Street eats of Singapore in Sydney

This story was first published in The Straits Times on  Oct 11, 2013

For many Singaporeans, food is the one thing that they miss most when living overseas.

Think rich coconutty laksa with piquant sambal and fresh cockles, and fragrant nasi lemak as well as har cheong gai or prawn-paste fried chicken.

For a taste of home, Singaporeans in Sydney, Australia, will be heading to Singapore Day tomorrow. It will be held at an expansive open field at The Domain in The Royal Botanic Gardens.

The annual event, now in its sixth edition, is organised by the Overseas Singaporean Unit to engage Singaporeans living overseas and keep them emotionally connected to Singapore.

The event has been held over the years in cities such as London and New York, showcasing hawker fare and familiar Singapore icons such as the ERP gantry, and entertainment from local artists.

It is estimated that some 10,000 Singaporeans live in Sydney but the event also hopes to attract those based in other cities along the east coast of Australia.

Life! found that at least 25 Singaporeans, including students from the University of Queensland, will be travelling to Sydney for the event.

The students will each be spending A$250 (S$295) on the weekend in Sydney, which, for some, is 20 to 50 per cent of their monthly allowance.

Brisbane-based civil engineering student Geoshua Tan, 24, who is particularly looking forward to dishes such as laksa, chilli crab and sambal stingray, says: "It is not every day that we get to experience things that we had taken for granted back in Singapore. The $250 is definitely worth spending to show our love and support for our country."

This year's event will have 16 food stalls.

These include Hong Lim Centre's High Street Tai Wah Pork Noodle, Adam Road Food Centre's Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak, 328 Katong Laksa from Tanjong Katong and Bedok South's Hill Street Fried Kway Teow.

Hill Street Fried Kway Teow, which began as a roadside pushcart in 1961, for example, is taking part in the event for the fourth time.

Its second-generation owner, Mr Ng Yeow Kiat, 32, says: "It is very exciting to be selected out of so many hawkers to represent Singapore overseas.

"A lot of Singaporeans miss hawker food and we are always very touched when they tell us how much they miss char kway teow and that they can't find anything like it in cities such as New York and London."

As eventgoers tuck into their food, they will be treated to live performances by home-grown artists such as singer-songwriter Dick Lee, actor-singer Hossan Leong and presenter-comedian Gurmit Singh, best known for his sitcom role as contractor Phua Chu Kang.

The organiser expects a turnout of 6,000 Singaporeans and their family members at the 51/2-hour event. It starts at 10.30am tomorrow.

A spokeman for Overseas Singaporean Unit says: "Many Singaporeans enjoy eating out. Our hawker food reflects our way of life and the multicultural fabric of our society.

"We hope that Singaporeans overseas will be able to enjoy a slice of home through these offerings as well as the familiar sights and sounds that we are taking to our fellow Singaporeans in Sydney."

Undergraduate Cheot Yeechien, 23, a third-year political science student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, leaves for Sydney today, one day ahead of the event.

He says: "I guess no price can beat the feeling you get when you down that bowl of 328 Laksa or plate of Hill Street Char Kway Teow in a foreign land. It's priceless."

rltan@sph.com.sg