Ever wonder how our favorite Singapore food like bak chor mee, roti john, and yu sheng came about? Still in line with the celebration of our nation’s 51st birthday, let’s find out the origins of these scrumptious and uniquely Singapore dishes. Here are a bit of the history of our unique Singapore foods that we truly love.
1. Fried Hokkien Mee
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One of the many theories on how this dish came about is that a stall located beside the 7th Storey Hotel near Rochor Road made the dish. The last origin tale is that it was sold at Rochor Road as early as 1880 by Hokkien immigrant. Then he shared the recipe with his four Teochew friends who then popularized the dish. With a lot of stories regarding the birth of this dish, it’s hard to know which one really tells the truth. What matters most is, we can enjoy savoring this scrumptious food, thanks to whoever created this!
2. Bak Chor Mee
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The origins of this dish are being debated due to the many styles of bak chor mee except for this story which was created by the family who manages the newly minted Michelin-starred Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles. Back in 1932, Tang Joon Teo set up a shop at a coffeeshop along Hill Street. He created a popular version of bak chor mee which mixes black vinegar and chili paste with egg noodles and minced pork which became a staple recipe for a lot of bak chor mee in Singapore.
3. Singapore Chili Crab
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Back in 1950s, coupe Cher Yam Tian and Lim Choon Ngee, who live in a kampung near the shores of East Coast, often catch prawns and crabs from the sea for their food. They made a new way to cook the crab and came up with a chilli and tomato sauce concoction which became popular at the original Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant.
4. Pork Floss Buns
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Don’t you just love these buns? It was July 2000 when BreadTalk opened at Bugis Junction and since then, they have been serving Pork Flosss Bun that became popular months after. According to Katherine Quek, the finance director of BreadTalk and wife of its founder, George Quek, the Pork Flosss Bun was inspired by the pork floss porridge she ate when she was a child. Now there are many recipes on how to make this luscious bun.
5. Singapore Sling
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This gin-based cocktail is a long drink that was said to be invented in 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese bartender who worked at the long BAr in Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
6. Chinese New Year Yusheng
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This version of yusheng which is served during Chinese New Year in Singapore was invented in the 1960s by the Four Heavenly Kings of the restaurant scene in Singapore: Chefs Lau Yoke Pui and Tham Yui Kai from Lai Wah Restaurant, Sin Leong from Sin Leong Restaurant) and Hooi Kok Wai from Dragon Pheonix Restaurant. It was in 1970s when the dish became popular.
7. Fish Head Curry
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I know you just can’t resist the rich and flavorful fish head curry. But do you know how was it created? Or who invented this appetizing dish? Others say it was imported from Kerala, India, and some say it came from Malaysia. But the famous theory is that it was created by MJ Gomez in 1952 who ran an Indian restaurant along Sophia Road. He paired the fish heads with a spicy, tangy curry filled with brinjals, lady’s fingers and tomatoes.
8. Roti John
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Cheese addict or not, you definitely go crazy over this delightful dish that was believed to be created back in 1960s when Englishman asked a Malay hawker in Sembawang for a hamburger. But hamburgers were not available at that time, so the hawker put minced mutton, onions, and an omelette between sliced halves of a French loaf. Then the hawker was overheard saying “Silakan makan roti john” or “please eat this bread (roti), John”.
9. Soup Tulang
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The scrumptious Soup Tulang is believed to be invented by Abdul Kadir back in 1950s. Mutton bones were used for the stock for his mee kuah (noodles in thick mutton broth gravy) and at the request of a regular patron, mutton bones would be served as a side dish. Later on, it was refined by M Bharudeen, Abdul’s son, and made the gravy into a fiery stew with chilies, tomatoes, mutton stock and served it with French loaf slices.
10. The Yam Ring
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This delicious dish was created by a chef to win over his future wife. Kok Wai, a chef at the old Cathay Restaurant in 1958 had fallen in love with Leong Ah Lin, and proposed to her with the yam ring which is stir-fried vegetables in a flaky ring of mashed yam.