Singapore’s culinary heritage, if it were fast food19 July, 2012 by Chad
Since 1994, the Singapore Food Festival has been a yearly event for food lovers, a buffet of local delights all available in one place. Loved by Singaporeans, who would be happy to let loose their wallets to savor the variety of hawker delights offered. Sadly, it has lost all semblance of its once rosy roots having completely sold out in recent years. Let’s see where it’s gone wrong this time.
The Singapore Food Festival is held at this time of the year, each year. It was held at the Read Bridge at Clark Quay during our previous visit, which was a poor location given how narrow it was. This year, we found the Singapore Food Festival Village tucked away at a hidden corner beside the Marina Bay Sands. The field provided the ample space needed for such an event. But beyond that though, little has improved over the previous years’ festivals. In fact if anything, it probably got worse.
The Singapore Food Festival is being sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board so it is perfectly understandable if appealing to tourists was a major agenda. However, the fair offers a meager selection of food types, many of which aren’t even local classics. This is further limited by the nature of the stalls, which offers little accommodation for actually cooking on the spot. As a result, most of the food served has to be prepared hours in advance so quality has to be compromised. The fact that this year’s Food Festival theme was “seafood” didn’t help.
The lowest point of the fair though is how it is a thinly veiled CEPAS swindle. In previous years, you’d have to purchase coupons or a Kopitiam card. This year’s they’ve refined their game.
Prices of food at the fair are marked up considerably but you get a 20% discount if you use something called NETS Flashpay. But here is where it gets shady. Each card costs $17 with only a $12 value inside. Most of the tourists will never get to use this card again outside of Singapore or even anywhere else within, so that’s $5 down the drain.
$12 is not nearly enough (perhaps intentionally) to purchase much at the festival so they impose a minimum topup value of $50. It’s no surprise, how empty this year’s Singapore Food Festival was. Perhaps only a quarter of the seats were filled up on this weekend afternoon, no doubt by jaded tourists who will leave the place with a less than satisfactory taste in their mouth.
Now, despite trying to pull itself off as a convention hub, the majority local grown efforts prove inept when it comes to event organization and the Singapore Food Festival is one of those prime examples. I guess some of the decision makers need to realize how fruitless it is to market something toward tourists, when the locals cannot even feel proud about it. I’m no expert, but rather than trying to make quick returns, wouldn’t it be better to actually attempt a positive impression here for repeat tourism?
Question is, is the Singapore Food Festival even needed? There a dozens of great Kopitiam / hawker centers scattered throughout the heartlands that are a better example every single day of the year if you wanted to offer the tourists an accurate depiction of Singapore’s culinary culture. This half-hearted attempt doesn’t do justice to all of those exhibiting either, since people wouldn’t be sampling their work at its best. It could very well tarnish their image.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.