You’re making a trip back home next week.
You haven’t seen your friends and family for months, or perhaps it’s even been a year. They’re going to be expecting something pretty special to be pulled out from your suitcase once you’ve settled in, and a change of clothes and toiletries are just not going to cut it. The airline won’t let you carry a durian on board and your sister has already threatened you with disembowelment if you bring her another tacky t-shirt exhorting the “fineness” of Singapore.
What, we hear you cry, can I buy for my friends and family from this trader’s haven that sells everything that’s already being sold back home?
Don’t fret, because we’ve already done the research for you and have found some of the best souvenirs in Singapore that are deserving of being carted all the way back for your friends and family.
Singaporeans may not be world-class bankers, engineers or craftsmen, but if there’s one thing we’re good at doing—it’s eating. We know local food and flavours pretty well, and we’re always silently judging you for your conservative approach to food. Salted egg yolk is one such example. Not just content to put salted eggs in mooncakes anymore, brilliant chefs have now whipped up salted egg crabs, salted egg ice cream, salted egg croissants, salted egg lava cakes, and salted egg crisps to the delight of all. Try some of these for yourself, and take home a box or two for your mother.
Kaya is another local favourite, and a bottle of this lovely coconut spread is bound to go a long way in placating anyone with a sweet tooth. The green jam takes its colour from the addition of panda leaves, while the brown version that’s also known as Hainanese Kaya goes without. This fragrant jam is best enjoyed on hot slices of crispy toast, or in true Singaporean style, mixed with butter for that glorious salty-sweet taste.
Bak Kwa (Rougan) is readily available in stores all over Singapore and is one treat that’s not to be missed. The smoky caramelised meat is generally available as either tender slices that melt in the mouth, or chewy flavourful chunks that provide an extra layer of oomph in each bite. Chili Bak Kwa is also available, although the spiciness of these meats may be difficult for some to tolerate. Many stores are experienced in packing and sealing these delectable meats in order to maintain their freshness, so you don’t have to worry about bringing them back with you.
Ever since tea became the drink of choice for the young, brewers all over Singapore have been coming up with new and inspired infusions to appeal to the fickle crowd. If you’re stuck for words to describe local cuisine when your friends back home ask about it, why not gift them a tin of Nasi Lemak, Pandan, or Singapore Sling tea from one of the local tea brands? If the actual Singapore Sling is more to your taste, you can purchase a bottle of it at specialty stores.
Tea traditionalists however, may prefer the taste of Teh Tarik, a common milk tea that is found in Singapore and Malaysia. This tasty drink has a frothy head that is usually created by the repetitive pouring of the drink between two vessels, and it is also famous for its sweetness due to the condensed milk that goes into it. A brief search in any regular supermarket would turn up various brands of instant Teh Tarik that would go a long way in providing all the pleasures of a properly brewed cup with none of the inconveniences.
If you know someone who enjoys whipping up his own drinks however, try purchasing a packet of aiyu jelly (ice jelly) or tapioca pearls for him to make his own bubble tea. The former is made from a special type of fig that only grows in Asia, and is not commonly found outside of Singapore and Taiwan. This gelatinous food does not melt, and is a brilliant addition to iced tea drinks and savoury hotpots.
If you simply must buy a souvenir with Singapore stamped on it somewhere, don’t go straight for the usual tourist trap stalls where I ♥ Singapore is plastered across their entire range of magnets, mugs and t-shirts.
If you’re searching for inspiration, some of the most amazing Singapore-themed souvenirs can be found at museum gift shops. Most of these carefully-curated items would provide a little more information about the country’s history, culture or art. It’s generally possible to find books, pottery, toys, bags, jewellery pieces and assorted knick-knacks at such stores.
In our Garden City, whether you’re looking for plant-themed notebooks, clothes or accessories, you’d be sure to find something to your fancy at one of the many garden attractions. Souvenirs featuring our national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, are also sure to be in plentiful supply. It might even be possible to purchase seeds or plantlets that could be used to brighten up gardens back home.
We know that with this list of awesome souvenirs, the temptation to buy them all for yourself is great. Nevertheless, we’d recommend mustering up the strength to hand them over to your friends and family as souvenirs of your time here. Feel free to bask in their praise and approval when they receive these lovely souvenirs, and rest secure in the knowledge of your own good taste. You’re welcome.30 Jun 2016