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Singapore, part of Southeast Asia, is unique in its food culture thanks to the influences from colonial British, Portuguese, Chinese, Indonesian, Malay and Indian.

Such culinary diversity can be traced back to its history as a trading port, which encouraged the rise of a society that welcomed foreign influences and the plethora of spices and ingredients.

The various Chinese dialect groups, chiefly the Hainanese and the Cantonese, played an important role in shaping the Singapore food scene.

The Hainanese (from China) made western food palatable and popularised Peranakan, a hybrid Malay-Chinese, food as they began to provide catering services to the European establishments during colonial era and to local Peranakan households. Hence, their Chinese food would understandably have Peranakan touches, such as Sambal Pawans.

The Cantonese are known worldwide as restaurateurs. From the Cantonese, Singapore got a taste for sweet and sour flavours and understanding of superior culinary techniques such as flash frying, deep-frying and steaming.

Perhaps the most important influences were Malay and Indian spices. Malay spices and herbs jazzed up the classic Singaporean dishes, which also contain traditional Chinese ingredients, whilst the aromatic Indian spices of turmeric and cumin influenced such dishes as Satay BBQ Sticks. The favourite Singaporean street food, Mee Siam, is a classic example of a Singaporean dish that contains a myriad of Asian ingredients such as Chinese vermicelli, salted soy bean and dried shrimp as well as Malay seasonings of tamarind and chillies.

There is no doubting that few food cultures can boast of such extensive and varied roots.

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