Singaporean and Malaysian food is essentially the same, with the odd difference here and there. The two countries were of course, one and the same until the 1965 separation, when it was realised that the racial demographics made it impossible for a symbiotic relationship.
The racial mix is similar in that you have the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians and a few other small ethnic groups. What is different is of course, the percentage per race. Malaysia is predominantly Malay, with the Chinese, Indians, Eurasians and Nyonyas making up a small part of the general population. Singapore, on the other hand is predominantly Chinese, although Singapore’s indigenous race is actually the Malays.
Their fantastic racial mix is brilliantly reflected in the various local cuisines. To talk of local food of Singapore and Malaysia is to talk of Malay, Chinese, Indian (north and south), Eurasian and Nyonya foods. On a side note, Christmas, Eid, Chinese New Year and Diwali are all public holidays in Singapore, reflecting its multi racial make up.
Eurasian, as its name implies is a group of people who are a mix of European and Asian, no where else do you have this term! Eurasian food is a mix of Asian food with strong Portuguese influence, the term Eurasian was initially coined for Anglo Indians in the time of the British Raj in India but now encompasses all manner of Caucasian heritage.
The term Peranakan is a general term that actually encompasses a few different mixed ethnic groups in Singapore and Malaysia. However, to many of us born and bred in Singapore and Malaysia, the term refers to the Nyonya/Baba community. Nyonya is a term for the women as Baba is for the men and they make up a unique community that has it roots in Malacca. Often also called the Straits Chinese (from The Straits of Malacca), ethnically they are Chinese but have over the years, whether through inter marriage or sheer assimilation, taken on some marked Malay characteristics, namely the language spoken and the style of dressing. Their food, consequently, reflects this amalgamation of cultures, resulting in an incomparable cuisine – rich, aromatic and one that makes you a believer with the very first mouthful!
Below, you’ll find a range of recipes from all the various ethnic groups in Singapore, many of them I grew up eating and cooking at home. My family is a fantastic reflection of the cultural diversity that makes up these 2 countries.