Housewife Mimi Gregorio and her food-loving family munched happily through pork sandwiches and shrimps and grits from United States, fish tacos from Mexico, satay from Indonesia and cheng tng from Singapore.
"We love food and this is cheaper than travelling to different countries," said the 37-year-old Singaporean yesterday morning. She, her two sons aged 13 and four, and 65-year-old mother were among the first determined diners through the gates of the street food jamboree that is part of the inaugural World Street Food Congress.
The event at the F1 Paddock runs until next Sunday and features 37 food stalls from 10 countries including Vietnam, Thailand and India. Each presents one or more native specialities priced from $3.50 to $16. Visitors pay a $28 entrance fee, which includes $20 worth of coupons to buy food.
The event is organised by street food guide Makansutra and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.
Among the visitors was IT professional Cath Tan, 27, who found the food tasty but expensive. "The portions are rather small," said the Filipina. "I also don't see any really exotic food. I was expecting something like scorpions from China."
Organisers and stallholders blamed the weather and outdoor venue for a slow start. The opening last Friday evening was rained out but there was a good dinner crowd yesterday. In total, about 5,000 people showed up yesterday.
Mr Rajan Singh, 53, who runs Indian snack stall India Gate Bhelpuri with his business partner Gulab Singh, 49, had barely two dozen customers by 2pm yesterday. He compared it to the hundreds they serve daily in Delhi. "We have come here hoping to share our talent and hope more people will taste our food," he said in Hindi.
However, a few queues did form in front of other stalls such as Mexico's La Guerrerense, popular for its seafood tostada ($10), and EuroTrash from Portland, Oregon, which dishes up a softshell crab burger for $12.
EuroTrash owner Charles Anthony Thomas, 30, said it was worth coming to Singapore just to find out about woks. Unable to bring over his usual deep-fat fryer, he switched to the Asian utensil and now plans to use it full time.
"I have spent the last three years running a food truck in Portland and the only thing I hate about it is cleaning the deep-fat fryers. This week, I have had a religious experience," he said with a smile. "I'm going to shove a wok in my backpack."