Bold Flavors, Bolder Choices: Singaporean Cuisine and Wine

Singapore is known as a melting pot of different ethnicities. Its myriad ethnic groups has helped influence the city-state’s culture, as well as its cuisine. In a nutshell, Singaporean fare is a fusion of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai, and European food cultures. Now, because you’re dealing with such a broad selection of cuisines, matching wine and ‘traditional’ dishes can be quite daunting. But that’s why we’re here to help.

Most of the treasures in your wine cellar will go swimmingly well with Singaporean cuisine. The trick is to strike a balance between the expansive mishmash of flavors. For boldly flavored dishes, you can temper the heat with a squeeze of acidity while mildly spiced delicacies can be gloriously underscored by light tannins.

Basic Rules for Singaporean Food and Wine Pairings

Singapore Food and Wine PairingBeing a mix of different cuisines, ‘authentic’ Singaporean dishes tend to vary in herbs, spices, cooking techniques, and preparation. The method to this gastronomic madness is to properly sort the dishes according to the boldness of their flavors. By taking this bird’s-eye view of the country’s food culture, you can make pairing specific varietals with entire spreads a little easier.

Bear in mind that Singaporean cuisine leans toward the flavorsome and the aromatic. Its strong flavors often come from the heavy use of ginger, Indian curry, cilantro, and copious amounts of garlic. Even the lightly flavored dishes like Hainanese Chicken Rice (steamed chicken with ginger sauce), Roti Prata (Indian flatbread with curry sauce), and Mutton Murtabak (mutton puff pastry with Malaysian curry dip), are given a boost in flavor through their rich and piquant sauces.

It can be tricky to pair wine with Singaporean food but that is why we’re here to help. We’ve come up with the following tips.

Tip#1: Use acidity to balance spiciness. Spicy dishes like Laksa (spicy shrimp noodle soup), Mutton Curry, and Chili Crab can leave diners with ‘scorched’ taste buds. Counteract the heat with a vino that possesses significant levels of acidity and sweetness. Think along the lines of a nice German Riesling. The zesty core of the Riesling interrupts the trail of spiciness on the tongue. While a gentle layer of ripe fruit flavors like honeysuckle, peach, and green apple, does wonders in soothing the palate.

Tip#2: Hold off on the oak. A good chunk of Singaporean food revels in the use of fermented condiments like fish sauce and soy sauce. Pairing such delicacies with an oak-aged vino could bring a singular, savory taste to the meal. Don’t let an oak-aged vino set your food’s flavors off-kilter though. Serve fares rich in soy sauce or fish sauce with unoaked and zesty varietals instead. Try a fresh and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or Pinot Grigio. You’ll thank us later.

Tip#3: Different wines for different levels of spiciness. Mildly spiced dishes have an assortment of subtle flavors that are worth coaxing out. Avoid overpowering these delicacies and go with a light white wine. For meaty and deeply savory fares, go for wine cellar favorites like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. If you’re sampling particularly spicy meals, tame the heat with Riesling or Gewürztraminer.

Tip#4: If all else fails, go fruit-forward. Some Singaporean fares, like other Asian cuisines, is taken communally. This means diners are compelled to assemble different dishes brought together by a common staple. In this case, we’re talking rice, noodles, or flatbread. If you intend to bring a bottle of wine to any of Singapore’s hawker centers, think of establishing harmony in variety. To be on the safe side, bring fruity wines as they’ve been known to complement a variety of dishes. It will go well with a lot of Singaporean dishes. If you’re planning on enjoying a spicy spread, trade in your tannic wines for soft tipples instead.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Singaporean Food with wineHainanese Chicken Rice is one of Singapore’s most popular national dishes. Its masterful blend of subtle flavors and punchy savory elements have made this dish a powerful crowd favorite. In a survey conducted by CNN on the world’s top 50 dishes, this scrumptious Singaporean fare came in at lucky number 13.

At first glance, this dish may appear rather simple, with steamed chicken at the forefront. But take in its delectable rice and tasty ginger-based sauce and you have a very rich and complex flavor profile. Because of its multiple flavors and textures, this delicacy will go staggeringly well with a lovely and fruit-forward rosé. The tartness of the ginger sauce and the savory zest of chicken will pleasantly intermingle with the vino’s tropical notes.

If you’re more of a white wine drinker, consider going for a fruity Chardonnay or Semillon. Notes of honey will help balance out the dish’s savory components, producing a harmonious and well-balanced flavor.

Chili Crab

Seafood lovers love Chili crab but it’s also a favorite for diners who prefer a piquant kick in their meals. In this dish, mud crab is drenched in a thick, tomato-based sauce and then sprinkled with generous amounts of chili. This dish packs the heat so we recommend pairing it with a fresh and crisp white wine. Think well-balanced Pinot Gris or a citrusy and fruity Sauvignon Blanc.

The Pinot Gris tempers the bite of Chili Crab while acting as a palate cleanser in between bites. While a zesty Sauvignon is lively enough to really highlight the nuances in the dish’s flavors, while partially blocking off its spicy undertones.

Roti Prata and Murtabak

Roti Prata is a filling starter that’s popular in both Singapore and India. Composed of pita bread and spicy curry dip, this mouthwatering dish is a favorite for locals and travelers alike. The bread comes with nibbles of egg, olive oil, and an assortment of spices. As for the Murtabak, this pita bread is fried to form a pastry. Strips of mutton or chicken, onions, and garlic act as this pastry’s lip-smacking filling. It also comes with spicy curry dip on the side for that extra oomph in flavor.

Now, because of the flavorful nature of these dishes and their curry dips, these are best paired with Moscato d’Asti. Its delicate fruity notes will help clear the palate of the curry’s piquancy, while yielding a light and refreshing finish.

Singapore is a country blessed with a diverse culture, a bustling food scene, and a budding wine lifestyle. With proper knowledge on food and wine pairings, you can very well take fine vintage from your wine storage facility and bring it to popular hawker centers like Lau Pa Sat or Makansutra.