Why Singapore Loves Italian Food

italian food, clubvivre
italian food, clubvivre

Risottos, pasta and seafood are loved by most Singaporeans. But where does our love for Italian food actually come from?

When searching for the Italian roots in Singapore, one must find the culinary link between the rest of the world and the island. Why are we connecting to so many other cuisines in the first place? The answer to the Italian question is in-between.

Be it chilli crab, chicken rice or wantan mee, Singapore is in love with food. This is not only the case for local dishes, but our city state has a long history of incorporating foreign dishes into its local cuisine. Hence, Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine are all somewhat considered local – depending on who you ask that list might even be longer.

Our craving for food is however much larger than that. Just like New York, one can find food from pretty much everywhere in Singapore – no matter if you are looking for the Costa Rican version of chicken rice (arroz con pollo) or a truly German sausage. The little red dot encompasses every culinary delight.

Little Italy is Asia

But there is one cuisine that is more in demand than any other. Italian food has been on the forefront when it comes to Singaporean’s choice of foreign food. At first sight this might not come as a surprise, as other Asian countries are similarly in awe of the Italian cuisine. Behavioural studies have shown that Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong all cite Italian as their favourite foreign cuisine, if one excludes other Asian cuisines. Hence, Italian food is the most popular Western food in Asia, if not in the world. However, there is a major difference between Singapore and the rest of Asia.

While other Asian countries tend to ‘nationalise’ foreign dishes, Singapore enjoys for the most part traditional Italian cuisine. Japan is known to ‘Japan-ise’ foreign dishes, in order to bring it closer to the Japanese taste. For example, Japanese curries will not be spicy and pizza might contain mayonnaise. What sounds like a death sentence to an Italian chef, makes sense to the Japanese. Similar examples can be found in South Korea and Taiwan. Singapore, however, refrains from these practices by and large.

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Why Did We Start Liking Italian Food?

Both French and Italian cuisine are considered to have a high standard and a very good reputation – not only in Singapore, but obviously worldwide. The French palate is very rich though and not always easy to digest. Cream and heaviness make it often hard for Asian tastes to appreciate it. Italian food has had a clear demographic advantage in Asia. The introduction of Italian pizzas and pastas begins at an early age. Hence, the love for traditional Italian cuisine can partly be attributed to the more affordable and fast food versions of Italian food.

Another reason why we love Italian food is our liking of the Italian stable foods. Risottos, pasta and seafood are all somewhat familiar to the Asian palate. In Singaporeans’ growing affection for fine dining, one can see how Italian food is not nationalised to the local taste, but rather used in fusion creations. All things considered, the Italian cuisine is closer to our heart, our palate and our tastes than one might have thought.

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