The 16th outing of Singapore's famous food festival will run only nine days this year--instead of the normal three or four weeks. What's the reason? Swine flu epidemic? Global recession?
I can't say I've done meticulous investigation, but a few Google sweeps turn up nothiing and there's no explanation on the Singapore Food Festival 2009 website. Even worse, last week there were virtually no details of this year's events. This is very unusual given that the festival is run by the government's tourism board, which is usually very efficient when it comes to calendars and agenda.
However, now there are a few more scraps on the official website--with prices too! It's a good idea to keep checking because more may be forthcoming. Before this recent update, this site had more information than the official one, so it might be worth checking it as well.
Peranakan cuisine--Chinese-Malay fusion food
The freshest aspect this year is the focus on foods of the small Straits-Chinese, or Peranakan, ethnic group. Their ultimate ancestors were Chinese immigrant men who married local Malay women. The cuisine they created is therefore a mixture of Chinese (often Hokkien) and Malay. You'll also see it called "nyonya food," nyonya being a Peranakan woman. The desserts are especially good.
The Peranakan festivities will kick off on the evening of July 17 with a parade of Peranakan folk in their traditional clothing. Thoughout the festival, some kind of mobile cart will be appearing around town offering demonstrations and samples of nyonya specialties--such as pineapple tarts, rice dumplings and sambal belacan.
Peranakan Museum feast
This festival shouldn't be confused with the newer, more exclusive World Gourmet Summit, which took place in April this year. That's the one where internationally known chefs attend, conduct workshops, and serve very expensive meals. The Food Festival is much more egalitarian but there are several pricey events. The priciest is a 30-dish Peranakan dinner on July 26, to be held at the new Peranakan Museum. A ticket costs S$200 (about US$137).
Also on July 26, with even more dishes, will be "the longest Peranakan buffet line" on Clarke Quay. The ticket price for an adult is $S35 and S$22 for a child. Note that reseverations are needed for both these dinners.
Chinese, Malay and Indian foods
In other years, even when the focus was on the cuisine of one of Singapore's larger ethnic groups (that is, Chinese, Malay or Indian), there have always been plenty of events featuring all three cuisines. For example, a street would be blocked off in Chinatown or Little India and there would be open-air stalls and restaurants set up.
Hard to believe those events are to be omitted this year, but there's no mention on the site. Nothng about free samples for foreigners in transit at the airport either. I can clarify what "dining privileges" are, though. That means a bunch of restaurants will be offering discounts, but there's still no list of them. Customers will probably have to present coupons or something similar.