A bit about Singapore and the Malays
Singapore is my country’s modern name, it is originally known as Temasek then Singapura, which it is still known as, among the Malays when we refer to her in our native language. Singapura are made up of two words Singa which means Lion and pura which means city which is why Singapore is sometimes referred to as the Lion City. It was founded by Sang Nila Utama, a prince from Palembang in the 13th century.
When Sir Stamford Raffles came to Singapore in the 19th century, it was documented that there were already hundreds of indigenous Malays living in this tiny island. This was a fishing island inhabited by the indigenous Malays known as Orang Laut or Sea Nomads for a very long time. It was also documented that the first census taken in 1824, the Malays made up 60.9% of the total population. Now it’s less than 20%.
Generally the majority of Malays are composed of several ethnic groups namely the Orang Laut, the Malays, the Boyanese, the Bugis, the Minangkabaus, the Banjar and the Bataks. Most of which are migrants from the neighboring countries or islands. Also the majority of Malays are Sunni Muslims and follows Shafii school of thought.
The majority of Malays in Singapore generally share a similar culture with those in Peninsula Malaysia. Now English is a predominant language among the Malays in Singapore even though the Malay language is still widely spoken and written.
Although many Malays in Singapore are generally of mixed descent, they are still recognized as the indigenous people of Singapore by the Singapore Constitution, Part XIII, General Provisions, Minorities and special position of Malays, section 152:
The Government shall exercise its functions in such manner as to recognize the special position of the Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore, and accordingly it shall be the responsibility of the Government to protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests and the Malay language.
What makes the Malay cuisine unique is due to the different ethnic groups and geography within the Malay race in its composition. Each has its influence on the dish. However the main characteristics of Malay cuisine can still be found by its generous use of spices, coconut milk and condiments and plants that can be easily found in these regions.
Rice is the staple food for the Malays. It is served with several accompanying dishes during a meal served at once and not in courses. Food is eaten with the fingers of the right hand. This practice is now mostly limited to only the home.
As majority of Malays are Muslims, we follow the Islamic halal dietary law rigorously. So pork and alcohol, to name a few, are absent in our diets. You will also notice that the Indian influence is dominant in Malay cuisine. Since the Chinese and other races have inhabited and integrated with the Malays on this island, you can also see that some of the Singapore Malay cuisines have also evolved and become hybrids of both Malay and Chinese cuisines.
Dear readers, most of the above facts I have stated are based on my research either online or from printed books which are rather limited. I am certain that there are more that I did not mention here and I am still uncovering, discovering and learning.
This page is always in progress because as I unraveled more Malay history and traditions I will update this page or relevant pages in my blog. I hope you can stay tune and give me your support by sharing with me what I have yet to mention or anything that you are curious about that may lead to many more discoveries about the Malay history and traditions.
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