendly enough and you might even end up sitting with them, making point number 2 obsolete.
9. It’s never too early to eat
Being full is never an excuse; a conscientious Singapore foodie knows it’s never too early to plan your next meal, and thus not premature to start staring down new leads. How to succeed in good Singapore eating without really trying: keep talking to friends, competitors and strangers – you never know where your next meal will come from.
Tip: And read HungryGoWhere.com for all the best recommendations on what to eat and drink in Singapore.