Vegetarian Cuisine in Singapore


Cuisines of Singapore indicate ethnic diversity and amalgamation of different cultures that actually originated from Malaysia and are a by-product of centuries of interaction and intermingling facilities by the geographical location of Singapore. Singaporean food is strongly influenced by the aboriginal Malay, the Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Peranakan, English and Kristang (Portuguese influenced Eurasians). The western influence on food of Singapore can be traced down to nineteenth century when the British arrived on the Island. Singaporean local food is also affected by Middle East, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Philippines.

Food is regarded crucial for uniting culture and national identity in Singapore. Food is a frequently discussed topic of daily conversation and is an obsession and a national pastime for Singaporean as mentioned in the Singaporean literature. The food culture has such intermixing that, for example a Chinese chef influenced by Indian cooking, might use ingredients like turmeric, tamarind, ghee and experiment with different varieties of Indian condiments. Whereas, an India chef might be seen cooking a fried noodle dish.

However, religious dietary restrictions do exist. Muslims refrain from eating pork and Indians do not include beef in their diet and there is also a significant amount of population that is vegetarian. People from different ethnic background and cultures can often be seen eating together while being considerate about each other’s cultures and select food that is acceptable to everyone present.

The Indian restaurants in Singapore are some of the most sought after destinations for people in search of spicy Indian vegetarian dishes. The roadside hawker stalls are well known for selling a wide variety of dishes at comfortably low rates. People may order for their best dishes and even ask the chefs to prepare something new and tasty that suits their taste. Vegetarian rice noodle soups, vegetable curries and other mouthwatering dishes form to be the most popular vegetarian dishes in Singapore.

Main dishes and snacks



Chinese dishes: Several of the Chinese dishes were amended by the Chinese immigrants as per the local circumstances and availability of condiments, spices and other ingredients and so they cannot be considered as mainstream Chinese cuisines since they have influences of Indian, Malay and other areas. Chinese cuisine of Singapore is greatly derived and influenced by foods of Hakka, Hainanese, Teochew, Cantonese and Hokkien dialect groups that are constitute the major part of the Chinese populace in Singapore.

Chinese Vegetarian food culture: A large number of Chinese Buddhist opt to be vegetarians in order to practice compassion, they do not believe in animal suffering and killing, so as to fulfil their food requirement.

The menu of a vegetarian Chinese restaurant is almost a lookalike of any other Chinese restaurant which have dishes like Pork, fish fillet, BBQ, fried chicken, mutton curry etc. Don’t be surprised by the names, these dishes are 100% vegetarian and do not involve meat in their preparation. Chinese vegetarian believe in reproducing the texture, flavour and taste of non-vegetarian dishes in vegetarian cuisines! The chef uses a similar non meat substitute and similar cooking method to produce a vegetarian dish that looks and tastes like the original dish but is made without meat.

Some of the popular vegetarian Chinese cuisines popular in Singapore are “Gado-gado” which is a conventional Indonesian salad topped with a spicy dressing made frompeanuts.“Goreng pisang” which is a snack made up of bananas rolled in flour and fried., while “Gulai daun ubi” is made by stewingleavesofsweet potato in coconut milk.

Indian dishes: Similar to other Singaporean cuisines, the Indian cuisines of Singapore has influences from numerous ethnic groups but obviously the Keralan and Tamil influences are the strongest. There are many popular Indian Vegetarian cuisines like thosai, tandoori dishes, yogurt based dishes and fluffy naan breads. Indian dishes are infused with spices like cumin, cardamom, coriander, chillies and cloves. There are also many popular local Indian-Musilim vegetarian cuisines Roti, parathas, paneer etc. which form an integral part of the vegetarian culture in Singapore.

Malay dishes: Malay food is influenced by the cuisines of Malay Peninsula, Riau Island, Java and Sumatra but it has got adapted to local palates and is different from the local variations of the neighbouring states. Coconut milk and spices are commonly used ingredients but Chinese ingredients such as tofu and taupok have also been infused. Nonya or Peranakan food is influenced with Malay, Indonesian and Chinese flavour infusing spices and fragrant herbs.


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