Friday, August 30, 2013

Dining Out the Singapore Way

The best thing about living in a new country is definitely being exposed to a lot of new experiences, be it place, things, and food (of course).
A typical food court stall in Singapore

Almost similar to the Philippines, Singaporean cuisine is also a mix of Malay and Chinese influences, among others.  In fact, a lot of the dishes here are strangely similar (to a certain extent) to some of our local staples.  For instance, Beehon here is, in fact, Bihon in the Philippines.  Crazy, right?

Aside from the familiar, one also notices some differences; dining quirks if you must.  Dictated by culture, tradition, and simply overall mannerisms, dining out here in Singapore is quite a treat, too. 

Here’s just some of the things one notices while dining out in the Lion City.

The Gallerie food court at the Marina Square Mall, Singapore
1. Food establishments here are given a grade.  

B... not bad...
Since Singapore is considered a foodie haven (what with the number of cuisines being represented island-wide), the government implemented a Grading System for Eating Establishments and Food Stalls, a structured system for appraising the overall hygiene and food preparation process of a dining establishment, with grades ranging from A to D.

And since you'll find these signs prominently displayed, they make really great gauges of food cleanliness and serves as warning signs for customers with sensitive tummies. (Tip: When in doubt, there's always imodium, right?  J)

2.  It’s not unusual to find a kind, elderly auntie or uncle (manangs and manongs to us) serve your meal or clear your table.

Now, here in the Philippines, we have more or less gotten used to our elderly retirees staying at home and simply enjoying their hard work from years past.  Now while I know a lot of Singaporean families who also adhere to this tradition, one can still see a number of retirees still working.

Why is that?  I’ve heard a number of reasons.  One, the government actually encourages their elderly to continue being active.  This is an admirable program as everyone feels the need to keep busy, regardless of age.  The other reason, a more negative and unhappy one, is that they simply have to continue working to support themselves.  Singapore is a ridiculously expensive place to be in!  A sad thought, but a reality for a lot of the respected elderly her.

Which leads me to item 3.

3.  A lot of fast food establishments here encourages their patrons to clean-as-they-go. 

The Husband throwing away our refuse
Unlike in the Philippines where we are used to having someone clean up after us, in Singapore, most fast food establishments and food court outlets encourage patrons to clean up their mess and place their trash at the provided receptacles.  A noble system, if you as me, and one that I think we, as a nation, would highly profit from if implemented in our homeland.

Now why is this relevant to the previous item?  Well, I believe that one will think twice about simply leaving their dirty dishes on the table with the thought of these aunties and uncles working so hard to clean up after you (I know I do).  The guilt will just eat you right up inside. 

Now that’s good business strategy.

4.  Watch out for those long lines!

Line forming at Sushi Tei at their VivoCity mall branch
Yes, and I do mean it.  Watch out for those long lines as having a long queue means the food is good.   
I don’t know about you but a patient person I am not.  So if I’m hungry and am deciding on where I want to satisfy my hunger, more often than not, I’ll veer right towards an establishment with a short line or few patrons.  For me, no food is worth my spending hours waiting in line for.

But here in Singapore, it simply is the opposite.  A place with a long line means the food is so good that people are willing to wait for minutes, and sometimes hours, just to get a seat.  Hmmm… me thinks line waiter can make a good profession here, don’t you think?  Hehehe!

5.  Watch out for the packets of tissues, too!

Now this one, please follow with the utmost care.  When in food courts and looking for an available table, steer clear of those with tissue packs on them.  Simply put, it means someone has laid claim to it already and is just buying their meal somewhere.  So please, lest you enjoy being berated, be considerate of other people and find yourself a vacant, tissue-less table.  (Note:  It might not always be tissue packs.  It can be other items as well.)

Oh!  And by the way, most food establishments here do not give out napkins for wiping.  So better bring your own packs or buy one from an auntie or uncle tissue peddler on the street.  It’s usually 3 small packs for a $1 or 2 (Php33/66).  Chalk it up as your good deed for the day.

6. And lastly, don’t forget to enjoy your meal.

Isn’t that what you came here for, anyway?  So sit back, enjoy you meal and drink, and chalk one up to new experiences.  Hey!  Where else can you enjoy Chestnut (casta┼łas) and Rose juice?  J

Some unusual drinks


Planning to visit?  Drop by my "Getting Around Singapore" post (click here) for more details on how to get around the Lion City.


  1. Cleaning up after you eat really makes sense lalo na kung senior citizens yung maglilinis after. Sana nga dito rin sa pinas ganun ang rule.

  2. Very informative post. Like you, kung san wala pila doon ako. =) Here in the Philippines, need na may tao sa table to reserve the seat.

    1. So true! Minsan nga they don't even provide the proper courtesy if bata pa yung nakaupo. Hay.

  3. Thanks for the tip about tissue packs! :). Two months to go before my daughter and I go to SG. Can hardly wait :)

  4. Thanks for the tip about tissue packs! Two months to go before my daughter and I visit SG. Can hardly wait :)

  5. Ah yes, the packet of tissues! Great write up here. Nakakamiss na pumunta sa hawker stalls :(

  6. Very good post Ate Tin. :-) Meron na akong idea pagpunta ko sa Singapore.

    It is funny that we have similar food with Songapore and Malaysia. I read faniliar words when I visit Malaysian blogs like siew mai, siew pao, mihun.

    I agree with clean-as-you-go policy. This will teach customers na maging malinis. Marami kasi sa atin mga makalat kapag kumakain sa fast food. Porke kasi may mga maglilinis.

  7. Clean as you go-> that's what I noticed when I went there too! I actually like it. Encourages customers more conscious of the mess they make.


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