S'pore whips up makan menu to draw
New Let's Makan tourism campaign uses
favourite local dishes to draw international diners here and
change tastebuds abroad
THE humble bak kut teh and char kway teow are being
promoted as tourist attractions with a cachet not to be
|Ms Rugxana Vasanwala (left),
seen here with Ms Jennifer McAdam from Canberra, has had
at least 300 tourists in her kitchen in her Haig Road
walk-up apartment in the 18 months she has catered to
them. -- SEAN TAN|
Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore are
banking on these dishes to draw international diners here as
well as lead the foray into changing tastebuds
Both organisations refused to give figures, but the STB
said it has spent about $200,000 to publish its Singapore food
brochure, Makan Delights, in five languages.
Entering its second print run, the slim volume contains
such information as satay history and details of popiah
parties. It is available at tourism offices
It is just one part of the board's Let's Makan campaign to
promote local fare.
The six-month campaign will culminate when local fare
headlines the 11th annual Singapore Food Festival in July. The
STB hopes tourists will direct more of their food expenditure,
which is third after shopping and accommodation, towards
The business is vital enough for the year-old STB food and
beverage division to dedicate four of its 10-man team to
making the likes of rojak as synonymous with Singapore as tom
yam is with Thailand.
Working with 29 STB offices around the world, popiah has
reached people in Australia and India. The board plans to
conduct one such promotion a month, including one in
Meanwhile, IE Singapore intends to rouse interest in local
fare abroad during missions under its Tasty Singapore
Four missions are planned for the Singapore food
manufacturing sector, to Australia, the United States, China
Another eight are scheduled for the food services sector,
in the Asia Pacific region.
IE Singapore estimates overseas sales of local food
products to range from $2 million to $17 million, and overseas
sales of food services to be $53.2 million. Over the next
three years, foreign investment in these sectors is projected
to reach $8.5 million.
Mrs Tan Li Lin, deputy director of the IE Singapore
lifestyle department, pointed out that supermarkets now need
stock for 'ethnic aisles', and businesses should exploit the
opportunity to put Singapore food products on these
Beyond these two organisations, individual efforts have
fared well too.
Among cookbooks, Shiok!, launched last year, has had a
10,000 print run. It is also sold at Internet bookstore
Its author, Mr Christopher Tan, 31, reckons the book has
captured readers for 'putting a modern spin on local food, as
opposed to those done in the 1960s' and its emphasis on the
heritage of local fare.
One culinary instructor has even coaxed some to visit
Singapore for cooking lessons. Ms Ruqxana Vasanwala, 43, has
had at least 300 tourists in her kitchen in the 18 months she
has catered to them.
Most contact her after visiting her website. They come from
far and near: Japan, Australia, the Netherlands and the US.
They typically fork out between $50 and $300 for a session in
her Haig Road walk-up apartment.
It's not just a free meal they want, she added, but a
chance to get inside a Singaporean home.
'They take pictures of the dhoby man who drops off my
laundry, or even the rag-and-bone man. Tourists love it
because it's part of an experience they would never otherwise
get,' she said.
Another cook playing tour guide is culinary consultant
Devagi Sanmugam, 50, who even ushers tourists around wet
markets to shop for ingredients.
She charges $60 per person in a group of fewer than 20. The
food is ultimately a gateway into Singapore culture, she
A session may also involve teaching students how to wear a
sari or even, as was the case with a group of Australians,
'having a traditional Indian meal, sitting cross-legged on the
floor, with a banana leaf in front of them, eating with their