Singapore’s blazing sun dehydrates anything in its path – not so pleasant for the people but wonderful for keeping food good and crisp.
Before people in Singapore moved into high rise flats, and even before they owned ovens and refrigerators, food was sun-dried outside homes to extend their shelf-lives in this country’s tropical weather. Dehydration is a food preservation process that removes moisture which bacteria and moulds require to grow and cause food spoilage. Due to its geographical location, Singapore is sunny all year round, and except for the heavier rainfall between December and April, there is no distinct wet or dry season (Local Climatology). This means that the sun is a resource constantly available to the cooks in this country.
A heritage food that could not have been made without the tropical sun was agar agar laut, which translates to “agar agar from the sea”. This jelly got its name because it was made from Gracilaria seaweed, which used to be washed up onto the seashores of Siglap and Tanah Merah (Seaweed Jelly 10). During the early 1900s, the Malays, Eurasians and Peranakans collected this seaweed, which looks like loose bunches of “tentacles” in colours like green and brown, to make agar agar laut for Hari Raya, Christmas and Chinese New Year respectively (Agar Agar Jelly 10, De Conceicao, R. Tan).Continue reading